Police in Manchester claim to have found components that they believe could be used to build a 3D printed gun.
If true it would be the first weapon of its kind ever seized in the UK. The component (below) and printer (above) were found during a raid in Manchester as part of a crackdown against organised crime in the area.
Police are now examining the items they seized to see if they really could be used to make a working gun. Detective Inspector Chris Mossop of Challenger's Organised Crime Coordination Unit said if true it would be "a really significant discovery".
"If what we have seized is proven to be viable components capable of constructing a genuine firearm, then it demonstrates that organised crime groups are acquiring technology that can be bought on the high street to produce the next generation of weapons," he said.
"In theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to the criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities. Because they are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle."
He said the concerns it raises underlined the need for the police to understand the emerging technologies that are shaping the world.
"These could be the next generation of firearms and a lot more work needs to be done to understand the technology and the scale of the problem," he said.
"If what we have seized today can, as we suspect, be used to make a genuine firearm then today will be an important milestone in the fight against this next generation of homemade weapons."
3D printing is growing in use all the time, with major firms such as Tesco considering how they could use the technology in-store. The UK government has also set out major plans to fund the use of 3D printers in schools to help teach children about the technology.
The use of 3D printers to make guns hit the headlines earlier this year when a design was released by a group in the US.
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