On that 3D-Printed Japanese Gun: A Revealing Interview with Hunter Tim Curnew
Is it Really a Gun? Just a Complicated Weapon? Whatever the Case, Yoshitomo Imura is Incarcerated
Well, it’s global now - on countless general tech sites, 3D printing hubs, proper news outlets, and even over at McCNN with a side order of Fox News. And that is, in a first of its kind case here in Japan, a man has been arrested after firing blank bullets with a device he made from a recipe available online (and then, over a month ago, doing the YouTube self-incriminating - see clips below).
The device is the manual cocking, semi-automatic Zig Zag Revolver, an awkward looking plastic six-shooter. The gun floats in something of a legal grey area, but Japanese authorities have now taken some clarifying steps. It’s likely that the Mr. Imura could face charges for the individual acts of making the gun, possessing it, and firing it - each come with their own set of firearms violations under Japanese civilian law. Oh, and some reports indicate that it's no airsoft gun - it's very likely powerful enough to kill.
That's all very bad for Mr. Imura, but normally such charges aren’t even big news here in Japan, never mind globally. But now that 3D printing’s involved, it’s super sexy news and the world must know. But something kinda stinks in Tokyo...
Is 3D Printing Incidental to the Real Story, Rightly: Japanese Guy Made a Gun and Guns are Bad Here
The term ‘3D Printing’ definitely has the keyboard pounders and talking heads all bothered, but in becoming so, we the media have kind of manufactured a straw man...or straw technology to hold up as the blameworthy enabler. Problem is, it's not that at all.
Because here's the the thing: fabricating a Zig Zag Revolver and its ammunition is quite a lot more complicated than simply printing out gun-shaped pieces of plastic with all the right holes and notches and mounts. In fact, 3D printing is absolutely the easiest part of the whole project. It should be obvious that one cannot make or fire an explosively propelled projectile - a bullet - with the relatively malleable plastics of commercially available 3D printing filament. Nope, making this thing work requires some hardcore traditional metalworking skills - skills that have little to no relationship to 3D printing.
And so, we know that Mr. Imura has invested in a lot more than a SCOOVO or Makerbot; the clues are way out in the open in both this news clip and this one, too. Both are in Japanese, but it's the visuals of Mr. Imura’s shop that matter. After taking a close look, and after taking in the explaination offered by our guest, Mr. Tim Curnew, it really comes into focus that the 3D printing part, the reason we care at all, should by all logic be a footnote. Of course it doesn't work that way, but still.
Have a listen for more:
On Yesterday’s News and Gun Laws in Japan:
An Interview with Hunter, Outdoorsman, and 20-Year Resident, Mr. Tim Curnew
Editors’ Note: Our apologies for the poor audio quality. Just, you know, breaking news meets time meets guy who lives out in the sticks of rural Japan where there’s no broadband!
Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, outdoorsman and environmental conservationist Tim Curnew has been licensed to own a firearm and hunt in rural southern Japan, his home for more than 20 years.
The 'This is Bad Timing for 3D Printing in Japan' Addendum:
It is way too late, 3D printing is firmly the demon in this story, and it comes at a point when Japan’s 3D printing industry is pushing hard to gain relevance in a market dominated by primarily American but also a handful of European and Chinese firms. Despite helping pioneer the field, Japan has fallen far behind in what’s also known as the ‘additive manufacturing’ industry. Hard to tell at this point, but this story could damage the market.
For more than a few details on just how far behind Japan has been, have a read of our summer 2013 feature Japan's 3D Printing Industry: Leapfrog, Not Catch-Up, is the Game to Play, wherein we discuss a rather embarrassing stat: as of 2012, Japan held a grand total of just 0.3% of the global 3D printer market.
So, is this bad news for Japan’s up and coming personal 3D printer market?
Tell us in the comments below, and then soon enough, we all shall see.
• • •
Japanese 3D Printing at AkihabaraNews
Via 3DPI.TV, this video includes footage from Imura’s now deleted original: