Back when the Liberator DIY 3D printed plastic pistol was all the rage (a little before, in fact), I made a nuisance of myself in certain venues by pointing out that 1) the Liberator was spec’d to use a cheap sintered plastic, and thus would be prone to exploding in one’s hand, 2) was huge and clunky because they tried to get around the inherent weakness of that plastic by drastically overbuilding (not exactly a great concealment gun), and still required some metal parts to operate (firing pin; I’m not talking about the metal plate to make it US detectably legal). I noted that CNC rigs could make guns out real metal. And CNC mills are a more mature technology than are 3D printers (as yet*).
The problem with CNC mills is that they’re expensive, and do take some training to operate. But that’s the case with serious, pro-class laser-sintered metal/ceramic 3D printers, too. And CNC computer files are even more prevalent in the wild than 3D printer files. I figured/predicted that it was just a matter of time before CNC became both sufficiently affordable and easy-to-use so that people would be playing with them (and making guns) just like the 3D plastic folks.
Most of the “news” articles and blog posts I’ve seen about Ghost Gunner emphasize the AR lower capability. Several of the first stories I encountered seemed to claim that AR lowers were all it was designed to do. Not so.
Ghost Gunner was specifically designed with lowers in mind. It’s miniature, but was spec’d to be big enough to mill a lower. AR lower .dd files will be available. But anything you can write a .dd file mill file to build – within the physical limits of a miniature CNC mill – the Ghost Gunner can turn out. Trigger/sear assemblies. Scope mounts. Small automotive parts. DIY drones.
Heck, custom knife blades ready for heat treatment.
Choose your mill bits properly, and you aren’t limited to metal pieces, either. Consider the potential for wood and plastic artworks.
But 3D printing proponents need not fear. CNC doesn’t replace all 3DP anymore than #DP supersedes milling. They are complementary. I’d love to have a decent 3DP rig and a Ghost Gunner. I can think of several things I’d like to try that have nothing to do with firearms. (If anyone just won the lottery and feels generous, consider that an Xmas hint. [grin])
* Yet. 3D printers will continue to improve. Metal and ceramic sintering rigs will get cheaper. They will work their way into the hobbyist/artist/home niche. And I still think CNC will complement them.
If you’re hoping to 3D print a smart phone, you’re out of luck until someone incorporates a miniature IC chip factory, wire mill, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth into a 3D printer/CNC combo.