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Solid Concepts Manufactures First 3D-Printed Metal Pistol 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the guns-don't-kill-people,-3D-printing-does dept.
Zothecula writes "In a prime example of past meets future, a Texas-based company has used a century-old classic firearm as the blueprint for the world's first 3D-printed metal gun. Solid Concepts' use of a laser sintering method to create a fully functional Model 1911 automatic pistol is the latest demonstration of the potential of 3D printing techniques in industrial processing. The company's '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.'"
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Solid Concepts Manufactures First 3D-Printed Metal Pistol

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  • New possibilities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:07PM (#45368681)
    An interesting capability of this type of additive manufacturing is the ability to change the metal alloy content in different parts of a single solid piece, adding another way to adjust the overall properties of the final product.

    As for making guns, well, its a good way to get attention.
    • Well, I'd say modularity is fantastic for maintainability, and an absolute necessity for anything with moving parts. One solid piece isn't always what you want.

    • As for making guns, well, its a good way to get attention.

      It is, but not just for the sensationalism aspects. It's a good, dramatic demonstration of manufacturing tolerances and material strength. Personally, if I were Solid Concepts, I would have waited to make the announcement until I could show video of the CEO hitting print, all pieces being printed in a single run, open the machine, clean the result, slap it together, and fire off a few rounds at the range all in one continuous shot to demonstrate the speed, reliability, and confidence in the process. As i

      • by DrXym (126579)
        Given how the process works I would say it took hours if not days to print out, and many more hours of finishing, removing supporting bits, polishing etc.. However it would be interesting to see a time lapse of the main frame being printed or something.
        • by jedidiah (1196)

          The CEO putting his butt on the line to fire the thing would have been a much more convincing testimonial.

    • Mod parent up. This approach could make some amazing blades.
    • Re:New possibilities (Score:5, Informative)

      by necro81 (917438) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:24PM (#45368899) Journal
      I work with a lot of different rapid prototyping processes - including DLMS - on a weekly basis. In their current form you cannot change materials mid-part on a DLMS machine. Even if the machine itself could handle it (i.e., had multiple material-handling streams), you would have a tough time getting the dissimilar metals to properly fuse. As a welder how good the results of welding aluminum and steel are, or titanium and steel. Mixing these metals tends to result in brittle intermetallic phases, which are perfect places for fracture. Even worse is that, because the machine works layer-by-layer, the boundary between the two metals would be planar, making fracture all that more likely.

      What is more, because the process is akin to SLS, what you end up with is a box - the build envelope - completely filled with powder, inside of which is the part you've made. You can ordinarily reclaim most of the powder and use it again. If you were to change materials mid-stream, you would have to junk most if not all of the leftover powder, because you wouldn't have a good way to separate the powders.
      • Good points. I realized powder retention/re-use would be an issue, but I thought fusing would be less of one if the materials were chosen properly. Guess there is more work to be done.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        I wouldn't try it with dissimilar metals, but it might work with different alloys. The addition of an annealing step might allow some off the sharp boundaries to diffuse away. I can't speak to the waste aspect.

      • I work with a lot of different rapid prototyping processes - including DLMS - on a weekly basis. In their current form you cannot change materials mid-part on a DLMS machine. Even if the machine itself could handle it (i.e., had multiple material-handling streams), you would have a tough time getting the dissimilar metals to properly fuse. As a welder how good the results of welding aluminum and steel are, or titanium and steel. Mixing these metals tends to result in brittle intermetallic phases, which are perfect places for fracture. Even worse is that, because the machine works layer-by-layer, the boundary between the two metals would be planar, making fracture all that more likely.

        Actually, if you could deliver multiple types of powder into the print area with reasonable precision (normal office laser printers can print on paper with 1200dpi precision, though using electrostatically charged roller like in a normal laser printer may not be applicable for 3D printing), you could solve the problem of (not) fusing the metals together by printing a complicated interlocking 3D pattern around the boundary. While the metals may not fuse anyway, it won't matter because the brittle boundary wi

      • Instead of changing materials once, abruptly, creating a brittle failure plane, couldn't you change materials a whole bunch of times little-by-little (changing the alloy mixture) so that you get a gradient of material properties?

        • Instead of changing materials once, abruptly, creating a brittle failure plane, couldn't you change materials a whole bunch of times little-by-little (changing the alloy mixture) so that you get a gradient of material properties?

          That depends a lot on the materials in question. If the materials don't mix well, the best you'll get by mixing the powders in a progressive fashion would be very close to one metal with lots of impurities. It would be a little stronger than straight boundary but any impurity is still a perfect starting point for fractures.

  • by jimmifett (2434568) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:08PM (#45368705)

    This is excellent news! I know I wouldn't use some questionable hunk of plastic. I'd much rather have metal arms and high capacity magazines for ensuring the cessation of threats to myself, my family, and my property.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      High-capacity magazines? Maybe you should learn better marksmanship. ;-)

      • by x6060 (672364)
        Yeah, surprisingly to most people, people that are shot and it isnt a direct CNS shot, means they are usually still an effective threat. Now add in stress from the situation, moving targets, moving while shooting, and the possibility of multiple threats, a standard capacity magazine (depending on firearm, that could mean anywhere between 6-40 rounds) doesn't last as long as you may think or may need. Many times the police have shot criminals 10+ times and still not incapacitated them.
        • by Trepidity (597)

          Many times the police have shot criminals 10+ times and still not incapacitated them.

          That's because the average cop is completely incompetent to carry a gun.

          • by x6060 (672364)
            I know, I wasn't going to bring that up as the standards and qualifications for the police are abysmal and usually not NEARLY as stringent as civilian standards. (depends on state and locality a lot) But most people don't want to know that or will refuse to believe it. Still, it isn't exactly an uncommon occurrence, and I'd prefer more rather than less.
    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      So... this becomes a Glock vs. 1911 debate

      I appreciate both, both were tremendous changes in design and process for their times.

      However, I sold my Glock and bought a 1911.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:12PM (#45368747)

    This is why we can't have nice things....

    Couldn't 3D printers make the news the first few years of going mainstream by producing hospital equipment or something?

  • I remember seeing about 10 years ago a demo of a laser sinter 3D printer used to build parts at remote or deployed locations. If they didn't have a design it is done by HQ or other engineering assists and emailed to the printer. Interestingly enough they said the sintered part was often more robust and better than the OEM. It required machining but it can be easily done.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Wouldn't milling a gun on CNC machine from a solid block of metal make much more sense? Sorry if I don't have the terminology correct here, but this just seems like it would produce an inferior product, while also not making the process cheaper, simpler, or faster.
      • Wouldn't milling a gun on CNC machine from a solid block of metal make much more sense?

        From a reliability standpoint I'd say yes; however, if your purpose was proving that 3D laser sintering is a high enough quality process that you can make a working firearm, going CNC kind of defeats the purpose.

      • by swb (14022)

        I think it requires your design to be something that can be milled externally and there's nothing simple about multi-axis CNC machine or the tooling required to mill the parts which is why a number of gun manufacturers make parts via metal injection molding versus machining.

        Plus, a 3D printer can make a range of objects from a variety of alloys, including objects that would be impossible or difficult to make via milling or require mechanical assembly of pieces machined individually to get a part that could

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          I've always thought they should have combination printers which can both add and take away material. Imagine this, something similar to those old multi-pen plotters [trs-80.com], but with an arm that has a very large range of motion. And instead of just picking up pens, it could pick up various tools. There could be tools which extrude plastic, metal, and other materials, as well as cutting and sanding tools. You could build completely finished products using robots.
          • by swb (14022)

            The cutting part makes less sense, since if you're building the parts up from the ground up you just wouldn't print where you needed it cut. Using multiple materials sounds interesting, though, and while there will always probably be a need to hone surface finishes I would imagine part of the engineering goal is making the sintering process produce as close as possible to a finished surface to minimize secondary finishing steps.

  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:19PM (#45368835) Homepage
    GizMag is retarded.

    The 1911 is semi-automatic.

    Automatic pistols are idiotic.
    • Some people don't know the difference between "automatic" and "semiautomatic". It was probably written by one of those people.
      • by Shatrat (855151)

        That's a fairly modern distiction. For decades the progression was Single Action - Double Action - Automatic. I still refer to "revolver vs automatic"

  • by paiute (550198)

    3D Metal Printing has less porosity issues than an investment cast part

    fewer

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:25PM (#45368927)

    Parts machined from steel stock are fairly well known characteristics, re: machined steel characteristics, tolerances, and variability of a foundries output, are very well known in manufacturing. but then steel manufacturing has been around a long time. i dont know as much about the proprties of sintereed metal, and therefore the parts made of it. so I'd want to see some extensive testng done of the sintered metal, or the results anyway, so that I could have the same confidence and knowledge of the material.

  • by paiute (550198) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:29PM (#45368975)
    In the video, they show a part being tapped after forming. If the barrel of the gun can be rifled internally during manufacture, why can't a part be cast with a tapped hole?
    • You can cast a tapped hole, it's just much harder to do with the appropriate tolerances. Drilling a hole and running a tap through it is pretty bolt simple. Casting a hole with fine threads is anything but simple. Simple usually wins.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      Based on my experience with SLS and DLMS technologies, I can think of two reasons:

      1) Scale: the resolution of the printer isn't that much finer than the pitch of the threads. So, yes, you could model the threads in, but they would come out terribly, and you would have to chase it with a tap anyway. Much better to just model/print a smooth hole/cylinder and then cut the threads from solid material.

      2) Helix Angle: unlike plastic SLS, which is light enough to be self-supporting, the metal powders need
  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:29PM (#45368991)

    ... Cops kill people

  • Guns are good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Friday November 08, 2013 @12:53PM (#45369313) Homepage Journal

    I've been trying to sort out the "guns" issue from a scientific point of view. After some extended searching, I believe the answer is "more guns is better".

    This is made enormously difficult by the vast ocean of misinformation put forth by advocates on both sides of the issue. It's an interesting exercise in clear thinking just to sort through the claims to come up with an opinion unfettered by bad logic. I've included some examples below.

    In summary, the best measurable statistic appears to be "chance of death from all causes" at the national level. This statistic avoids most of the bad math and bad thinking, and it's easy to measure and verify. The US does not have good health care, and this [national] attribute has a large effect on the mortality rate unrelated to gun-related deaths, so you can't use the US for comparison purposes at the national level. A better comparison is made between two countries with similar national health care and different gun policies. England and Switzerland, for example.

    Comparing England and Switzerland indicates that "more guns" is associated with "less mortality". This echoes comparisons made within the US at the local level, where areas with public access to guns have less crime and mortality.

    It's pointless to debate the issues in this forum due to the enormous and convoluted "poor statistics" cited by people on both sides of the issue, and virtually everyone is cognitively dissonant and emotionally invested in the answer.

    A good analysis of the issues can be found here [americanthinker.com].

    Below are just a few examples of popular claims, and how they mislead the reader into one side or the other. There are misleading claims on both sides, so don't read too much into the choice of examples.

    Example 1: "Guns do not make a nation safer, say US doctors who have compared the rate of firearms-related deaths in countries where many people own guns with the death rate in countries where gun ownership is rare." (source [theguardian.com]) (False comparison: when gun ownership goes down, deaths due to other causes rises.)

    Example 2: England has fewer gun-related murders, but a much higher rate of beating murders. (Undecidable: In the US, a non-suicide gunshot victim is automatically a murder, in England it's not a murder unless there's a trial and conviction.)

    Example 3: If you have a gun in the house, you're more likely to accidentally shoot a family member than a burglar. (Wrong statistic: Having a gun depresses the chance of crime for your neighbors, the overall gain in safety for the community may be more than the loss of safety for the individual. See Polio vaccine [wikipedia.org].)

    • Re:Guns are good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Friday November 08, 2013 @02:25PM (#45370523) Homepage

      In summary, the best measurable statistic appears to be "chance of death from all causes" at the national level.

      Is this a parody of clear thinking? Obviously such a broad statistic is going to be most heavily influenced by factors totally unrelated to crime and guns, since the vast majority of people are not murdered.

      Comparing England and Switzerland indicates that "more guns" is associated with "less mortality".

      Doubtful. More like national service, an effective police force, high standards of living and high wages all combine to make people less inclined to murder each other, with guns or otherwise. Most violent crime is due to anger or poverty, not a careful calculation that the other person is unlikely to have the means to defend themselves with deadly force.

      Undecidable: In the US, a non-suicide gunshot victim is automatically a murder

      If a modern country like the United States can't even differentiate between murder and accidental shootings it really suggests that there is some deliberate attempt to make those stats unavailable, which in turn suggests they are not favourable.

      Wrong statistic: Having a gun depresses the chance of crime for your neighbors

      No, it increases the chances that the robber will be armed and willing to shoot first. In the UK armed robbery, especially of residences, is extremely rare and burglars almost always run when confronted.

      Guns actually have little to do with the crime rate in the US. Poverty and gang culture is what drives it, as well as some exceptionally stupid drug laws.

    • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Friday November 08, 2013 @03:35PM (#45371321) Homepage Journal

      I'm happy (indeed - eager!) to examine a better analysis. If I can't find flaws, it'll inform my opinions and I'll include it in future postings on the issue.

      Please include references of statistics so that I can fully analyze the arguments of both sides. There is just so much disinformation out there that the first step can only be tossing out all anecdotes and un-cited facts.

      Here's an example (posted above) of what doesn't serve to inform the debate (it's ad-hominem, anecdotal, and un-falsifiable):

      The American Thinker article is worthless. It just gives more of the false comparisons that you're complaining about. (Yeah, if you remove a whole bunch of poor people from the crime stats for any nation, their murder rate will look way better.) The author also attempts to profit from the audience's ignorance by comparing with nations like Jamaica and Brazil and hoping the reader doesn't know that those are some of the most crime-ridden, gang-infested countries on earth, where gangs rule neighborhoods and police fight pitched battles with criminals.

  • Sintered metal often has a lot of microscopic voids in the resulting grain structure so I'm kind of surprised it withstood 50 rounds. The slamming of the action exacerbates the fracture tendency as well. It's basically proof-of-concept, but I'm curious how many rounds this thing would take before failing. I like their clever choice of Inconel even if used only for the barrel (not sure where they used it though).

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