I’ve decided to hold off on the full review of the Solid Concepts’ 3D printed 1911 until I get some more trigger and thinking time. Look for it later this week. Meanwhile, here’s an interview with Eric Mutchler, the man who envisioned the 3D printed 1911 and saw it through to its realization.

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22 Responses to TTAG Exclusive Interview with Eric Mutchler, the Man Behind Solid Concepts’ 3D Printed Gun

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=l0SXlkrmzyw
    If GE thinks this method is good enough for Gas Turbine parts, then I have no qualms about using it for a handgun.

    Most particularly, I’m looking forward to using this process to enhance the strength and reliability of current firearms, and opening up new possibilities for gun designs. It needs it’s kinks to be worked out, and it’s a young technology.. but this is indeed the next industrial revolution 😀

  2. Eric was the project engineer I worked with when I did a lot of business with Solid Concepts. Solid guy. Fun to see him in the news.

  3. Good for them somebody had to show what a keen mind can accomplish.
    Now lets see the Libitards claim the sky is falling over a half million dollar gun.

    • The printer is .5 – 1 mil, but he didn’t deny that the gun itself would (probably) be 10 – 20K.

      I’m still curious how long it takes to go from a bag of powder to a thing that goes boom, especially with a breakdown of print time vs. hand-finishing time (labor is a LOT more expensive than machine time, especially highly-skilled labor like he alluded to).

  4. Ah. The springs weren’t printed. That was the one piece of technology I was really hoping could be printed. If they’d been able to print the springs, that would have been the pinnacle of proof of 3D printing, IMO.

    Other than that, I love the idea that they did this as a “Oh, you say we can’t? OK, Prepare to eat your words.” There’s nothing you can say to really make a competent engineer more determined than “You can’t do that.” The really hot engineers will turn around and do what Eric just did. Then they’ll smile and say “I’m sorry, you were saying…?”

      • Except [wink wink] the Obamacare website was designed to scarf user data, not work as a medical care cyber-signup sheet…

    • Give it a little bit of time DG. Spring tempering is as much an art as it is a science. I don’t think that it will be too long before 3D printing technology, or some analogous process, will be able to make all of the metallurgical parts of a modern firearm to any specification desired. Considering that we’ve gone from plastic 22 zipguns (one shot if you’re lucky) to a pretty much real metal, fully functional 1911 in about a year, that’s monumental, truly monumental. As the equipment is further refined, and as the processes, materials, techniques and understanding are built upon and enhanced, we’ll see a true revolution in manufacturing that may indeed match the first industrial revolution, only more widely distributed and democratized. That has really got to have some folks shitting their drawers. What we need to start doing is to work on making good ballistic propellants and primers out of compost and air. That’ll square the circle. A chicken in every pot and two 3D printers in every garage.

      • It’s not that much art if you have the right steel and you understand how to heat treat steel.

        I can make V-springs or leaf springs out of 1070 or 1095 spring steel and have 9 out of 10 of them work. 5160 car spring steel makes the success rate even higher, I’ve found.

        Making coil springs is pud-easy. Wind music wire around a mandrel on a lathe.

        The old-time gun smiths had a nearly fool-proof way of making V or leaf springs. They’d get some plain carbon spring steel (70 to 100 points of carbon), anneal it dead soft, file/shape it, polish it out.

        Then heat it red-hot. Quench in sperm whale oil. I’ve mentioned before why sperm whale oil used to be used for gun lubricant. Now I’ll mention how it was the quench oil of choice for old-timey gunsmiths in spring making.

        Take it out of the quench, get a snuff tin, fill it to 1/8″ with sperm whale oil, put in the spring, light the whale oil on fire and leave it set until the oil burned itself out.

        Wha-la. Spring. Polish off the crud and you’re done.

        • 1. Isn’t sperm whale oil a little hard to get these days?
          2. I’ve heard that the reason they can’t make springs is because you can’t 3D print over a void. The material has to have something to sit on while it hardens. Anybody got more accurate facts about that?

        • Of course it is. I just wrote that up to show that there’s not a whole lot of witchcraft involved in making springs.

          There’s other ways to temper a spring. Polish it out and heat with a propane torch until blue, for example.

          Or you could drop it in molten nitre salts. Or drop it in molten lead. Fish the spring out after, oh, 90 seconds.

          They all work. Making springs really isn’t that difficult… once you know how to heat treat steel.

        • You can print over a void when doing laser sintered printing, since it can have un-fused material sitting below it. My understanding is that it’s like taking a box, putting in some sand, then dropping some glue in the shape of what you want to print onto it, then covering it with more sand, and repeating. At the end the excess material simply falls away since it’s not bonded to anything. Cheap/common FDM 3d printers do have problems printing over a void however, so that may be what you’re thinking of.

          The problem (at least my understanding) is that 3d printing technologies aren’t strong enough, or as strong as other casting processes. For a barrel, it may be strong enough, but for a flexible part, that strength is tested much more vigorously. Also they may not be able to use the same composition of metal when doing laser sintering, so it’s properties may not allow for flexing, or a return to it’s original shape.

  5. Its interesting to me that they got the license to manufacture firearms. Being that they are a service bureau though, what would they do/have done if I just ordered parts to be printed, one or few at a time, and built my own firearm from parts printed by their service? Would they have noticed i was printing a gun? Would they care? What would their liability have been? If they did notice, what would have been their legal obligations?

    I’ve had parts printed from half a dozen different bureaus. I’ve even gotten estimates/bids from Solid Concepts themselves. None of them have ever asked or questioned any of the parts I ordered.

    Next time you talk to them, ask them those questions please.

    • As long as you weren’t having a receiver printed, they probably wouldn’t care. Solid Concepts got their FFL07 so that they could expand the amount of work they’ve already been doing for firearms companies.

    • With the exception of the serial numbered receiver all you have is gun parts any of which can be ordered on line for a small fraction of what they would charge to print you out the identical part.
      For that matter any skilled machinist with a decent set of machine tools can build a gun from scratch starting with a solid block of metal.
      The importance of this development is in special one of production of unusual parts in exotic materials in the interest of research and development, not an inexpensive way around BATFE regulations.

  6. Wow….was your Dad a Viet Nam vet?
    I’m so glad to see my 30% (taxes) in my many paychecks in the 60’s finally have reached their zenith!
    Instead of EBT cards, and Social Services and entitlement programs for NEW people to the U.S., we got kids like you to invest in at Wall Street, thank you…
    all American man here!!!!

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