2,650 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
A few weeks ago, Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, launched a campaign on IndieGoGo to crowdfund a 3D printed weapon. More specifically (since distributing firearms is illegal), Wilson and his team at Defense Distributed wanted to use the funds raised on IndieGoGo to create a "Wiki Weapon" and then distribute the CAD designs across the web for anyone to access and print out on their own 3D printer.
“This isn’t the object that we’re producing, but the digital file to be distributed across the internet when we finish,” Wilson said in his pitch video.
Despite IndieGoGo's reputation for being open-minded when it comes to allowing projects onto its platform, the crowdfunding site decided to pull the campaign shortly after it launched. As Betabeat pointed out, the project was likely removed because it is centered on guns. IndieGoGo forbids “activities that relate to sales of ammunition, firearms, or certain firearm parts or accessories.” Under the FAQs section, Defense Distributed expressly states that “nothing we create as a part of this project is for sale,” though IndieGoGo would have no way of ensuring this. The campaign page is down, and all pledges were returned to the backers.
That hasn’t stopped Wilson and his team from continuing to solicit donations on their own website. Using PayPal and Bitcoin (as well as old-fashioned cash, checks, pre-paid credit cards, and money orders), the project’s creators have managed to collect over $11,000 already. They have also apparently gotten one angel investor to match all donations above $10,000, bringing them well within reach of their $20,000 goal. The money raised will go toward leasing a 3D printer to test designs, materials, and consultations with engineers.
The Wiki Weapon project has attracted much attention since it launched, with some supporting Wilson’s interpretation of Americans’ right to bear arms, and others condemning it. Whatever one thinks of the politics behind the campaign, it is likely not the last high-profile 3D printed project. As additive manufacturing becomes cheaper and more widely available, more individuals will come up with designs for products that others find unwholesome.
Wilson and his team know that the project can have implications on lawmaking in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“This project could very well change the way we think about gun control and consumption," the group writes on its site. "How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet? Let's find out.”
With only several thousand away from reaching its $20,000 goal, and having stirred up a controversial debate around gun control in the U.S., this is probably not the last time we’ll be hearing about Defense Distributed and the Wiki Weapon project.