SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Staples has become the first big-box retailer to start selling 3-D printers following word that an engineer was able to print a working gun.

We’ve been hearing more and more about these printers in recent months and they do seem cool. If you ever go to the Maker Faire in the Bay Area, a lot of hobbyists are using them to manufacture plastic items.

If you think about a printer, it can put layers of ink on a piece of paper. A 3-D printer can put layers of plastic down until it actually builds an item.

I’ve seen them used to make coffee cups, vases, jewelry and toys. It looks like a lot of fun. Staples is now selling one for about $1,300, which is a bit pricey considering I’ve seen them for as low as $500.

It’s definitely the wave of the future, but the latest concern about these printers is their potential capability to engineer and manufacture guns. Regulators have to be very concerned about this because there are laws about manufacturing guns, especially ones that can evade metal detectors.

A non-profit group out of Texas claimed they manufactured and test-fired a gun made entirely out of plastic in about four-hours on their 3-D printer. Obviously, authorities will have to take a look at how to deal with this emerging technology as it relates to current gun law.

This is a good example of how technology, despite its benefits, can be a great disruptive.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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