U.S 3D printing company Solid Concepts has produced the world’s first 3D printed metal gun, made using a laser sintering process. After initial testing the gun has successfully fired over 500 bullets without failure and according to the manufacturers proves that 3D printing is suitable for manufacturing critical parts.
The 33 parts of the gun, based on a “classic” 1911 design, were 3D printed from powdered 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) carbon-fiber filled nylon hand grip.
Solid Concepts did not create the weapon to show how cheap it is or how easy it can be for someone to make in their shed, but they made it to dispel the myth that 3D printed parts are not strong enough or accurate for more demanding tasks. The 3D printed gun barrel sees chamber pressures reach over 20,000 psi (pounds per square inch) of explosive force each time a round is fired.
“We’re proving this is possible, the technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Metal Printing,” says Kent Firestone, VP of Additive Manufacturing at Solid Concepts. “And we’re doing this legally. 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.”
Since Defense Distributed made the first 3D printed gun it was only a matter of time before a metal 3D printed gun was created. By all evidence the Solid Concepts metal gun performs just as well as a conventionally manufacturer weapon and has now been shown to fire over 500 rounds, one after another, without failure. (shown in the video at the foot of this page)
In fact, the 3D printed metal has several advantages over cast and machined metal, with less porosity issues than an investment cast part and fewer complexities than a machined part. However, the equipment to make this metal 3D printed gun is beyond the reach of most people, with the hardware costing over $850,000.
There will probably be a lot less furore around this weapon, due to it’s cost and the fact that it can’t be smuggled past airport style metal detectors. The plastic 3D printed gun caused a moral panic as it posed an undetectable threat for security around the world.
If nothing else this does show that 3D printing can be used to manufacture high quality, reliable and strong parts which can be used for critical applications.
In this video the gun is fired over 500 times demonstrating the performance, strength and reliability of laser sintered 3D printed metals.