We’ve seen designs for 3D-printed guns made of plastic. Now a Texas company demonstrated they can print a metal gun. They have a YouTube video showing the gun being fired here.
Solid Concepts, based in Austin, used a laser sintering process to print a version of an M1911 .45 caliber pistol. Laser sintering isn’t something the average person can do at home because the machinery is expensive and requires a lot of space and power. But the real goal was to show that 3-D printing metal is precise enough to produce parts within specific tolerances and strength. With this gun, the only parts not made with a 3-D printer were the springs.
Laser sintering involves metal powder and a laser. The machine lays the powder on the bottom of a chamber in layers, and then fires the laser to heat and fuse the powder to make a “slice” of a 3-D object. The base of the chamber drops slightly with each layer. The process has been used in industry for some time to make prototypes and models.
Solid Concepts obtained a Federal Firearms License to manufacture the gun.
The plastic gun made by Defense Distributed earlier this year was more controversial. They put the blueprints online for anyone to download, but eventually the government asked that they be removed from the website.
The ability to make a gun at home also raised a lot of concerns – it’s not clear if it is legal. Besides the ability of anyone to make a gun, there is the problem of user safety: plastic guns’ barrels degrade after repeated firings. Solid Concepts’ gun doesn’t have that problem, it’s been safely fired 50 times.
If nothing else, Solid Concepts has shown that 3-D printing can supplant traditional manufacturing, at least in some cases. Or as the company said in its press release: “3-D Printing isn’t just making trinkets and Yoda heads.”
Credit: Solid Concepts