A new report on dark-web markets finds growing demand for CAD models of 3D printed guns, costing $12 on average.
When 3D printing first emerged onto the mainstream scene a few years ago, the media was consumed with how easy weapons could be produced with this technology. While most of these fears are surely overblown, 3D printable firearms may soon be a real issue in the near future.
Although the current state of 3D printing technology isn’t exactly conducive to functional firearm production, 3D printed gun designs are creeping into the dark corners of the internet. A new report from the non-profit research organization RAND Corporation shows a startling demand for dangerous CAD models on the dark web.
The RAND study looks into 811 different weapons on a dozen dark-web markets. Researchers found that firearms were the top-selling category, taking up about 42 percent of the market. However, they also noticed a steep rise in digital weaponry, including everything from CAD files to instructions for DIY explosives.
Since these weapons are shareable and essentially undetectable, researchers believe that these digital products pose “additional challenges” to law enforcement. Still, 3D printable files currently play a minute role on the dark web market. According to the study, only 11 out of the hundreds of for-sale items are CAD files for weapons.
At the moment, 3D printed guns are still an afterthought when it comes to black market products. But, what does seem to alarm the RAND researchers is the extremely cheap price of these select few CAD files. On the dark web, the average gun cost $1,200, while the 3D model for a gun is just around $12.
Moreover, these digital guns can technically be manufactured over and over again, making it even more difficult to keep track of. Some of these illegally sold CAD files also include more than one type of gun. These findings suggest that the black market for 3D printed guns will likely outgrow the market for regular firearms in the future.
Not only are the production capabilities essentially limitless, 3D gun files are also much easier and safer to transmit. One of the primary things stopping this black market from spreading is the unproven nature of 3D printing technology.
“The margins for technical or human errors remain significant even with the improvements in the available technology. Nevertheless, the implications deriving from the easy availability of these files should not be underestimated,” the research team writes.
As the technology advances, the threat of 3D printed guns may become more serious than it is now. But no need to fear, while it’s good to be aware of such potential dangers, additive manufacturing has yet to reach a level where every would-be criminal and terrorist can just print their own deadly weapons at home.
Source: Defense One
License: The text of "3D Printed Gun Designs Surface on Dark Web for $12" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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