AN expert believes 3D printers will soon be subject to regulation after component parts for what could by the UK’s first 3D gun were seized by police.

A search by police in Manchester uncovered a 3D printer and what was suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.

The technology works by allowing anyone who has a 3D printer — which can be bought on the high street for about £1,200 — to download designs for guns or components.

“The printers themselves squirt layers of molten plastic to produce 3D shapes of whatever design has been downloaded.

Philip Cotton, who teaches design and technology at Ladybridge High School, in Deane, said: “Technology is moving so fast and agencies are often having to play catch up.

“I think the fall out from this discovery is that 3D printers will be regulated and that people may have to register it and maybe a licence for it.”

Mr Cotton, who has been shortlisted for 3D Printshow Educational Excellence Award, said: “Using a 3D printer to create a gun or parts of it is not easy and you need someone with a knowledge of computer design.

“The problem is by highlighting this, criminals now know they can print out guns or parts of them.”

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “At this stage, we cannot categorically say we have recovered the component parts for a 3D gun.

“What we have seized are items that need further forensic testing by national ballistics experts to establish whether they can be used in the construction of a genuine, viable firearm. Clearly the fact we have seized a 3D printer and have intelligence about the possible production of a weapon using this technology is of concern.

“It's prudent we establish exactly what these parts can be used for and whether they pose any threat.”