Editors note: Original article can be found here at solidconcepts.com
Let me start out by saying one, very important thing: This is not about desktop 3D Printers. Solid Concepts is a world leader of 3D Printing services, and our ability to 3D Print the world’s first metal gun solidifies our standing. The gun is a classic 1911, a model that is at once timeless and public domain. It functions beautifully: Our resident gun expert has fired 50 successful rounds and hit a few bull’s eyes at over 30 yards. The gun is composed of 30+ 3D Printed components with 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 materials. We completed it with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) 3D Printed hand grip, because we’re kind of crazy about 3D Printing.
“The whole concept of using a laser sintering process to 3D Print a metal gun revolves around proving the reliability, accuracy and usability of 3D Metal Printing as functional prototypes and end use products,” says Solid Concepts’ Vice President of Additive Manufacturing Kent Firestone. “It’s a common misconception that laser sintering isn’t accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspective.”
Another common misconception about 3D Printing is that it’s limited to desktop printers that can only extrude plastic filament. If I had the time, I would do a complete yearlong series debunking all the myths and misconceptions surrounding 3D Printing. Instead, our engineers went ahead and built something that proves this technology beyond any doubt. So long sad disfigured Yoda heads, no more pretending like that’s going to cut it for this industry.
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 Firestone. “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.”
I mentioned earlier this isn’t about desktop printers, and it’s not. The industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition (and I went to a private university) and the 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. Thanks to them, Solid Concepts is debunking the idea that 3D Printing isn’t a viable solution or isn’t ready for mainstream manufacturing. We have the right materials, and the right engineers who know how to best program and maintain these machines, to make 3D Printing accurate, powerful and here to stay.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions (which is lovely) so I wanted to address a few of them here.
The gun is 45ACP. It’s rifled and the rifling was built directly into the part – or as we like to say, “grown” into the part – using 3D Printing. This gun has NOT BEEN MACHINED. We used hand tools for some post processing (our finishers are wonderful), but we did not machine this gun. It’s born this way.
Update: 3D Printed Metal Gun Hits 1000 Rounds
We are thrilled to report that our 1911 3D Printed metal gun has successfully fired 1000 rounds. For footage of the gun hitting over 500 rounds, check out our YouTube Channel. Thanks again for the interest, enthusiasm and support. We’re excited to be on the cutting edge of this technology, and happy to share our success with you!