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When Cody Wilson’s Defense Distributed introduced their 3D-printed one-shot Liberator pistol, all hell broke loose. Anti-gun legislators’ bills to ban 3D-printed guns hit the headlines – but never went anywhere (even in California). Why would they? Not only is it practically impossible to legislate away 3D-printed anything, but the “problem” of 3D-printed guns doesn’t exist. While we fully expect the controversy to re-ignite when someone does something especially heinous with a 3D-printed firearm, time marches on. The technology continues to improve and ballistic boffins are taking full advantage of the possibilities. 3D-printed AR lower anyone? Another exciting area of development . . .

3D-rpinted AR accessories. While still not as cheap as Magpul anything, the process of 3D-printed rifle bits appeals to DIY gun guys looking to personalize their Barbies-for-men modern sporting rifles.

About two years ago, we announced the first example of the genre, created by Neal Brace [sic], now sold by Sintercore. The process allows designs that reductive manufacturing can’t match. Brace is now selling a 3D-pinted latch for an AR charging handle. “3D could upend the firearms accessories business,” Brace tells TTAG. “Time to market is relatively short, making innovation quick and profitable.”

Nick’s reviewing a Sintercore GLOCK 43 mag extension. Watch this space.

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  1. 3D printing has the potential to be the idea that changed the world for my generation. I think it’s fascinating stuff!

  2. Like any new tech it’s going to take time an innovation to evolve and mature. As better materials are developed to print with and as the softwear evolves and is refined so the product will improve. The possible potential of this tech is staggering in the long term. Imagine a 3D printer the size of a semi-truck which could print foundations or walls, perhaps a dam or roads, on site out of inexpensive materials.
    The development for such possibilities will happen with those smaller more intricate projects such as firearms and their associated parts.
    What I think will be the most interesting to watch will be the race between Corprate, small Busness and Individual R&D (the DYI’ers) development and evolution of this tech. Unlike so other advances of verious processes and technologies, the 3D printer is available to everyone at the same time, everywhere. It’s quite possible that this tech could be a game changer in the same category as The Wheel, Internet, and those world culture changing innovations.
    Bottom line is that the magic is out of the bottle and can’t be put back or controlled.

    • Not sure what software you are referring to. But, we are already 3D printing buildings….and car bodies, and electronics, and fabric, and skin. And, I even recently saw somebody had printed a mostly plastic working 9mm semi-auto. I 3D print miniatures and model parts frequently. A soon as somebody markets an affordable desktop SLS machine. I will be printing gun parts in my apartment.

  3. I think one of the problems of 3D printed guns will be that except for the most simplest of designs, you will need to download the program, which means somebody has a record with your email address. At a later date that could be really bad thing. Just saying…….

      • And what makes you think that Big Brother is incapable of tracking activity on any electronic network that is plugged into the Internet?

        The only way to guarantee that Big Brother is not eavesdropping is to receive a manual copy of a file on a flash drive person-to-person. And even then you would have to make sure that no one was surveilling either person.

        • Because of the shear amount of otherwise illegal activity that already transpires over the Dark Net, for which the government seems to have no solution.

          And, at the end of the day, you do what you can, to keep the signal going.

    • Because no one uses fake emails for that sort of thing. Or computers in public libraries or at the apple store 🙂

  4. If materials for 3D printing ever get to a certain weight and strength point everyone’s second hobby on here will become solid works drafting.

    • The materials aren’t the issue – the printing method is. Right now there are no affordable home SLS options. SLS it the method used in printing the working 1911, previously featured here on TTAG. When that tech becomes affordably scaled down for the hobbyist – we are all in bidness!

  5. About two years ago you did a review of a 3D printed 1911 from an Austin company called Solid Concepts. As I recall, it cost better than $1 million to produce the prototype, but it worked just fine. What has become of them?

    • Well not a million, but not cheap. They made 100 of them and sold them for about $12K a pop. So more collectors item than anything. But if nothing else it shows what this technology might be able to eventually do.

  6. What?? You mean ghetto thugs thugs would rather just buy some stolen Hi-point for like $500 out of the back of a Escalade instead of dropping a good $3,000 3D printer and spend months figuring out how to run it right? Shocker!

  7. What your seeing in 3D is the old stuff. Now high end manufactures are working with powder metals. The advantage is parts reduction. For example, instead of machine multiple parts for a jet engine fuel nozzle for combustion chamber, they can make it one part.

    Water jets and plazma are well entrenched in fabrication, however that’s 2D. The bogey is getting the FINISHED part price point down below current pricing using standard well established processes.

  8. Even with the powdered metal, I don’t think the strength of the finished product will equal that of hardened steel. I would think that the powdered result would be similar to a cast product??

    • I have the same concerns as well. Metallurgy is a science unto itself. How fast you heat and cool steel determines whether your finished product is relatively soft or hard, ductile or brittle, weak or strong.

      Before milling a steel blank, you specify what properties you want that steel to have. And then you could potentially heat/cool the milled result to further enhance whatever properties you want. This doesn’t seem to be the case with 3-D laser sintering which always heats the steel close to its melting point and then cools at who knows what rate.

      Perhaps most important, a steel blank has a uniform crystalline structure which means uniform strength. I cannot possibly imagine that 3-D laser sintering has anywhere near such a uniform crystalline structure and uniform strength.

      I am not a metallurgist nor a 3-D laser sintering specialist. Anyone who is care to chime in?

      • I am a metallurgist, but I don’t work with powdered metals and I am not familiar with the laser sintering process. My biggest concern would be any porosity left after sintering. Perhaps this laser sintering addresses that problem. In any event, I would think the sintered product would have similar mechanical properties to a casting. And would have to be strengthened by subsequent heat treatment before finish machining. I’m skeptical about this working with certain parts like the barrel also.

        • I don’t think I would want to be standing next to guy at the range, who says he’s gonna fire off his 357 that just came off his 3D machine.

        • There is not porosity. The entire printing surface is a layer of powdered metal – nothing else. The laser melts and fuses the pattern for the given slice/layer, then another thin layer of powdered metal is laid down, and the process repeats – melting and fusing the layer to the previous layer. The unmelted powder acts as the support for the solid part being printed. When the part is complete, the supporting powder is removed, and the part cleaned off. What you are left with is a solid metal part.

    • Its actually just as strong. The metal is powder, but is melted at high temp by laser, which fuses the metal imparting the same characteristics you would find in a cast or even billet, in most cases. The metal is then full capable of being heat treated to enhance its structural properties.

      “Q: Aren’t traditional metal parts stronger than DMLS parts?DMLS3

      A: As far as being able to make a series of parts, the metals that we use are 100 percent dense and are able to be machined and welded and can be coated, plated and treated the same as parts machined from a solid billet of material. Plus, they can be hardened. These parts have good mechanical properties, such as strength and durability, that are comparable to cast or forged parts from the same kind of metal.”

  9. I was talking with a guy just the other day who thinks the fun part about 3D printing will be the ability to design your own add-ons to your guns to make them look like whatever you want. He was thinking an AR that looks like it came from Star Trek NG; I got to wondering if I could make my .357 look like a hand phaser!

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