The price of 3D printing using metal could be set to drop, as the UK Home Office formally outlaws 3D-printed firearms.
A new open-source 3D printer that uses metal has been created by a team at Michigan Technological University using under $1,500 (£917) of materials.
While the technology is in an early form, having only created a simple sprocket, the leader of the team, Joshua Pearce, stated that he anticipates rapid progress.
“Within a month, somebody will make one that’s better than ours, I guarantee it,” Pearce said.
“With an open-source approach, we are within reach of a Star Trek-like, post-scarcity society, in which ‘replicators’ can create a vast array of objects on demand, resulting in wealth for everyone at very little cost.”
“Pretty soon, we’ll be able to make almost anything.”
The breakthrough comes as the UK Home Office has introduced formal legislation banning 3D-printed guns.
"3D printed weapons are potentially lethal barreled weapons and must be viewed as such in law," the revised policy states.
"The method of manufacture is not material to this consideration."
The majority of the 3D-printed guns to appear so far have been created using traditional polymer-printing 3D printers, but a cheap, freely-distributed metal printer could affect the creation of such weapons.
While Pearce acknowledged the danger of more robust firearms being created using his team’s printer, admitting to “some sleepless nights”, the press release for the printer explained that he “believes the good to come from all types of distributed manufacturing with 3D printing will far outweigh the dangers”.