Aside from the Duke’s classic colt six-shooter, no pistol has such a place in American history than the 1911 .45 calibre handgun.
Now the folks at Solid Concepts have successfully produced one of these handguns, all steel, all 3D printed.
Fabricating 3D weapons has come a long way in a short period of time.
Just within the last year, it was a Texas-based company called Defence Distributed making headlines about 3D-printed weapons parts. But they had problems producing composite pieces that could stand the heat and pressure without failing.
From the Solid Concepts press release:
It is composed of 33 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 components, and decked with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) carbon-fibre filled nylon hand grip. The successful production and functionality of the 1911 3D Printed metal gun proves the viability of 3D Printing for commercial applications.
Already Special Operations teams out in the middle of who-knows-where have support from “expeditionary labs” which draw up and print out custom pieces of gear, based entirely on the military operator’s specifications.
Obama has also promised $US200 million for 3D-printing investing in the Defence Department.
Certainly, the fabrication of stainless steel pieces is a revolution of sorts, and planners in the military are probably watching closely for what happens next.
As for the 1911, Solid Concepts maintains that the pieces are not “machined,” but entirely “grown” in their 3D-printers.
Laser sintering is one of the most accurate manufacturing processes available, and more than accurate enough to build the 3D Metal Printed interchangeable and interfacing parts within our 1911 series gun. The gun proves laser sintering can meet tight tolerances.
3D Metal Printing has less porosity issues than an investment cast part and better complexities than a machined part. The barrel sees chamber pressure above 20,000 psi every time the gun is fired.
“We’re proving this is possible, the technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Printing,” says Solid Concepts’ Vice President of Additive Manufacturing Kent Firestone in the release. “As far as we know, we’re the only 3D Printing Service Provider with a Federal Firearms Licence (FFL). Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver.”
Mentioning their FFL Licence is no mistake. Certainly the idea of 3D printing of small arms has caused a bit of a stir in the weapons control community. Cody Wilson, owner of Defence Distributed, ran into this problem — but at the time of his troubles, last summer and late last year, he did not yet hold a Federal Firearms Licence.
Certainly the implications of this new technology, both for domestic and for federal use, and for military as well as humanitarian use, are nothing short of staggering.
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