print me up a rifle!

Blog reader J Anderson emails:

I’m betting this will make you want to revise some of your lunar economics, though it may be too late for that…

Can’t wait to read the finished book.



Well, given that I’ve got a home-built 20-square-foot 3-axis CNC machine in my basement, I’m not entirely taken by surprise by the desktop fab revolution!

Here’s a bit from a scene from first book (“Powers of the Earth”) that references CNC:

== 2064: just west of Zhukovskiy Crater, Lunar Nearside

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking, right?.”

Duncan cut in “What are you guys talking about?”

Max said “Yeah, what ARE you talking about?”

John pointed to the specifications of the old Apollo landing module on the wallscreen.

Duncan shrugged “OK, but why is this so exciting?”

Blue answered him “We’ve been thinking about sending a radio beacon over
the horizon…but how much do one human and a few dogs weigh?”

Duncan thought for a moment – “I don’t know – maybe 500 kilograms
including suits?”

John grinned “Getting to orbit on Earth is a huge deal – you don’t
just have to gain altitude, you’ve got to get up to Mach 20 or so.
But here on the moon -”

Duncan finally got it. “Holy crap! You two think we can build our
our spaceship!”

John nodded. “Something simple – an open frame, four seats, and an
engine. We scavenge through the wreckage of Gamma’s facility to find
some propellant, we salvage a CNC machine, hack an interface to it,
and we turn a small rocket bell.”

Max raised one skeptical eyebrow. “You’re proposing that we try to
ride a pillar of exploding hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide – salvaged
from a facility that was nuked less than a day ago – and channel that
thrust through a rocket bell created by a bunch of amateurs using CNC
machines that are utterly out of calibration after being hit with an
atom bomb?”

John and Blue said nothing.

And here’s a scene from the second book (“Causes of Seperation”) that references 3-d printers :

== 2064: The Den, level three, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Dogs – dozens of them – pressed close around Blue, Max, and Duncan.
In privacy, with no humans present, they felt free to sniff the three
returning travellers. Several others, at the perimeter, howled at the
news of Rex’s death.

Finally Max barked loudly to get their attention, then shouted
“Enough!” The room quietted – although one of those at the edge
rumbled under his breath, the howl barely kept in check – and Max
cleared his throat. “People! We can get reacquainted – and mourn Rex
– later. Right now, we have to concentrate on one thing. The

At that moment one of the smaller Dogs in the pack looked up from the slate
he’d been surreptitiously glancing at. “It’s all over the media –
there are shots of APCs rolling down the tunnels.” He paused. “It’s

Max was annoyed. “Of course it’s real – I just told you. Now, listen
up. John already told the Boardroom Group and they’re scrambling
their militias -”

The runt interjected “Oh, good, so it’s -”

Max growled him into silence, then stared at him. After a moment the
smaller Dog looked away and muttered “Sorry.”

“If I can continue?” He looked around the pack and got nods. “The
Boardroom Group is scrambling their militias, but we have no data on
how big the PK invasion is. Now, people, this might be it.
Ragnarok. The end of the world. If the PKs win here, then we are all
– ALL – dead.”

The room grew very quiet and still. Max let the fear weigh on them
for a moment before continuing. “We are unarmed and unprepared.” He
looked from eye to eye. “I blame myself. I should have -”

Someone in the pack yelled out “None of us expected this for years to
come. You can’t -”

Max reitterated. “I blame myself. But just because I failed to
see this coming doesn’t mean that we’re going to roll over on our
backs. If we die today, we die fighting.”

A different voice yelled out “What can we do? It’s too late – the
troops are already landing.”

Max barked. “No! Out on Farside, it was just me, Blue, Duncan, and
Max against dozens of PKs. We were unarmed, and we killed them, and I
pissed on the their corpses.”

Blue cleared his throat. “John was there too -”

Max waved the distraction away. “I don’t know if we’ve got days,
hours, or just minutes. But we’re going to fight.”

Yet another voice yelled out “OK, so what do we do then?”

Max nodded. “Good question.” He turned to Duncan. “Duncan, you
programmed the mules last time – grab a few others and buy all the
mules you can find, anywhere in the colony. Pay extra – whatever it
takes – and get them delivered. Immediately. Then start loading the
software into them.”

He turned to a red furred female in the audience. “Aabroo, you’re good
with CAD. Find some folks here who have mechanical engineering skills
– let’s get some rifle stocks printed up that are short enough that we
can use them. Rush delivery – we need them inside half an hour.” He
paused. “And make sure that our fingers can pull the triggers.” He
added one last bit. “And ammo. Lots of it.”

And while we’re at it, here are some kids in a hackerspace back on Earth:

== 2064: Atlanta Hackspace, Atlanta, GA, Earth

Maynard rested one hand on the Hobart stand mixer they’d picked up cheap when
Dominck’s Pizza went out of business. Its throbbing motion slowly smoothed
into a more event whir as the beater smoothed out the lumps in the
mix. Maynard picked up a measuring scoop, dipped it into the sack,
then sprinkled more clay powder into the mix.

“How’s the goo coming?”

Maynard turned and saw that Vince was there, looking at him. “Oh –
hey Vince. This batch is almost done.”

Vince nodded and turned back to his screen.

Maynard thought it over for a second then decided to risk it. “Hey,
Vince.” Vince turned back. “Have you looked over the expat’s ship
guide?” Vince didn’t respond immediately so Maynard hurried on “It –
uh – it was covered in Pulse, Makernet, HomeShop -”

“Yeah, I read it.”

Maynard cleared his throat. “Well – I was thinking it might be
interesting to build it. I mean – maybe not the whole ship – that’d
cost money. But at least the prototype.” Maynard thought about
saying more but realized that he’d presented his case.

Vince thought the idea over. “I don’t know. It’d be cool…but can
we afford it? The liquid nitrogen -”

“I can sneak some of that out of the materials science lab.”

Vince raised one eyebrow. “Really? Hmmm. That’d be c ool.” He
thought for a moment longer. “And the copper for the bus-bars?”

“I can work that out.”

Vince inclined his head. “The goo ready for the printer yet?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, sure. We just need to screen it first then it should
be ready to go.”

“OK, why don’t you load that into printer number two?”

“Uh – I was going to use printer one for a mug set I’m working on.”

Vince hit him with his thousand watt smile. “Oh, come on – be a team
player, man. I’ve drawn up a sketch for an AWESOME bot body.
It’s like a J-type, but it has arms. Here, man, come look at my
plans.” He beckoned Maynard closer and then put an arm on his
shoulders familiarly as he pointed at his slate.

Maynard looked it over. It was pretty cool – it used several captured
dumbbell joints, the kind Maynard had shown Vince just the other day
on the Russian prototyping site. As if reading his mind Vince pointed
to the joints “See those? Awesome, right? And I couldn’t’ve done it
with out your input.”

Maynard smiled, pleased for the acknowledgement. Vince ran hot and
cold, and it was always nice to be in his good graces.

Vince slapped him on the shoulder. “Thanks, brother.”

Maynard nodded…and then realized Vince was talking about using his
batch of goo in the printer. Well, he might as well. Vince HAD
thanked him for the idea he’d used in the design. Maynard walked over
to the Hobart mixer, turned it off, and then man-handled the mixing
bowl out of the cradle and onto the cart. In a moment he’d pushed it
over to the printer – avoiding that one uneven floor board that could
slosh the mud – then wrapped his arms around the bowl and tilted it so
that the goo started to pour into the printer’s intake funnel. He had
about half of it poured in when the door to the hackerspace opened and
the noise of a half dozen chattering hackers wafted in. He looked up.
Lucy-Ann – his girlfriend – was with them. He wanted to wave but he
was still cradling the half-full container. He finished the pour, put
the bowl back down on the cart and looked up. Lucy-Ann must not
have seen him there behind the printer – she was deep in conversation
with the crowd that had walked in, clustered around Big Bertha, the
new slow motion CNC pottery wheel they’d built last spring.

Maynard walked over to the crowd. “Hey Lucy-Ann!”

CA looked up from her conversation and smiled. “Hey Maynard, I didn’t
know you were here!” He went in for a hug but at the last minute
Lucy-Ann pulled back.

“Oh – gross!”


She pointed at his shirt and he looked down. Oh, crap. He hadn’t
been careful about wiping the rim of the mixing bowl clean before
humping it over to the printer, and he had a broad horizontal stripe
of grey slip across his stomach. “Oh, crap. Sorry.”

Lucy-Ann shrugged and smiled but kept her distance. Maynard felt a
strong hand on his shoulder – Vince had sauntered over and joined
them. “Maynard – introduce me to everyone.”

Maynard did and Lucy-Ann – always polite – smiled warmly at Vince
when she was introduced.

Vince interrupted the introductions. “So what projects are you
working on tonight?”

Carrie Ann blinked. “Oh, nothing impressive.” She pointed at Big
Bertha. “I’m thinking of making a Community Ring for the Peace Faire.”

Vince somehow seemed simultaneously wryly amused and curious. “A ‘Community

Carrie Ann blushed. “Oh, it’s nothing. Just a thing that people are
doing. So I thought I’d make one. Out of stoneware. You know.” She
bit her lip. “What are YOU working on? Something complicated, I bet?”

Maynard started to answer “You remember – the mug set -”

Vince put his hand back on Maynard’s shoulder. “I think she was
asking me.” Maynard looked at Lucy-Ann and verified that Vince was
right. Oops.

Vince smiled. “It’s funny you should ask – just before you got here I
was talking with Maynard. You guys all know about the Expat Ship

There was an intake of breath from the group. “No! Really?”

Vince nodded. “Yeah. I’m going to set up the machinery and build a
cryo-bath, and Maynard is going to get me the copper bus-bars and a
tank of nitrogen, right M?”

Maynard smiled, happy to be included. “Right.”

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One Response to print me up a rifle!

  1. John Anderson says:

    I was thinking more along the lines of the implications of completely free feedstock…

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