Cody Wilson is probable one of the most controversial figures within the 3D printing space. In fact, Wired ranked him the 14th most dangerous person in the world. With that said, he’s an extremely intelligent individual, one who knows the boundaries of the law, and will push those boundaries by all legal means possible. The 27-year-old Wilson made headlines back in May when he and his company, Defense Distributed successfully test-fired a 3D printed plastic gun called ‘the Liberator’. In doing so, he brought 3D printing to the forefront of many political debates, while becoming a hero to some and a villain to others.
One of the problems with Wilson’s Liberator gun was that it’s printed with thermoplastics which are not exactly the strongest of materials. Although his gun fired, subsequent tests of similar 3D printed guns resulted in catastrophic failure of the weapons, potentially leading to injuries to those firing them. What’s needed, at least in people like Wilson’s mind, is a stronger gun, one which can hold up to repeated tests and one which will not easily crack, or worse yet, explode in the user’s hands.
Last February, startup Mark Forged unveiled their Mark One 3D printer. This machine, which is able to print using thermoplastic combined with carbon fiber, fiber glass or Kevlar, differentiated itself from the competition by providing a means of printing incredibly strong objects. It’s been just over a year since the company opened up for pre-orders, and since then there has been a media firestorm around this new machine. I was personally able to meet with the founders of Mark Forged and watch the machine print live at CES this year, and can tell you first hand, that for a price of just $5,499, it certainly seems like a bargain. One object, which had the thickness of about two quarters stacked on top of each other, would barely budge as I tried to bend it in half.
While the Mark One is perfect for a variety of prototyping and end-use applications, what it also seems perfect for is the fabrication of a 3D printed gun. Although I’m no engineer, it seems very likely that a gun printed with this machine would easily stand up to multiple rounds being fired out of a carbon fiber, 3D printed barrel. In fact, the company states that objects printed with the Mark One will have strength five-times that of ordinary thermoplastic, and a stiffness that’s 20-times that of the material that’s normally used within FFF/FDM printers. As for the strength to weight ratio of objects fabricated with this machine, it is equal to that of aluminum. This is just why Cody Wilson had pre-ordered the Mark One about a year ago for approximately $8,000.
There’s one major problem though for Wilson. Mark Forged claims to have a terms of service which disallows private citizens from using the machine to manufacture firearms. Wilson was notified on Friday, the 27th of February, that he would not be receiving his printer like he had hoped, and in turn has been quickly refunded. If anyone has been following this young man, they know that he does not just roll over and give up. Days after finding out that he was pretty much banned from ever purchasing a printer from Mark Forged, he has posted a Youtube Video offering $15,000 (over 270% of the retail value of the machine) to anyone able to get him one.
“I ordered and paid for this printer a year ago and waited that long for them to decide they didn’t want to sell it to me after all. Anyone who’s got access to one, any reseller, any individual or business or entity that can deliver it to me, I will give them fifteen grand,” stated Wilson.
Certainly Wilson will eventually obtain this printer, albeit for quite a hefty price tag. I’m willing to bet that he has already had several offers from individuals looking to quickly flip a $5,499 machine for $15,000. When he does get the Mark One in his possession, he has already promised to print out a gun and publicize the fact that he used a Mark One 3D printer from Mark Forged to fabricate it. Whether this is good or bad publicity for Mark Forged, we will have to wait and see. The company certainly has the right to refuse direct sales of their product to whomever they desire, hopefully for their sake, avoiding any legal responsibility should Wilson end up printing such a weapon.
We will be following this story as we learn more. Let’s hear your thoughts on this debate in the Cody Wilson Vs. Mark Forged forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out Wilson’s video below where he makes this offer.