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3D printed gun runner Defense Distributed announces Defcad open search project at SXSW

A group that courted controversy last year for developing 3D printed gun parts is working on a new project - what it calls "the world's first unblockable, open search engine for all 3D printable parts."

The site, called Defcad, was announced this week at the South by South West (SXSW) conference in Texas. Already dubbed the 'Pirate Bay for 3D printing', Defcad aims to provide unfettered access to 3D printable firearms, as well as other designs that can be used to print anything from household tools to pharmaceuticals.

The site is the brainchild of Cody Wilson, a University of Texas law student who last year set up a nonprofit project called Defense Distributed to create a blueprint for a working firearm that could be created on a 3D printer.

After successfully raising $20,000 (£13,400) in a grassroots online campaign, the project hit a roadblock when 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys refused to allow its machines to be used for the effort. Then, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, another 3D printing firm, MakerBot, pulled gun part blueprints from its website.

But those setbacks didn't deter Wilson, who is now seeking crowd-sourced funding for Defcad. Though it will likely face legal challenges over copyright issues, Wilson said the effort is necessary to advance the field of 3D printing.

"Defense Distributed's story shows the fight that lies ahead," Wilson said in a video on the site (below). "Defcad stands against artificial scarcity, intellectual property, copyright, patentable objects, and regulation in all of its forms. If 3D printing is going to be developed as a technology, we need specific tools to help get around industry, government, and the collusive members of the maker community."

As of now, Defcad is currently hosting a single .zip file containing more than 50 files for 3D printed items, most of which are gun parts. According to the site, the so-called "Defcad Mega Pack" has already been downloaded more than 400,000 times to date.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Defcad had already raised close to $13,000 (£8,700) from 46 backers. Once it launches, the site will eventually be used to provide wider support for hackers and America's military veterans.

"Hackers are persecuted by federal prosecutors while the basic needs of veterans go unmet," according to a note on the site. "All purchases mediated by the search engine will be rounded up to the nearest dollar; 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the VFW, and 50 percent will be donated to 4chan to support free speech on the Internet."

Meanwhile, the actual Pirate Bay last year began offering a new category of downloads called "physibles," or data files that deliver real, physical objects to anyone with a 3D printer.

What's your take? Do you support an open-source search engine for 3D printable parts, and plan to fund Defcad?