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3D Printed Guns Can't Fly Under This Radar

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 10 comments

The plastic 3D printed handgun called the Liberator created a firestorm of controversy when its designs appeared online in May 2013. How could security and airline screening systems detect such a gun when the Liberator's plastic design made it invisible to metal detectors? A British start-up has an answer to that question.

MORE: Best 3D Printers 2014

Radio Physics Solutions is currently seeking crowdfunding for a new radar scanner that can detect concealed guns, as well as knives and explosives, regardless of whether the weapons contain metal.

The scanning system, first developed by researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), has two components. One is the radar-scanning technology itself, which uses harmless low-power microwaves to scan objects up to 25 meters (82 feet) away. These radar waves bounce off objects and return to the scanner in ways that reflect the shape of the object scanned.

The second component, specially designed software, analyzes the returned waves and uses them to determine whether the scanned object is a gun, knife, bomb or other predetermined "threat object."

"It's really a combination of a radar system and an AI-based computer system. It would have been unthinkable to make it just five years ago, because the computing power and hardware were just not there," Professor Nick Bowring, head of MMU's Center for Sensing and Imaging, said in a statement.

"Sensors for the detection of concealed threats" - Manchester Metropolitan University

The prototype scanner is about the size of a handbag, with the radar emitters and receivers on one end and a screen on the top showing what the device is currently scanning. It also communicates with a laptop running the device's software, which displays a video feed of the scanner's field of view and information about detected threat objects. 

Bowring said the device can recognize other objects, such as smartphones and keys, but classifies these as "non-threat items." To assuage privacy concerns, the scanner does not display images of the objects it detects. When it detects a weapon, the scanner issues an alert and signals where on the target's body the weapon is concealed.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr and Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • 1 Hide
    nitrium , March 3, 2014 9:39 AM
    So looks like if you take your gun apart or put it in a plastic case you can totally defeat it. Or if you print your gun to NOT look like a gun you can totally defeat it.
  • -8 Hide
    HEXiT , March 3, 2014 9:51 AM
    harmless microwaves? yeah rite...
  • 3 Hide
    RedJaron , March 3, 2014 10:17 AM
    The ammunition is still metal and can be picked up on detectors. Bunch of hyped up fear thinking these things are such a huge danger.
  • Display all 10 comments.
  • 2 Hide
    rsktek , March 3, 2014 11:05 AM
    Lol... that's not a gun officer *troll face* I'm just happy to see you :D 
  • -1 Hide
    ethanolson , March 3, 2014 11:13 AM
    Who cares if there's a gun on an airplane? It's the gun + bullets that matter. Nobody's getting bullets through an airport. Period.
  • 1 Hide
    nitrium , March 3, 2014 3:32 PM
    Quote:
    Who cares if there's a gun on an airplane? It's the gun + bullets that matter. Nobody's getting bullets through an airport. Period.
    You seriously think you couldn't sneak a small caliber bullet in a hollow belt buckle, thick rimmed glasses, watch, in a laptop or phone, for some easy examples? No one said the 3D printed gun needed to be loaded BEFORE boarding the plane. Sneaking a bullet onto a plane used to be easier than sneaking the lead delivery device, until 3D printing came along. Now BOTH are easy to get on board undetected. This new gadget does absolutely nothing to mitigate the risk.
  • 0 Hide
    itookmypills , March 3, 2014 6:57 PM
    Quote:
    So looks like if you take your gun apart or put it in a plastic case you can totally defeat it. Or if you print your gun to NOT look like a gun you can totally defeat it.
    It doesn't look for gun-shaped objects. They would detect the brass casings in the magazine, however.3d printed guns are not capable of properly handling the chamber pressures of cartridges. Go on youtube and you can even find shotguns, much thinner barrels than a rifle or pistol, that are blow-out due to simple obstructions. It would only work if you had lower power bullets, probably custom loads since the chamber pressures would still be ridiculous for a plastic barrel.
  • 0 Hide
    boanerges57 , March 3, 2014 7:16 PM
    it doesnt matter if the gun is plastic. The ammunition cant be made from plastic. even if plastic is strong enough for the case it isnt heavy enough for an effective bullet. wouldnt the potential cancer machines known as 3d body scanners detect this anyway?
  • 4 Hide
    Rob_C , March 4, 2014 1:10 AM
    Quote:
    harmless microwaves? yeah rite...
    Just conceal a Submarine Sandwich under your Jacket. The device will detect a Submarine (no visual clues are revealed) and you will have a heated meal to eat when you are in line.
  • 1 Hide
    David Kay , March 4, 2014 3:38 AM
    Guns made of plastic are strong enough, just matter of thicker plastic compared to metal.Bullets can be made out of non metal, not same performance as metal but still deadly at short range.
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