Did you feel that? The world just changed a little. Again. This isn’t a goofy looking zip-gunnish thing, either. Solid Concepts has printed – yes, printed – a very functional, very impressive 1911. Still photo after the jump. Here’s their press release:

Solid Concepts, a world leader in 3D Printing services, manufactures the world’s first 3D Printed Metal Gun.

Austin, TX – Solid Concepts, one of the world leaders in 3D Printing services, has manufactured the world’s first 3D Printed Metal Gun using a laser sintering process and powdered metals. The gun, a 1911 classic design, functions beautifully and has already handled 50 rounds of successful firing. It is composed of 33 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 components, and decked with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) carbon-fiber 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 . . .

“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, Vice President 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.”

The metal laser sintering process Solid Concepts used to manufacture the 30+ gun components is one of the most accurate additive manufacturing processes available, and more than accurate enough to build the interchangeable and interfacing parts within the 1911 series gun. The gun proves the tight tolerances laser sintering can meet. Plus, 3D Printed Metal has less porosity issues than an investment cast part and better complexities than a machined part. The 3D Printed gun barrel sees chamber pressures above 20,000 psi every time it is fired. Solid Concepts chose to build the 1911 because the design is public domain.

Solid Concepts 3D Printed Metal Gun Low Res Press Photo

“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 Firestone. “It’s a common misconception that 3D Printing isn’t accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspective.”

The 3D Printed metal gun proves that 3D Printing isn’t just making trinkets and Yoda heads. The gun manufactured by Solid Concepts debunks the idea that 3D Printing isn’t a viable solution or isn’t ready for mainstream manufacturing. With the right materials and a company that knows how to best program and maintain their machines, 3D printing is accurate, powerful and here to stay.

About Solid Concepts

Solid Concepts provides rapid prototyping and custom manufacturing services, with capabilities in PolyJet, Stereolithography (SLA), 3D Color Prints, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), 3D Metal Printing, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), CNC models and patterns, Composites, and QuantumCast™ advanced cast urethanes. Capabilities in tooling and injection molding make Solid Concepts a single source for product development and production efforts from conception to market. Visit www.solidconcepts.com to find your solution.

Recommended For You

75 Responses to Solid Concepts Makes First Metal 3D Printed Gun

  1. Very interesting. I’ve been kind of skeptical as to the practicality of 3D printing when it comes to firearms, but this seems (to me, as a layperson) to change things significantly.

    We may be witnessing a big step to the democratization of firearms ownership.

    • If only we were that lucky… though I will grant you it is quite possible that she has just refilled her Depends at an alarming and explosive pace.

  2. I would think with a high quality CMM machine and a little time and effort they could duplicate any weapon in a very brief timeframe… I for one am more excited by this than the plastic gun.

    • The value of the plastic gun is that plastic printers are much more likely to end up in an average civilians hands than a metal printing machine. Both have their place in democratizing the ownership of firearms.

      • The patents for 3D metal printing technology end this year, this technology will become widely available to this public in a matter of years. 3D plastic printing technologies ended about 5 years ago which is why that exploded onto the market; expect to see the same with metal 3D printing.

      • There are also projects like The Othermill that aim to deliver cheap “metal 3D printing” (in effect if not quite so in the method used) to the masses.

      • Chemistry, physics and engineering; is there anything that it can’t do? Bomb components and many high explosives are pretty easily made and/or synthesized. I can see a day where something analogous to a 3D printer can take relatively simple and easily acquired precursor chemicals and synthesize them into just about any compound you want. The RDX (cyclotrimethylene trinitramine) molecule, for instance, is just 3 carbon atoms, 6 hydrogen atoms, 6 nitrogen atoms and 6 oxygen atoms.

  3. For mass production, how does this compare to metal injection molding? I know Taurus has been touting that for their firearm components.

    • I’m no technical expert, but occasionally I play one on the internet…

      I think MIM is far better suited to mass production, as you can mold bazillions of the same part at the same time. From what I hear, the resulting metal is legitimately durable. They’re not making barrels or high-pressure parts this way (I don’t think), but all sorts of other pieces.

      3D printing would be better suited to low-quantity work. The awesome thing about it, which may or may not be applicable to guns, is that the printers can build complex internal structure, so things that used to be assembled from several tiny pieces — or maybe couldn’t be done at all — can now be built up layer by layer in one piece. It’s how they do that snazzy bone replacement thing I linked above.

      • The biggest difference is that metal injection molding requires quite a bit of capital equipment. Molds, presses, heaters, etc. So it’s incredibly expensive, but once you have the capital invested you can crank out parts.

        With printing once you buy the printer you can make just about any part you want. It’s cheap and great for prototypes, but it’s really, incredibly slow.

      • Yes, for certain parts.

        One of the things about MIM is that you have to do a bunch of testing of the part. When you inject the MIM “metal goo” into the mold, it is slightly oversized to the final part dimensions. When the part is sintered, it burns out some of the plasticizer and the metal powder tends to shrink a bit in all dimensions.

        This is pretty repeatable, but you have to tweek the molds to get it right.

        The advantage of 3D printing is that you ask for “X,” you get X. So for a production of one/two parts, the 3D printing process is well ahead of the issues in MIM.

  4. My brother works at a machine shop that builds aircraft parts, he told me three months ago that in the near future it would be possible to build quality firearms with a 3D printer. I didnt believe him until I saw this video.

    • Guess the HuffPoo never heard of milling machines and hand tools.

      People in caves in the hills of Pakistan and backyard shops in the Philippines have been making firearms by hand for years. It isnt exactly verboten knowledge.

      But, ZOMGWTFBBQ we must ban!!! Rabble, Rabble, Rabble!

  5. I’ll take this moment to admit that I was wrong. I thought this moment would be a few years out yet.

    But I did defend the idea from those who thought the prior 3D printing of guns was mental masturbation. 3D printing, or “additive machining” is the future of manufacturing technology. Get used to it. It’s here, the rate of progress is accelerating and the possibilities are very exciting – because you can do things with 3D printing you simply cannot do with a CNC machine – like “machine” inner structures that are completely closed off from the outside. Think about how easy it will be to make suppressors with DMLS that have more baffles, more ports and bleed valves than you could possibly machine into the suppressor designs we have now.

    Think about barrels that could be made from a cylindrical steel matrix – lighter and stiffer than current barrel technology. Think about being able to “print” the rifling and the chambering into the barrel, and so on. Want a different barrel twist with a different chamber? Change the parametric CAD program. Boom, done. Probably no machining will be necessary. Just slap the parts together.

    Politically, the gun-grabbers are now going to lose bladder control. This is a for-real handgun, firing for-real centerfire ammo. This is not a toy, not a mere concept. And oh, BTW: the pistol didn’t group poorly at all.

    For your polymer/striker fanbois: NB that they didn’t choose a polymer/plastic pistol for their demonstration. They chose a 1911. What is more significant is that they printed the barrel, and, if I understand them correctly, they printed the springs. 17-4 and Inconel are very high-tech alloys, BTW, for those of you thinking that this is some “pot metal” stuff. It isn’t. Those are alloys seen in high-end machined parts today in some guns, especially the 17-4 PH steel.

    Oh, and one more delicious bit of irony. Where did this happen?

    In Texas.

    Anti-gun liberals will be tearing their hair out tonight. A real pistol. Out of metal. Made before the “progressive” heroes of gun control could get anything through Congress. And it was made in that icky state of Texas.

    This, BTW, should show people that the new-new place where serious technology is going to happen is in Texas. California and Silicon Valley are now lagging the new wave of technological progress, not leading it.

    To the boys at Solid Concepts: Well done.

    • BTW SolidConcepts is located in the bay area also (although probably not FFL at that site). I have been using them for more than a decade. They make some cool UAV parts that cannot be machined.

    • DG, I shan’t say I told you so, since you understood that it was coming and defended the possibility. As for everybody else who didn’t get why that Cory kid and his self-serving publicity campaign drove me effen nuts – see why now? This was where the grown-up were working for the last few years, not wasting time ginning up the antis with something that would never, ever, be worthwhile.

      As to this firearm being the “first” produced using this process, well, it is the first that anyone is talking about with the media made by an FFL with the intention of producing.

      Now, the genie is out of the bottle.

      • I agree with you. You’ll remember that I explained what I thought to be the true cause of all the panty-bunching among the PuffHo’s:

        The reason why was the plastic printed gun needed no real materials, machining or manufacturing experience, coupled with the fact it was done by a law student.

        In other words, the sort of three-hanky liberal arts majors who emote rather than think could see themselves being able to make a plastic gun.

        The PuffHo’s are now relieved at the cost of the equipment necessary to print a metal gun.

        They never seem to understand that guys like you and I can crank out plenty of guns with existing technology for a lot less than $850K. Heck, for $850K, we could set up a complete five-axis shop and have plenty of loot left over.

        • I never took any real issue with your assessment way back when, I just was plugged in to the bleeding edge so I was more strident that it was right ’round the corner (in relative terms). Regardless, you understand the processes, so you knew it was coming too. I am much appreciative for that support, as I’m a bit Carrol Shelby when it comes to my tact…

          We both know what it takes to “make” pretty much anything, especially guns. You’re very right that ‘matrix’ printing materials for frames and pretty much everything else is the next step, and it’s being sussed out even as we speak. De rigueur in the aero world, at least on the level of honeycomb extrusion sandwiches. The (relative) ready availability of FEA tools coupled with additive machining will be able to soon produce even a stone-axe 1911 that’s about half the weight of a current model. Not to mention coupling that tech with cryo and coatings. Which is still ‘science fiction’ to most of the corps doing this stuff…

          I have some interests that are playing with printing entire engine blocks of metal matrix composites – incredible weight savings with more strength that the original cast/machine-from-chunk.

          We are truly living in the golden age of automotive performance. Guns really aren’t all that far behind if you deal with the right folks. Of course, the wrong folks are busy working out how to eff up the Marlin Glenfield 60. But I digress…

    • That was the side project I worked on for my doctorate. But we used LPD, LASER Powder Deposition. Full melt is stronger than a sintered product.

      • True it is the next DIY step beyond sintered. It’s on the bleeding-ish edge of what the hardcore hobbyists are working on. For right now, most are focused on moving sintered out to the public realm.

  6. HA, that’s pretty cool. I was wondering if DLMS could print a gun. Looks like their parts could still use a little fitting from a gunsmith.

    I bet if they went with an all-metal striker design it wouldn’t require any hand fitting. (seriously. Not trolling)

  7. “Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver.”

    Holy. Crap. No production line. Just the cost of equipment, materials and labor. I could have a GALIL in .308. I can have replacement parts for my Romanian M1969 Trainer. This. Is. Amazing.

    The main question becomes when it hits the mainstream, and if there are any unforeseen disadvantages to this method.

    • Yeah, this could be good when parts for old guns starts to dry up. Load up a cad file or scan the part needed. Have them print it and send it to you. I am sure this process will drastically speed up as the technology improves.

      • This is a Big Deal, if they can deliver the part in a reasonable price range.

        There are lots of parts that old-time ‘smiths get asked to make. Can I make you parts for your old guns “from nothing?” Sure. I have hundreds of hand files and the chops to make just about anything you want with a bit of lathe/mill work to “get close” and then I file it in closer, then (if necessary) smoke-fit it.

        Will you pay me to do this? Even at the feeble rate of $65 to $75/hour, most of the time, “no.” It might take me two to three hours to make a part the first time, and lots of gun owners don’t want to spend any more than tree-fiddy on anything. The second/third time, I might be able to cut that time in half, but we’re still over $100 in my labor charge alone.

        But let’s say that these guys could make a part that used to go for, oh, $15 for $90 that might take me three hours. All I have to do is provide the drawing. Well now, we’re talking. I dimension and draw out the part (and I keep the drawing, so I retain the results of that work), send the file down to a 3D printing vendor with some money, get back a part and drop it in. Now a repair that might have been in the $200 range comes down to the $100 range, even with the part being several times more expensive than the few examples left out in the parts market.

        I’m going to contact Solid Concepts and ask them about their services in this area, because parts for old double guns ain’t exactly growing on trees.

        • Here is the bright future of this kind of tech. Reductive machining coupled with a CMM and some CAD/CAM software have opened doors for (relatively) economically reproducing almost anything on the planet.

          This? This is the early days of a (one of the few) bright parts of the future. You can sit down, grab a FARO arm (or whatever CMM floats your boat), translate that broken piece of Holland & Holland into a point cloud. Push a few dozen buttons to compensate for wear and send it off to the printer to come back with a new part. A little gunsmith hand-finishing-magic and it’s good as new. Sure we’ve been doing that for a decade with reductive, but the additive thing will drop in cost rapidly and quickly take over. The difference in set-up time alone is huge.

  8. The big application for 3D printing is small production runs, especially making prototypes. The cost of tooling for a production run is so high that it takes a huge run to keep the unit price down to a competitive level. With 3D printing, the “tooling” is just a command file for the printer. Once you have that file, the cost to make one piece is the same as the unit cost for a thousand or a million pieces. This is fantastic news for anyone with an obsolete device for which the supply of replacement parts has been exhausted and there isn’t enough demand to justify a new production run using conventional manufacturing methods.

    • You hit the nail on the head – it’s going to be much cheaper to draw a singular part and make it compared to actually “machining” it in singular or low quantities.

      One of the drawbacks of these techniques is that they don’t scale well in time or cost – it’s slow to make and the the cost reductions that can be realized from other types of tooling (like molds) isn’t there. Depending on where you want to be on the price curve, there are many firms doing fast turn, low cost mold development from materials like aluminum that get you onto the “mass production” curve pretty quickly and cheaply. The resulting molds don’t last as long and don’t produce as nice of a finish as more classic mold materials but you get a lot of scale-up advantages. This is another step on the continuum from very high volume, high cost, mass production to custom machining/creation.

      A really cool, kick butt step!

  9. Eh, with the EOSINT M280 somewhere in the neighborhood of $850,000 or so…the idea of printing an arsenal of SBRs (10″ x 10″ x 12″ dimension limits) in my garage remains a bit out of reach. One can dream I guess.

    • The DIY hobbyist cutting-edge is already on this. If you’re truly interested, the research and drill-down has been happening for a couple of years. Look for a home metal printer around $2K in the next couple of years.

  10. Holy shit yes! My next gun model in now going to be a high poly 1911. Every single part; and then when I can afford it, I’m having that baby printed!

  11. I’ve been dreaming about havinga dls printer in my garage for some time. It would be a great side job. I’ve had companies quote me on these machines in the very high six figures an easily into the seven figures.

    I’m really hoping that the previous post saying that the patents on this tech expire soon is true, and that the prices come WAY down for the machines.

    The prices on the very fine, very specialized powder used is also very high…..but man is it cool technology!

    • You can pick up RIA Tactical 1911’s with ambi safeties and beavertails for under $500. Reviews are great, they eat anything, and you can get them in 9, 38S, or 45. How much cheaper do you want?

    • I hadn’t thought about that, but sh*t, I guess you could get a brand new anything once someone scans one. Brand new C96s, .45 Lugers, PPSH, express rifles, whatever.

  12. You can not stop technology and information. Losing battle…. and the freedom crushers go back to the drawing board.

    • Even though Mr. Universe was correct that you “can’t stop the signal”, they can make it very, very difficult to propagate it. Be sure that they will.

        • Mal: “This report is maybe twelve years old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried til River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear, ’cause there’s a universe of folk that are gonna know it too. They’re gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. ‘Cause as sure as I know anything I know this: They will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground, swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.”

  13. Excellent! I’m finding myself wanting a .45 again. Once again, gun control is useless. You can’t stop the signal. The control freaks can’t be happy.

  14. Gun control is dead. It’s all over but the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the gun-prohibitionists. I predict they put a lot of dentists kids through some very nice schools. Hopefully they also get ulcers and eczema. Yeah, I’m merciful like that.

    We’re seeing the beginning of the end of the modern “buggy whip” era. Possibly the beginning of the oft discussed/hypothesized (in some circles) “singularity” of human society.

    I’d be very cautious of investing heavily in current light manufacturing industries.

  15. Now for the machines that build this to be touch button machines that cost $150…. I’d sit at home and replicate myself a gun every day!

  16. Think of the collector’s item this first gun will be ! I will be interested in the long-term durability, but it couldn’t be any worse than my benighted Randall .45.

  17. Wow!

    I wonder what they would have to scale up to in production quantities to make this a viable manufacturing process.

  18. It important to notice that they used “17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 components”. Both of these materials have significantly higher yield strengths and tensile strengths than the majority of steels. They are premium materials with premium prices. They used a “sintering process and powdered metals” which have diminished strength compared to using the same material as bar stock, then machining that bar stock. This is why they needed the premium materials. Also, I wonder if they used a HIPping (Hot Isostatic Pressure, http://www.pressuretechnology.com/) process on the parts after they were formed.

    • Once you’ve crossed the Rubicon and are using SLS to actually print, well, anything, the cost of materials becomes a footnote at best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *