TECHNOLOGY BOOSTS TERROR : A VIEWPOINT
The 3D weapons will likely be commercialised fastest in India. What we need to understand is that India has to fight terror by itself.
Aday after Manchester based England company Tamicare announced it has developed technology to produce disposable panties, sportswear and bandages with 3D technology, media reported on November 11, 2013, that Texas company Solid Concepts has made the first metal gun using a 3D printer, taking the ability to create one’s own firearms to a new level.
The company claims to have fired 50 bullets from this gun, some hitting the bullseye over 30 yards. The weapon built from 33 mostly stainless-steel parts and a carbon-fibre handgrip is reportedly copy of the Browning handmade pistol used in the Philippines-American War. Earlier on May 8 this year, The Mail printed the first plastic gun in UK, capable of firing a live round, using a 3D printer costing £1,700 and then took it on board a fully packed Eurostar train on May 10, 2013, without being stopped passing through tight security.
Significantly, The Mail acknowledged they produced the weapon from blueprints available on the internet and then two reporters passed completely unchallenged through strict airport-style security to carry the gun on to a London to Paris service in the weekend rush hour, alongside hundreds of unsuspecting travellers. Once on board the packed Eurostar train, they were able to assemble the pieces to create a fully functional firearm, and pose for pictures close to unsuspecting passengers. Because all parts of the weapon are plastic, they did not trigger the metal detectors.
The weapon is named ‘Liberator’ – a 16-part pistol created from designs from the Internet. Interestingly, the designs were originally published by an American university student, who proved the triumph of these designs by successfully firing a bullet on the shooting range. The blueprints were reportedly downloaded more than 1,00,000 times before the US State Department ordered the concerned company to remove it from their website. However, the designs are now freely circulating on the Internet by those who had already downloaded the blueprints. Since the pistol parts are entirely plastic except for a small firing pin and ammunition, the gun presents a huge security problem worldwide as it can be broken down into parts that do not set off metal detectors and may not show up on conventional body and bag scanning devices, as demonstrated by the reporters who boarded the Eurostar train from London to Paris from St Pancras International Station albeit the firing pin and bullets were deliberately not carried.
The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corporation. 3D printing is a process of making a three dimensional solid object of any shape from a ‘digital model’. This is achieved by laying successive layers of material in different shapes – termed ‘additive process’. Global market of 3D printers and services in 2012 was estimated at $2.2 billion. 3D printers are available online and Indian firms too are selling these.
Significantly, the Liberator costs just $25 if you have the 3D printer. Solid Concepts that has produced the first metal gun using the 3D printer that it cannot be acquired using a desktop 3D printer and that they had used a specialised high-end 3D printer whose cost would be out of reach of most people. However, use of the term “most people” by itself blows the cover of any vestige of security. Terrorists organisations are mostly linked with drug and other mafia with no dearth of funds besides prices of what are considered high-end 3D printers will come down with commercialisation. As to availability, it is axiomatic that a 3D printer that can produce a weapon (plastic or metal) would remain on sale because of multiple applications.
Then is the question of blueprints – well a 16-yearold had made a nuclear device some 30 years back learning how to do it from the Internet. India needs to take note. Jason Overdof and Poh Si Teng in their special report dated December 21, 2010, in globalpost reported that of the 75 million illegal weapons in the world, 40 million are circulating in India.
More significant is the report by Manimugdha S. Sharma in The Economic Times dated November 25, 2013, as per which AK-47 and AK-74 assault rifles can be procured from Gaffar Market in Delhi’s Karol Bagh retail marketplace, for anything between ` 60,000 and ` 5 lakh, depending on the originality of the weapon. Knock-offs are cheaper and usually originate in Hungary, Bulgaria, Pakistan or China. The 3D weapons will likely be commercialised fastest in India. What we need to understand is that India has to fight terror by itself. Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Foundation has no hesitation in saying, “India being continuously subjected to terror actually suits many....India is a sponge that absorbs global terror.” The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.