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The Liberator

  • Object:

    3D printed hand gun

  • Place of origin:

    London (manufactured)
    Texas (designed)

  • Date:

    August 2013 (manufactured)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Digits2Widgets (manufacturers)
    Defense Distributed (designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    3D printed in plaster and plastic

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased by the Design Fund

  • Museum number:

    CD.1:1 to 16-2013

  • Gallery location:

    On display in Values of Design, Design Society, Shekou, China []

Texan law student Cody Wilson founded Defense Distributed to ‘defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution’. He created designs for guns and gun components that can be downloaded by anyone anywhere in the world and printed out on a 3D printer.

Wilson fired the world’s first 3D-printed gun, The Liberator, on 6 May 2013. The invention of this so-called wiki weapon sparked intense debate. It transforms the way we think about new manufacturing technologies and the unregulated sharing of designs online.

Design drawings for the handgun were downloaded over 100,000 times after they were released online on the day of firing. The files were seized by the US government a few days later and Wilson was ordered to remove them from his website. Wilson says of his work that he ‘never thought of it in terms of design’. The design and distribution of The Liberator is for him a political act.

The Liberator gun parts in nylon and plaster were printed by Digits2Widgets in London in September 2013 from the STL (stereo lithography) files released by Wilson. The need to print in London came about because The Liberator weapon and parts acquired by the museum directly from Wilson are yet to arrive at the V&A due to multiple delays caused by obtaining relevant export licenses.

The Digits2Widgets gun parts are an important acquisition in their own right because they tell a story of the awkward, semi-regulated space in the law that the 3D-printed weapon represents. To ensure that Digits2Widgets were not manufacturing a workable handgun (the company do not have a licence to manufacture handguns) the frame, grip, barrel and hammer body were 3D printed in plaster. The springs, trigger spring, frame pins, trigger, hammer, hammer pin, grip pin and a washer are made from ABS plastic. Further to this, the dimensions of the Liberator gun parts made in plaster were also modified by a millimetre to ensure the pieces would not fit together.

Physical description

3D printed hand gun, frame, barrel, grip and hammer body in grey, springs, trigger, trigger springs, washer, frame pins, hammer pins, base section and cage section in white.

Place of Origin

London (manufactured)
Texas (designed)

Date

August 2013 (manufactured)

Artist/maker

Digits2Widgets (manufacturers)
Defense Distributed (designers)

Materials and Techniques

3D printed in plaster and plastic

Dimensions

Height: 4 cm, Width: 27 cm, Depth: 23 cm

Descriptive line

3D printed hand gun, in plaster and plastic, printed by Digits 2 Widgets, manufactured from the CAD designed by Defense Distributed, 2013.

Materials

Plaster; Plastic

Techniques

Technique

Categories

Rapid Response Collecting; Firearms; Interiors; Household objects; Shekou; Values of Design; Design Society

Collection

Design, Architecture and Digital Department

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