Reader Essay Submission: Could 3D Printed Knives Be as Disruptive as 3D Printed Guns?

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Could 3D Printed Knives Be as Disruptive as 3D Printed Guns?

by Daniel J:

By now, you’ve probably heard about 3D printed guns. , Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed successfully hand-fired a gun that he printed from ABS plastic — the same stuff Legos are made of.

At the time, Wilson told the BBC, “I’m seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want. It’s not up to the political players any more.”

In other words, thanks to 3D printing, anything can be made by anyone. The government’s control on firearms is weakened.  It’s a brave new world, and it seems like 3D printing did a similar thing to knives.

Two freshmen from Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands printed out a few knives on a 3D printer and successfully sneaked them through the security at the Palace of Justice at Den Bosch in April. The students were so successful at defeating the security that they were able to carry the knives into the courtroom.

And this surprised one of the students, Philine van Bilsen, who carried one of the knives in her makeup bag and another underneath her clothes.

“We of course asked for approval by the court prior to attempting to bring these weapons in because we didn’t want to do anything sneaky. … We actually had expected that they would find the knives but that has not the case. After we had managed to get it into the courtroom, we realized how easy it was, and that people with bad intentions could effortlessly smuggle a weapon in.”

Granted, the performance of a plastic knife compared to steel is pitiful. While there are printers that can print in anything from food to metal, the easiest kind of 3D printer to get is one that lays down plastic. Anybody want to dress a deer with a knife you printed yourself?

Thought not.

Even if a tinkerer was able to eek out the maximum performance from a 3D printed knife, it’s only plausible that it would be only good for mashing tomatoes and stabbing the occasional box.

YouTube user Artisan Tony dabbled in 3D printing knives and his first knife barely cut a piece of paper. He thought the most useful a 3D printer could be for a knifemaker is to create prototypes.

Still, such news will no doubt cause the hoplophobic among us some consternation. Metal detectors are useless against this sharpened stick. And while this inclined plane is made of plastic, it’s an inclined plane that can penetrate past the security systems society has put around its courts, prisons and airplane terminals.

Speaking of airplane terminals, the TSA confiscated a non-metallic knife from a man who was flying between Hawaiian islands.  According to a Hawaiian newspaper, “officials said a 72-year-old Oregon man traveling from Kauai to Honolulu was selected for additional screening at the security checkpoint on Monday, April 20. TSA agents felt a suspicious item on his body during a pat-down, at which point the man removed the knife from the upper-groin area of his pants and voluntarily surrendered it to the agents.”

Kunststof mesconcealed

Considering the homemade sheath accompanying the knife, my guess is that this airline passenger didn’t just pick this knife up in Kauai. Furthermore, the blade is not a 3D printed knife, as it looks like a $9 CIA Letter Opener. And that is the difference, perhaps, between 3D printed knives and guns. Even before 3D printers, people were able to fashion or buy nonmetallic knives. If someone decides to fire up his or her 3D printer to make a knife, it will be for the same reason some people make concrete canoes — to challenge themselves to design a tool out of an unorthodox material.


  1. Mike L says:

    Don’t downplay the 3D knife makers so much. The 3D revolution is not in the end product material. It is tying software to low cost mechanics. Changing the thinking of ordinary folks. 25 years ago all this was the realm of hugely expensive CAD software and CNC machines. Reduction approach. Today accretion. Now the opposite in cost, user friendlyness, and cultural penetration. At some point the knives will be fine implements both functional and esthetically pleasing.

  2. PeterK says:

    I am imagining the actually super cool stuff you could do with 3d printed knives, but it’d be used to cast them, not make them. 🙂

    That’s still an interesting read. Someone needs to make a more stiletto style throwaway stabby spike thing. Good for one jugular?

    Anywho this line of thought is creeping me out, so I’m going to go dream up fun stuff I’ll do with the 3d printer I’ll never own. 🙂

  3. Hollie Hicks says:

    By the way, I liked your essay. But the peculiarity here is that when they can make high-quality 3D knives, will they be considered cold weapons. I also recently wrote a paper with the help of about the legal side of this question. So this is a very interesting topic, but it needs to understand it more deeply.

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Reader Essay Submission: Could 3D Printed Knives Be as Disruptive as 3D Printed Guns?

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