Print Me A Gun

The most recent issue of The Economist has a cover story -- "Print me a Stradivarius" -- about 3-D printing, a manufacturing method I was totally unaware of up until now. You draw a part on your computer and click "print." The printer's jets work in three dimensions, building up parts line by line out of all kinds of materials, including titanium.

3-D printing allows parts to be made lighter and with less waste of raw material than do traditional manufacturing methods. And, it's much cheaper to make one of a kind items: after you draw something up, it doesn't matter if you make a thousand of something or just one. 3-D printing has already been used to make custom-fitted athletic shoes as well as titanium airplane parts.

After googling "3-D printing guns" I found that someone has already used the process to make AK-47 grips. It should be possible to print any part of a gun with the exception of the barrel and the bolt, and maybe those can be printed, too. It's possible that someday you tell a gumaker what you want, give him your stock dimensions and any other options you desire, and your gun will drawn up on a screen and printed out for you.

And if you can afford the $15,000 price tag, you can do 3-D printing at home with machines like the one here. As the technology improves, you can bet that price will go down.

For now, you can order a custom printing of your own face...even in action figure size...at ThatsMyFace.com. Check out their video below.