Defense

The FBI Is Getting Its Own, Personal 3D Printer for Studying Bombs

The Stratasys Objet24 printer starts at $19,900.

The Stratasys Objet24 printer starts at $19,900. // YouTube via Stratasys

At least one lucky G-Man will get to toy around with a 3D printer to study homemade explosives.

The bureau needs one order of a Stratasys Objet24 Personal 3D Printer "to support the advanced technical exploitation of evolving and existing high technology explosive devices," new federal contracting papers state.

Retail prices for the model start at $19,900, according to resellers and pricesheets

“The 3D printer is cutting-edge technology that will be used by the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center to enhance their capabilities in exploiting improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs, FBI spokeswoman Ann Todd said in an email on Friday.

The center, located in Quantico, inspects flammables collected from overseas battlefields and found on U.S. soil. Various Justice Department agencies, the Pentagon, other intelligence units and international partners contribute to TEDAC’s bomb library. Since opening in 2003, the center has probed more than 100,000 IEDs and receives about 800 deliveries a month.

Justice in 2013 became increasingly worried about plastic firearms faking out airport screeners and other weapon detectors. 

Last fall, the Huffington Post reported that Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, during an experiment, successfully printed and fired a metal-free gun using blueprints publicly available online. "The ATF's testing showed that the weapon, while not quite as powerful as most guns, could penetrate several inches of soft flesh as well as a human skull," HuffPo wrote.

At the time, ATF declined to say whether it owned its own 3D printer. 

The model the FBI plans to purchase weighs 205 pounds and measures 32.28" × 24.4" × 23.22", according to the Stratasys website. It is compatible with Windows XP and Windows 7 operating systems. 

The company describes the Objet24 as "the first desktop system to print realistic models with small moving parts, thin walls and smooth, paintable surfaces."

FBI officials said they want the Stratasys machine as opposed to another vendor’s model because it "is the only instrument capable of producing the high accuracy and resolution results to meet agency testing standards." 

Also, it is the sole printer that complies with the bureau’s data recovery and thermal environment requirements, officials said. 

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