MakerBot pulls 3D printable gun parts from Thingiverse

MakerBot

MakerBot, the makers of 3D printers, pulled plans for a key component of an AR15 semi automatic rifle from its blueprint marketplace Thingverse. Anyone could download Michael "HaveBlue" Guslick's design for the lower receiver, and if you had a 3D printer you could make one yourself.

Those plans, and plans for other firearm components have now been removed from Thingiverse. As to what compelled the sudden change, a MakerBot spokesperson said the following:

MakerBot's focus is to empower the creative process and make things for good. MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers make innovative products, new tools, models, fashion items, works of art, and 3D things of all types. MakerBot's Thingiverse website is designed to be the best place to get and share downloadable 3D "Things." Thingiverse's Terms of Service state that users agree not to use Thingiverse "to collect, upload, transmit, display, or distribute any User Content (ii) that...promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons, illegal materials or is otherwise objectionable." If an item has been removed, it is because it violates the Thingiverse Terms of Service.

There has been some speculation that the timing of the move is related to the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were murdered.

MakerBot attorney Richard McCarthy responded to a request for further comment, saying, "Thingiverse has always been, and is currently, evolving...as is the company as it pursues innovation and growth. We have always had the discretion to take action for policy violations. Recent events served as the impetus here to take immediate action (and there were several) and reiterate or emphasize the site's focus on creative empowerment for products that have a positive impact."

MakerBot's terms of service may not have changed, but apparently its enforcement policies have. Guslick tells CNET he uploaded his design to Thingiverse before the weapon language was added to the terms of service in February, 2012.

In August, CNET asked MakerBot to explain why it was hosting gun parts when section 3.3 of its terms of use document seemed to outlaw them. MakerBot wouldn't comment at the time, but a spokesperson pointed to section 3.4, titled Enforcement:

We reserve the right (but have no obligation) to review any User Content, investigate, and/or take appropriate action against you in our sole discretion if you violate the Acceptable Use Policy or any other provision of these Terms of Use or otherwise create liability for us or any other person. Such acts may include removing or modifying your User Content, terminating your Company Account in accordance with Section 8, and/or reporting you to law enforcement authorities.

This is not the first time that 3D printers and firearms have been at the center of controversy. A Texas man recently had his 3D printer seized by its maker, Stratasys, after the company discovered he printed his own gun and planned to distribute blueprints for the weapon, the New York Daily News reported. 

A version of this article originally appeared on CNET under the headline "MakerBot purges 3D printable gun parts from Thingiverse."

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    Rich Brown is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering desktop PCs, games, input devices, and 3D printing, among other topics. He has worked as a technology journalist since 1994.

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