LAS VEGAS —
One of them — MakerBot, which also supplies devices to Ford — will unveil Tuesday a new 3-D printer designed to be the most advanced ever offered at a price that could make it attractive to the home hobbyist.
The online world of hackers and tech enthusiasts is buzzing about how to use such a powerful tool. Researchers and early adopters have made everything from cute figurines and jewelry to working bicycles. A lot of iPhone cases are being custom-made on 3-D printers.
Some other possibilities have been more controversial.
After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a video proposing the use of a 3-D printer to make a copy of a gun that fires real bullets went viral on the Web. University of Texas law student Cody Wilson explained in the video that what he called the Wiki Weapon would create the "first 3-D printable personal defense system."
"What's great about the Wiki Weapon is it only needs to be lethal once," Wilson, who heads a nonprofit called Defense Distributed, says in the video. "We will have the reality of a weapons system that can be printed out from your desk. Anywhere there is a computer, there is a weapon."
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the creation of guns through 3-D printing could make undetectable plastic firearms too easy to acquire. At a news briefing in December, he called for the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which would include bans on plastic guns and firearms made from 3-D-printed parts.
"It is just a matter of time before these three-dimensional printers will be able to replicate an entire gun," Israel said. "And that firearm will be able to be brought through this security line, through the metal detector, and because there will be no metal to be detected, firearms will be brought on planes without anyone's knowledge."