Gadgets

Fighting ‘censorship,’ 3D-printed gun designs find a new home

While MakerBot’s decision to purge Thingiverse of user-generated gun blueprints has been called “abrupt” and “excessive” by enthusiasts, others are calling it something much more damming: an act of censorship.

So argues Defense Distributed head Cody Wilson, who this week launched DEFCAD, a site dedicated to hosting the ousted gun-component designs.

“In Thingiverse, not all things are created equal. Some geometries are dangerous,” Wilson told me by phone.

MakerBot gave these gun designs the boot Wednesday, rightfully arguing that the files violated its policy against any object that “promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons, illegal materials, or is otherwise objectionable.”

“MakerBot’s focus is to empower the creative process and make things for good,” it said in a statement.

The timing of the move was no accident. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last week, MakerBot isn’t eager to have its name attached to anything involving firearms. The decision was, in that sense, inevitable.

replicator-2-printerWilson’s contention isn’t that MakerBot is wrong. For him, it’s all about the artifice behind the decision and its timing. If the gun designs violated MakerBot’s policies, why wait so long to take them down?

“I understand they can do what they want, but they’re being disingenuous. It’s an act of prior restraint, it’s an act of censorship, and it’s not in the public’s interests — it’s in [MakerBot's] specific corporate interests,” he said.

The censorship claim is the most potent one from Wilson, who says that the creation of DEFCAD is more than about protecting the gun designs — it’s about protecting the Internet itself.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t even planning to print a firearm who recognize it’s important that this information be preserved and that the Internet itself route around acts of censorship,” he said.

For a lot of 3D printing enthusiasts, the pull of the technology comes from a pretty simply question: Why not? While some may find fault with Defense Distributed’s gun-based ambitions, it’s clear that the organization still captures the “create anything” spirit of  not only the Maker movement but Thingiverse itself. That’s largely is why it’s so hard to outright dismiss what it’s trying to do .

Wilson, however, is only in love with 3D printing insofar as much as it allows him to print weapons. “I’m not a 3D printing enthusiast — I’m a 3D printed gun enthusiast,” he said.


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