Why You Shouldn’t Care About The All-Metal 3D Printed Gun

Solid Concepts, one of the world’s largest rapid prototyping outfits, just printed a gun. Unlike previous 3D printed guns like the Liberator, this 3D printed version of an M1911 is made out of metal. It’s a real gun, with rifling in the barrel – something the Liberator doesn’t have – and has the look and feel of what the US military has been using as a service pistol for decades.

The Solid Concepts 1911 was made using the selective laser sintering process, using a combination of stainless steel and nickel-chromium alloys. Every single part of the gun, save for the spring, was 3D printed without any machining. It’s an impressive feat of rapid manufacturing – firing .45 ACP rounds, this gun will see 20,000 psi every time the gun is fired. It’s already chewed through a few magazines so far, and it apparently shoots pretty well, to boot.

Here’s why you shouldn’t care.

Solid Concepts business is to make things using rapid prototyping. They make everything from plastic baubles, tooling for injection molds, architectural models, and stuff that doesn’t get past the prototype stage. This 3D printed 1911 is simply a demonstration of Solid Concept’s capabilities, nothing more.

The printer used to manufacture this printer is an EOS SLS printer that costs many tens of thousands of dollars. Our limited research can’t pin the price of the printer down more than that, but let’s just say you could buy a very, very nice sports car for the same price, and we’re not talking about that awesome ‘vette down at the Chevy dealership.

This is just a neat little advertisement, that’s it. Someone at Solid Concepts realized if they made a gun using 3D printed parts, it would be picked up by blogs and wire services. They were right. It’s an excellent demo of what Solid Concepts’ capabilities are, but that’s just about it. You’re still not able to manufacture an M1911 on a desktop 3D printer, and even if you could, you could set up a machine shop in your garage and end up with a similar product for less money.

As an aside, and this is just me throwing an idea out there, can we please stop using guns as an example of what 3D printing can do? I respect your right to manufacture, own, and operate a gun, but as I write this paragraph, I’m cringing at the thought of all the pro and anti-gun comments this post will see.

If you’re looking for a way to demonstrate your 3D printing prowess, how about something like an engine? Given the right design, they’re more complicated than a gun, and a really small Wankel engine would be really cool.

Video of the Solid Concepts 1911 available below.

153 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Care About The All-Metal 3D Printed Gun

  1. For me 3D printing in metal comes down to make complicated shapes, or even parts that would need many sub parts and be assembled, but can be made on a SLS machine in one go. Airbus has some great examples, and GE just bought a bigger SLS machine maker last year. This gun is just for show.

  2. just a crazy idea..but, if your tired of guns being used as examples of 3d printing prowess and you don’t want to hear all the pro vs. anti gun arguments, then don’t show this kinda stuff on hackaday.

  3. What I got from the video constructing the gun had nothing to do with manufacturing a gun for sale, but to showcase the strength of items made using this 3D printing method. As far as a Wankel engine goes far more have a better idea as to how tough a gun has to be more than they do how tough any ICE has to be

  4. Quite an impressive demonstration, proves the technology is just as strong as machines parts! Now please build a jet engine with SLS. prove to the world 3d printing is good for non military uses.

  5. Yeah, I realize I’m late to the party, but when someone spends several hundred words telling me that I shouldn’t care about something, my first thought is that I should care, very much.

  6. I agree with the last paragraph a lot.

    Regarding 3d printed guns in general;
    Still, I dont get the people posting 3d printed guns online. Making them, designing them even (carefully) testing them, I get.
    But releasing publicly is essentially either saying;

    a) “Everyone is responsible enough to have a gun”
    or
    b) 3D Printers will never be good enough to make weapons to worry about.

    As someone that hopes 3D Printers continue to get better and better, I really hope this attitude changes.

  7. This is an interesting conundrum. A pistol is almost an ideal proof of concept for a 3d printer in a number of ways.

    Firstly, it has to contain great pressure. The .45ACP cartridge is low pressure for a modern cartridge, but still forces the barrel/slide and the locking lugs to contain 20ksi. This details the strength of the printed materials very viscerally.

    Secondly, a semi-auto pistol demonstrates the ability to make a complex mechanical items. The M1911 has more than a half-dozen moving parts that interact with each other and move in concert when the slide cycles (slide, barrel, barrel link, hammer, sear, disconnector, trigger, various springs). All of these parts have to fit together properly if the weapon is to cycle reliably. As with the first point, this is a visceral demonstration that the 3d printing technology can manufacture parts sufficient tolerances.

    3d printing firearms brings quite a bit of political baggage to the nascent 3d printing technology. I can see how certain folks would want to distance 3d printing tech from firearms, but I don’t see how that is going to be done. As long as people have the decision of what to print, a set of folks will be interested in printing firearms and components with the technology.

  8. How about an engine made of 3D printed guns. They can screw into the block like spark plugs and fire blanks at the piston. Then they serve double purpose by unscrewing and adding a bullet they become a weapon.

    I suppose blanks would run out way to quickly. Maybe it can use gasoline. Within the engine a gas line plugs into it. As a weapon a separate gas supply attaches to it kind of like a squirt gun. Slugs are added through the barrel like in a black powder rifle.

    Then everyone can be happy! Right?

  9. FYI, in a recent (October) conversation with EOS’s rep, my $200k budget was insufficient to get into their lowest tier of metal SLS, even after applying a hefty institutional discount… A midrange SLA runs $100k FWIW…

  10. 3D printing is here to stay. You can make ANYTHING and guess what? There is NOTHING you can do to stop it. So grow up, accept that this is where we are at and focus on how to make this world a better place by doing pragmatic, positive things, rather than obsessing over telling people what they cannot do.

  11. “As an aside, and this is just me throwing an idea out there, can we please stop using guns as an example of what 3D printing can do?”…Kudos to the author. A gun is not the apex of 3D printing, lets find out what REALLY is. +1

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