Many areas around the globe have some silly laws you must follow, or require permits in order to do things. For example, tasks like babysitting, tagging, holding garage sales, and even panhandling need a permit somewhere in the world. In fact, the FAA now demands that drone users register their craft, and depending on use, a license as well. Fines can run from $400 to $5,500, and the registrations don’t look like they’ll stop.
Chinese authorities in the city of Chongqing announced that 3D-printing companies must register their business with local police. This is so they can monitor the output from any of these companies for illegal or dangerous paraphernalia. Since most criminal activity seems to be occurring with personal printers, this really only hurts the 3D-printing industry in the region. Fortunately, I don’t see this becoming a trend.
Much of 3D printing is being done on prototypes for designs that may not be protected as of yet. This means, without complete control and non-disclosure agreements, companies will not want to take any prototyping to this region. While intellectual property is important, and the reason many companies don’t outsource to other countries, this would still keep companies within China from hiring a 3D-printing service company in this region.
In terms of reducing crime through 3D-printer registration, it likely won’t have much impact. Recently, a man was arrested in Japan for having five 3D-printed guns, two of which worked. With the increase of printing metals, and the dropping cost of metal printers, this will be as difficult as trying to monitor the trademarks with 3D printing. In addition, with so many DIY printers already out there, police will have to monitor the purchase of every small motor, Arduino, and extruded aluminum.
Controlling the 3D printing of guns is going to be just as complicated as gun control itself. The 3D printing of gun parts can help evade licensing and registrations, while an illegal weapon is being 3D printed out. However, the work involved to get to the point of holding a workable, full 3D-printed gun in your hand that wouldn’t fall apart after the first shot is harder than just getting a gun illegally or legally. Then someone still has to physically carry out the illegal act.