Design and Violence


Code for printing a gun

The Liberator is a 3D-printed gun made of 16 plastic pieces, and requiring only the addition of a nail to enable it to fire a single bullet. The computer code for the gun was designed and released online by libertarian (and at the time, law-student) Cody Wilson and his company Defense Distributed as a provocation around public access to weapons. It is an example of a ‘physible’ object, one that can be distributed as code and fabricated by computer-controlled machinery. With consumer-level 3D-printing becoming increasingly affordable, the Liberator challenges ethics around the legitimate uses of design and technology, and ideas of how violence is enabled, controlled and disseminated. Though US government authorities shut down its distribution almost immediately, the code for the Liberator had already been shared and has since been downloaded more than 100,000 times. Defense Distributed is currently involved in a court case arguing for the code’s distribution as an example of free speech.

Image 1: Defense Distributed (USA, est. 2013). The Liberator pistol. 2013. BSplus thermoplastic, nail. 2 1/2 x 8 1/2" (6.35 x 21.59 cm). Photograph by Marisa Vasquez. Courtesy of Defense Distributed.