3D Printing

Solid Concepts manufactures first 3D-printed metal pistol

Solid Concepts manufactures first 3D-printed metal pistol
The fully assembled 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP (Image: Solid Concepts)
The fully assembled 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP (Image: Solid Concepts)
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The disassembled Model 1911 45ACP showing its 3D-printed parts (Image: Solid Concepts)
The disassembled Model 1911 45ACP showing its 3D-printed parts (Image: Solid Concepts)
The fully assembled 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP (Image: Solid Concepts)
The fully assembled 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP (Image: Solid Concepts)
The 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP fired 50 rounds successfully (Image: Solid Concepts)
The 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP fired 50 rounds successfully (Image: Solid Concepts)
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In a prime example of past meets future, a Texas-based company has used a century-old classic firearm as the blueprint for the world’s first 3D printed metal gun. Solid Concepts' use of a laser sintering method to create a fully functional Model 1911 automatic pistol is the latest demonstration of the potential of 3D printing techniques in industrial processing.

3D-printed guns aren't new, but most of those produced until now have been made of plastic. They may have given law enforcement and gun control advocates the hives, but at the end of the day they appear to be nothing but overpriced zip guns that are more dangerous to the shooter than the target. Some companies have produced metal gun components, but, to date, that’s as far as it’s gone.

It’s ironic that Solid Concepts, one of the world leaders in 3D printing services, chose the 1911 45ACP for its model. The pistol is a classic and has long been a favorite of armies, law enforcement, shooting enthusiasts, and pulp fiction artists, but what made it stand out is that when it was designed by John Browning, he made the layout of its working parts two dimensional. In fact, he sorted out the arrangement by using cardboard cutouts of the parts on a table top. Its classic nature, and its design being in public domain, attracted Solid Concepts.

The disassembled Model 1911 45ACP showing its 3D-printed parts (Image: Solid Concepts)
The disassembled Model 1911 45ACP showing its 3D-printed parts (Image: Solid Concepts)

According to the company, the over 30 components were made using a laser sintering process in which powdered metals are melted by a laser in layers using a digital plan. In this, a layer of powder is fused, then the printing machine lays down another layer and the process continues. Once complete, the excess powder is removed as are any supporting structures and the component is filed and cold hardened.

The 1911 is composed of 33 stainless steel and Inconel 625 components and even the carbon-fiber filled nylon hand grip was printed. Unlike previous plastic guns, the steel barrel of the 1911 was rifled and by directly building the barrel. Solid Concepts is keen to emphasize that, though some hand tooling was used in finishing the gun, none of it was machined. Assembly of the 1911 took less than 7 minutes.

Solid Concept says that the point of the exercise wasn't to create a cheaper pistol, but to demonstrate that 3D printing had reached the point where it could take on real world applications as well or better than conventional techniques. In this case, the printed parts were less porous than cast parts, could be made faster than conventional machining, and could be made more complex.

The 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP fired 50 rounds successfully (Image: Solid Concepts)
The 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP fired 50 rounds successfully (Image: Solid Concepts)

"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," says Kent Firestone, Vice President of Additive Manufacturing at Solid Concepts. "It’s a common misconception that 3D Printing isn't accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspective."

In the end, the printed gun barrel handled the 20,000 psi pressure of each shot with 50 rounds successfully fired, and even a few bullseyes hit at 30 yards.

"We’re proving this is possible, the technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Metal Printing," says Firestone. "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."

Though the 3D printed 1911 is a breakthrough, it's not exactly a gun runner's dream and the company says that we won’t be seeing college kids cranking out Kalashnikovs in their dorm rooms. The printers used weren't the desktop sort using plastic filaments, but industrial printers that require expert handing and cost many thousands of dollars .

According to the Solid Concepts blog, "[T]he engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3D Printing better than anyone in this business."

The company has not yet calculated the cost of the printed pistol.

The video below explains the printing project.

Source: Solid Concepts via Techcrunch

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Oh great, just what we needed - another bloody gun! What is it with these people? - They come up with a great new technology, and the first thing they think of is "I know, let's see if we can make a gun with it!". What is the point? !!
Mário Varandas
wouldn't it be better if they started doing some prosthetic hip or knee? Something that could be done in O.R. suitable to every patient and lower health costs?
making real working guns? that is NOT a good exercise, history should have thought you better...
Charlie Channels
Great....just what we needed: anyone with a 3D printer can now make guns.... What's next? Printing bomb components? I'm sorry for my harsh comments, but aren't we all sick of all shootings?
Frederick Potter
I am not surprised the printed a gun. It will make a much bigger splash in the media than a prosthetic hip. I knew the day would come, but I didn't expect the technology to move this fast. Costs will drop. Other models of 3D printers will come out soon. It will be impossible to stop plans circulating around the net for all kinds of weapons, bombs and other implements of destruction. 3D printing is going to be the next technological revolution in the world, and guns are only one of the scary things that it will usher in. Buckle your seat belts! Things are about to change in a huge way. But not everything will be bad. It will also be able to create some great good in the world. Isn't this the case for all technological revolutions?
Richard Unger
Why if your not an enforcement officer would you want a gun. Printing your own gun is nothing but bad news for people who do want them around. This is nothing more than bad news.
Vladimir Popov
Americans, all they want is more guns. Food replicator?
1:39-1:40 mins into video you see the slide return after the shot is very slow. curious why
Sam Joy
The idiots who are against gun ownership are in for a reality check, The new technology of the future is here NOW!, and the barbaric and primitive social structure of thinking of the Liberal mindset is not able to find any solutions because of the inherent ideology subjectivity. Logic is the only way to combat this new threat to society, it's not that I'm against gun ownership, because I'm not!, what I'm against is any idiot with a 3-D Printer spitting out production of any weapon without responsibility of it! ...We are as a society have no choice but to mature in order to survive and progress forward into the goal of attaining to be and accomplish in being an advanced peaceful civilized social culture and society in which we can live with one another no matter the differences among us!...That will have to be the new and logical ideology employed into all the different social and political cultures that makes us human....let's see if we are up to this task and endeavor that seems to always be oblivious to us all!..."Perception is everything, but everything is never perceived by those making distinctions without differences in failing to master the obvious."....
Jay Finke
Nice a gun, this shows how far we have come with this 3d building, a 45 is a big gun with lots of forces working against it, proving the 3d a neat machine that can bring ideas to life for testing quickly, for all sorts of new products. good job guys !
this isn't just another gun its a remake of a classic .45 cal pistol that has been in service for 102 years and its the sidearm I carried while serving in the Army. printing this weapon is a technological marvel, the first of its kind with many more innovations sure to follow.
for those that are sick of guns but want to remain free, you're conflicted, don't know history and don't realize whats going on with the shootings. the common thread in each event was pharmaceutical drugs. every single shooter was on psychiatric drugs and all of them claim side effects of "suicidal tendencies and violent thoughts." thats where the problem lies. we've had guns throughout our history so why is it only now when 20% of the US population are on psychiatric medication that we have these horrific, violent episodes.
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