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3D-printed "gun parts" are actually spare parts for the printer

  • 3D printer
  • part comparison

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 25 Oct 2013 at 11:09

Police in Manchester have arrested a man for 3D printing the components to a gun - but some have suggested the objects actually appear to be spare printer parts.

Police raided the home in Baguley, Manchester yesterday, finding what they described as a 3D printer, a plastic magazine and trigger, "which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun".

"It they are found to be viable components for a 3D gun, it would be the first ever seizure of this kind in the UK," the police said in a statement. "The parts are now being forensically examined by firearms specialists to establish if they could construct a genuine device."

However, some - including Gigaom - have pointed out that the parts may be more benign, noting the item the police say is a trigger looks similar to part of a component listed on Thingiverse, a database of 3D printable designs.

part comparison

Scott Crawford, head of 3D printing firm Revolv3D, said the parts were common to anyone with that model of 3D printer.

"As soon as I saw the picture... I instantly thought 'I know that part'," he told PC Pro. "They designed an upgrade for the printer soon after it was launched, and most people will have downloaded and upgraded this part within their printer. It basically pulls the plastic filament, and it used to jam an awful lot.

"The new system that they've put out, which includes that little lever that they're claiming is the trigger, is most definitely the same part," he said. "It may be that someone has used that part in a gun design... but I'm confident it's an upgrade for the printer and not an actual gun part."

"I suspect the police have gone into this place for all the air rifles and everything else they found in there, they've seen the printer and they've jumped to a conclusion that this is actually been used to print guns," he said. "But none of the parts they've shown indicate that to me. Those are both very common printer parts that anyone who owns a 3D printer will print at some stage."

The man was also arrested on suspicion of making gunpowder.

Significant discovery

Detective Inspector Chris Mossop of Challenger's Organised Crime Coordination Unit said it was a "significant discovery".

"If what we have seized is proven to be viable components capable of constructing a genuine firearm, then it demonstrates that organised crime groups are acquiring technology that can be bought on the high street to produce the next generation of weapons," he said in a statement. "In theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to the criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities."

He noted the plastic materials make them easier to smuggle as they can avoid X-ray detection. "These could be the next generation of firearms and a lot more work needs to be done to understand the technology and the scale of the problem," he said. "If what we have seized today can, as we suspect, be used to make a genuine firearm then today will be an important milestone in the fight against this next generation of homemade weapons."

3D printed guns have been attempted in the US to limited degrees of success.

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User comments

A new concept - the 3D gun!

That's a great improvement on the ordinary 2D guns which work so well...

By JohnGray7581 on 25 Oct 2013

A new concept - the 3D gun!

That's a great improvement on the ordinary 2D guns which work so well...

By JohnGray7581 on 25 Oct 2013

A new concept - the 3D gun!

That's a great improvement on the ordinary 2D guns which work so well...

By JohnGray7581 on 25 Oct 2013

Suggested improvement

Filter out duplicate posts... ;-)

By AnotherScreenName on 25 Oct 2013

Ifs, buts & maybes...

The substance of the Detective Inspectors concerns about the dangers of "undectable" guns may be correct for sophisticated factory-made weapons, but not amateur printed ones - yet. However my hype-detector, still warm from Apple's recent launches, is twitching wildly at these reports. Even if these are gun parts, it's my understanding that fully printed guns aren't that viable at present.

By wittgenfrog on 25 Oct 2013

Maybe the police got carried away after watching the new series of Elementary.

By jamesyld on 25 Oct 2013

I think CSI: New York beat Elementary to it.

By Chris_Snape on 25 Oct 2013

I've been asking for this for years

Suggested improvement: filter out duplicate posts... ;-)

If you use the browser's Back button, then go forward again, you get another message sent. No other system that I've come across does this. Ho-hum.

By JohnGray7581 on 25 Oct 2013

The Daily Fail went one step further and showed a picture labeled "Deadly: What appears to be a sniper rifle equipped with along-sighted lens was recovered"

Do they employ morons?(that's a rhetorical question)

By colinday2 on 25 Oct 2013


Rough maths but it's likely cheaper to buy an illegal handgun, use it then melt it down, than it would be to go for a poor performing plastic printed one shot wonder and the cost of the printer.

By Gindylow on 26 Oct 2013

Stop Press Police with egg on their faces perhaps... Again.

The p;olice are of a mind that these printers must be banned since the US design for a plastic gun was published. They will want to ban USB pens to reduce piracy of software and digital media again whilst they are at it. Operation Overkill perchance

By robredz on 27 Oct 2013

Police Ambition

Any police officer who thinks he is powerful enough to change the make up of our government (Plebgate - Police Federation very dodgy statements and many more) is scary indeed.


By louisbaron on 31 Oct 2013

You can't fix stupid

The more complex the technology, the more stupid people seem to become.

How long will it be before being in possession of an innocent piece of scrap steel will lead to arrest because it could be melted down to make viable components for a 3D gun.

I hope there's intelligent life on other planets because there's not much left on this one.

By shrek59 on 31 Oct 2013

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