World’s First Metal 3D Printed Gun
An American company has built and successfully fired the world’s first metal 3D-printed gun.
The manufacturing firm Solid Concepts successfully fired 50 rounds using the handgun, which looks a lot closer to traditional firearms than the plastic Liberator 3D-printed gun that was first fired in May this year.
The design was based on a classic design from 1911 and manufactured using laser-sintered powdered metals. The firm says the gun “functions beautifully and has already handled 50 rounds of successful firing.”
It’s made from over 30 components printed in stainless steel and an alloy called Inconel 625, and has a selective laser sintered (SLS) carbon-fibre and nylon hand grip.
“We’re proving this is possible,” said Kent Firestone, vice president of additive manufacturing at Solid Concepts. “The technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Metal Printing.”
Firestone said the point of the project was to prove to quality and suitability of 3D-printed parts for real-world applications, and even its superiority over traditional techniques: the printed parts are less porous than cast parts and could be made more made complex than machined parts.
“The whole concept of using a laser sintering process to 3D-print a metal gun revolves around proving the reliability, accuracy and usability of metal 3D printing as functional prototypes and end use products,” said Firestone. “It’s a common misconception that 3D Printing isn’t accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspective.”
The firm chose to build the 1911 45ACP firearm because the design is in the public domain and says it is licensed to produce firearms parts.
“We’re doing this legally,” said Firestone. “In fact, as far as we know, we’re the only 3D Printing Service Provider with a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver.”
The metal laser sintering process Solid Concepts used to manufacture the 30+ gun components is one of the most accurate additive manufacturing processes available, and more than accurate enough to build the interchangeable and interfacing parts within the 1911 series gun. The gun proves the tight tolerances laser sintering can meet. Plus, 3D Printed Metal has less porosity issues than an investment cast part and better complexities than a machined part. The 3D Printed gun barrel sees chamber pressures above 20,000 psi every time it is fired. Solid Concepts chose to build the 1911 because the design is public domain.
The 3D Printed metal gun proves that 3D Printing isn’t just making trinkets and Yoda heads. The gun manufactured by Solid Concepts debunks the idea that 3D Printing isn’t a viable solution or isn’t ready for mainstream manufacturing. With the right materials and a company that knows how to best program and maintain their machines, 3D printing is accurate, powerful and here to stay.