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8 Nov, 2013 18:57

World’s first 3D printed metal gun unveiled (VIDEO)

World’s first 3D printed metal gun unveiled (VIDEO)

Engineers at the Texas team of a custom manufacturing company want to make 3D printing more than a novelty, and may have accomplished just that with their latest endeavor: a high-powered, fully functioning metal handgun.

The team at Solid Concepts announced this week that that they’ve successfully designed, printed, assembled and (accurately) fired a 1911 pistol created using digital blueprints that were fed through an industrial 3D printer loaded with powdered metals.

We’re proving this is possible,” Kent Firestone, Sound Concepts' VP of additive manufacturing, said in a statement this week. “[T]he technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Printing.”

The world’s first open source 3D printed gun, the Liberator, made headlines earlier this year when developers at Texas-based Distributed Defense released their blueprints, in turn allowing anyone with access to the Internet and a mere hobbyist model machine to assemble a plastic firearm without even having to leave their home. With Solid Concepts’ latest effort, however, more advanced 3D printing fans are awarded the opportunity to make something much more in line with traditional firearms akin to what’s sold in stores.

It functions beautifully,” Solid Concepts claims, adding that the company’s resident gun expert was able to hit a bull’s eye at nearly 100 feet away with the weapon, a feat hard to contest once someone watches a video of the weapon in action that has been uploaded to the web.

Every component of the weapon but its springs were made using a process called “direct metal laser sintering,” or DMLS, a 3D printing technology that can create metal prototypes in only a few hours by blasting those powders with an ultra-precise fiber optic laser beam. The handgun they’ve made with DMLS technology consists of more than 30 separate 3D-printed components that were then hand-assembled to form a firearm that has successfully fired dozens of rounds already, according to the company.

A blog post on the Sound Concepts website suggests the tools, such as the top-of-the-line industrial machine that fires the lasers, make it unlikely that any amateur 3D-printing enthusiasts will be able to replicate the pistol unveiled this week. The printer itself, the company acknowledged, costs tens of thousands of dollars just to acquire on its own. As 3D printing technology continues to climb in popularity and accessibility, however, soon homemade metal handguns could be created at a fraction of the current price.

When we decided to go ahead and make this gun, we weren't trying to figure out a cheaper, easier, better way to make a gun. That wasn't the point at all," Solid Concepts' Phillip Conner explained in a video. "What we were trying to do was dispel the commonly-held notion that DMLS parts are not strong enough or accurate enough for real world applications."

“So long sad disfigured Yoda heads, no more pretending like that’s going to cut it for this industry,” the company jokes on their site.