NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - A 3D printer at Hofstra University is a valuable learning tool, especially when you can print parts for a project within a matter of hours.
Dr. Edward Currie, an associate professor of electrical engineering, explained that you pick a material (plastic, titanium, copper, brass, or wood), feed it in a heated nozzle, which raises the temperature, and it flows and changed shape.
But should printers be used for pistols? A Texas-based nonprofit is promoting "the age of downloadable guns" on its website. Just a few clicks on a computer will give people the blueprints to print guns, including assault rifles.
Dr. Currie said that online tutorials aren't new but printers have become more affordable. They range in price from a few hundred dollars into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"What you're getting is better-quality printing. Maybe the surfaces look a little smoother or maybe the dimensions a little more accurate," he said. "But in terms of building things, even the cheapest printer will do a reasonable job."
But firearms experts argue you can only build so much with a 3D printer, which cannot produce certain types of parts.
Andrew Chernoff, the owner of Coliseum Gun Traders, said that 3D-printed guns are "not in anybody's best interest" and added that his opposition has nothing to do with his business.
"The firearms industry, we spend a lot of effort, time, and money about making things safer, trying to keep people safe, trying to do the right thing so people enjoy their firearms," he said. "I don't see 3D-printed guns going anywhere but in the wrong direction."
Officials worry that the guns don't have serial numbers and people who may be prevented from owning a gun could skirt the system by making one at home.
The Nassau County Police Department is concerned about any firearm that avoids screening systems because it could pose a threat to both law enforcement officers as well as the general public.