3D Printers and Foreseeable Misuse

A college student, a 3D printer and a gun

A law student came up with the kind of idea I was referring to in my March, 2011, blog post “3D Printers Will Change the World as We Know It.”

Cody Wilson of the University of Texas and an aspiring gun maker has a dream. He envisions a world where everyone has access to guns. To make his dream come true, Wilson leased a 3D printer from Stratasys.  He obviously wasn’t looking to make money from his venture. He simply wanted to develop a gun design and share the design with others around the world so they could print their own.

Student’s plans get shot down

Once Stratasys got wind of Wilson’s plans, they seized the leased 3D printer.   Had one of Wilson’s guns caused an injury to the user, a Product Liability lawsuit surely would have resulted. And Stratasys would have a tough time defending themselves in a court of law.  From a Product Liability perspective, if Stratasys knows the their printer is being used to make guns, they can no longer claim the injury was unforeseeable. There’s plenty of documentation of Wilson’s intent to prove they had knowledge.

My guess is Wilson is not being completely honest about his motivations for wanting the world to have access to guns.  It’s hard to believe that he, as a law student, wasn’t aware that he could have been held legally responsible had his design led to injuries.  I think Wilson wants the publicity that comes with such a controversial endeavor. He’s most likely  achieved his goal. Maybe law firms are lining up to hire this controversial law student.  His specialty may be bringing Product Liability lawsuits against 3D printer manufacturers.

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