By Allen Martin

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – There’s a new way to build a gun that metal detectors can’t detect.  The legal, and unregulated, technology is allowing for the manufacture of plastic guns that will be able to fire real bullets.

University of Texas law student Cody Wilson has formed an open-source group called Defense Distributed to perfect what he calls the ‘wiki-weapon.’

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Wilson’s brainchild has become a reality thanks to something called a 3-D printer. The machine looks like a photocopier and makes 3-dimensional solid objects from a digital model, adding successive layers of material.

3-D printing is also known as additive manufacturing, which differs from traditional machine (subtractive) manufacturing involving removal of material by cutting, filing or milling.

The technology is widely used in industrial design, automotive, medical, jewelry and other industries. Now, Defense Distributed is looking to use it to come up with a real gun that users can ‘print’ at home or anywhere.

The design and parts of a gun can be programmed into the 3-D printer. The printer would then shape the pieces of hard plastic to be assembled into a fire-able weapon. The process takes hours.

The group is collecting designs from contributors around the world and the final schematics will be distributed online.

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Then, anyone with a 3-D printer and a computer will be able to “print” a gun at home.

“We have now crossed the threshold. We are there. We will have the reality of a weapons system that can be printed out from your desk,” says Wilson In a video on the Defense Distributed website.

The printers cost anywhere from just a few thousand dollars to $100,000. And making a gun in your garage or basement for personal use is well within your rights

“A law-abiding citizen who wants to manufacture a gun for themselves can do that legally, as long as that gun doesn’t meet certain criteria,” said Joseph Riehl of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, San Francisco Field Division

Making a gun at home is nothing new. But the ATF will apparently be keeping a careful eye on the Wiki-weapon project as 3-D printers could bring a new dimension to making weapons in the U.S.

“We will also make sure that if it does come to a point where it becomes a concern for public safety we will go out with a message to the public with the do’s and don’ts with that,” said Riehl.

Recently, the company that initially leased the 3-D printer to Defense Distributed took it back. Wilson said he is confident he’ll have access to a new 3-printer soon.

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