A Grenade Launcher Named RAMBO

Always one to push the envelope, U.S. Army researchers from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) have been successfully experimenting with 3D printing for one of their latest technologies. The result? RAMBO — Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistic Ordinance — a 40mm grenade launcher. Fitting name, no?

Virtually the entire gun was produced using additive manufacturing while some components — ie: the barrel and receiver — were produced via direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). So, 3D printed rounds fired from a 3D printed launcher with the only conventionally manufactured components being springs and fasteners, all within a six month development time.

The main purpose of the project was to see whether a capable weapon could be produced using additive manufacturing as well as a viable proof-of-concept for future development. In saying that, during the live-fire test, the performance of the printed rounds were within 5% of traditional 40mm grenade velocities. Additionally, the rapid development could conceivably extend to customized weapons for individual soldiers or combat missions.

This is perhaps taking rapid prototyping using 3D printers to an alarming level. But the printers are far from common equipment. This was high level collaboration using prohibitively expensive processes. It’s interesting to look at, but we’ll settle for some replicas, desk warfare, and some not-NERF weapons.

[Thanks for the tip, Itay! Via Gizmodo]

81 thoughts on “A Grenade Launcher Named RAMBO

  1. I’ve always found it juvenile how the US military names everything “Rambo,” “Predator,” “Reaper,” etc. It makes it seem like the people making these weapons live in a fantasy world where they don’t give any thought to the real human cost of warfare.

    1. Really? They are the only thing standing between you and ISIS. The names are way too cute for me, but mil spec will just give it a few numbers and letters. Perhaps that will make you feel better.

          1. this is the only right answer to bullshit like from Thomas…
            It’s a great thing to live in constant fear that somebody goes nuts and presses the red button…
            And for your claim regarding rape and crime (general term so including people killed or injured by fire arms and robbery), do you have any trustworthy sources?

        1. @EWGlick… you fail to mention the falsehood of your video. The knife isn’t what makes him dangerous. It is the Members Only jacket that elevates his fashion AND fighting skills. A rock, pencil, or even a sponge would have made him as deadly.

    2. A killing apparatus gets a name associated with killing. Seems fitting to me. Also, an enemy base destroyed by ‘teddybears’ sounds far weirder. So lets get out of the safespaces and get back to hacking ;)

      1. I hate to be a downer, but when they showed Rambo Whaterever-Movie-In-The-Series at the post theater, we (all Army Infantry OPFOR) thought it was a comedy. Really. We couldn’t help but laugh at how he was using weapons in ways that would kill him as well as the enemy, and the one scene where he poured gun powder into a bullet wound in his gut and lit it to cauterize the wound left us rolling on the floor in laughter. That would have killed him from trauma, but if it didn’t, he would still need to change his drawers because that level of pain will cause you to void your bowels.

        Your inspiring badass was a literal joke to us professional killers. I can barely pretend to be “PC” at work, and I look at most “Progressive Liberals” as fluffy bunnies that need to be headshot and skinned.

        1. Cauterizing a wound with gun powder has been tested en proven in real life. It is not very useful in real life scenarios and not really recommended due to the risks and the rewards not being very balanced, but none of the dying or voiding commenced after real life tests. It hurts and does not really pay off. That’s it.

          Besides, anyone taking Rambo as anything close to a documentary should be taking his medication too. Of course it is nonsensical entertainment.

      2. > an enemy base destroyed by ‘teddybears’ sounds far weirder
        Ooooh, you should totally check out the names of Russian weapons systems. There is an anti-tank missile called “Little thing” (Malyutka), a Ball (Bal, as in, dance party) coastal defense system, a Pinocchio (actually, Buratino, but close enough) heavy multiple rocket launcher, a Footwear (Obuvka) attached grenade launcher and a bunch of self-propelled howitzers named after flowers: Carnation (Gvozdika), Acacia (Akatsiya), Tulip (Tyulpan), etc., etc. And I’m just getting started…

    3. On another note. Vehicle names. I always liked the camper/RV line name “The Intruder.”

      …Yeah. They named a camper that. I think I saw one named “Infiltrator” one time too.

      Just car names in general too.

  2. Really? They are the only thing standing between you and ISIS. The names are way too cute for me, but mil spec will just give it a few numbers and letters. Perhaps that will make you feel better.

    1. If you wish to broker peace, it is always a good thing to talk to your enemies.
      While I don’t trust McCain very much (he could be there to sell arms or ..?) even a’holes are not guilty by association.

      1. So… Are you saying we shouldn’t imprison them… but kill them instead? That would appear to be the only other option. If you say, “NO! There must be another way!” Then you are full of shit and self-delusion until you can show us another way.

        1. >Then you are full of shit
          Thank you!
          I don’t think somebody wakes up one day and says “today i will become a fanatic/terrorist and kill people” – there must be some process involved. It would be great if we could make the same effort to combat THE CAUSES of your problems instead of only THE CONSEQUENCES – which is the ususal way because it seems easier and people will be more impressed by politicians that say “we will send 10000000 soldiers and kill anybody / we will install even more surveillance / …” than by politicians that don’t do such premature and imprudent (and often not helpful at least on the long term) stuff.
          Just in case you ask what exactly to do instead: I don’t know, but it is not my duty to find the right solutions, for this we have tons of politicians, experts, … that earns a lot of $$$ every month!

      2. i have really little knowledge about all this stuff (and i’m not interested in) so i didn’t even understand 10% of what you said, but it’s somewhat possible and probably even probable that some of the terrorists we have to fight today benefited from some support by the countrys they attack today at some point in history… CIA and other agencies (not only from US) do a lot of fishy stuff…

      1. With the exception of the Molotov cocktail which was first used in 1936 by the Spanish Nationalist forces and now is almost exclusively used by civilians trying to murder police.

        1. You don’t know history, as incendiaries were used since 9th century BC by the Assyrians.
          The off-topic rhetoric you just presented is one of the many detractors people utilize to undermine democratic political discourse. Many problem protesters are caused by Shill/instigator/operative that enable use of force to violently attenuate political opposition. Alleged Police Officers that play soldier may need to re-evaluate living in a democracy.

          I am not suggesting your concerns are invalid, but merely amused at the amateurish technology chosen to back your irrelevant argument.

        2. Well sure; the actual military has things like flame-throwers, the Mark-77 bomb (with ~100 gallons of gelled fuel), and 2000lb FAE bombs. They don’t need no improvised wine-bottle based things…

          1. Please, we’re talking about Molotov cocktails – it’s vodka bottles. Wine bottles are for Spanish Nationalist cocktails.

            Slightly more on-topic – I wonder how long it would take a third world village blacksmith to make a 40 mm grenade launcher, certainly a lot less than 6 months, including any personal tweaks you care to ask for.

        3. Incendiary devices that use a liquid/gel flammable substance and easily breakable container go waaaaay more back then that, but being called a “Molotov cocktail” was only after the Soviet-Finn war(s).

      2. Grenade launchers aren’t exactly modern. Even if they were I don’t care that the police have them, I care how they use them.
        My point is, 3D metal printing isn’t the bleeding edge any more, why do we need to waste time printing a design optimized for subtractive processes when it should be optimized for additive processes. Or why does the whole thing have to be printed. It doesn’t make sense to print a part over 14 hours when you can pull one off the shelf or stamp them out by the hundreds.

        1. There may be some logistic benefit to manufacturing in the field.

          e.g. ship over a container with a full 3D printing setup, construct whatever item you are short of. It’s possible that this could be more efficient than packing one spare part for everything your unit uses. Resupply runs will also be simpler to plan – just crates of standard printing material.

          (Obviously this is not the case at present)

  3. Meh so they made a one off engineering prototype of a not very original idea, it isn’t as if they are expecting to make thousands of them the same way. It would be interesting to see a realistic case study of how much time and effort it really takes to move 3D prototypes across to high speed, high volume, manufacturing methods.

      1. LOL, it better be a very quick printer or you’ll die waiting for the part. I can see some use on Mars or another locations truly isolated from an industrial base but on Earth, nah.

        It is not ever going to be a key capability unless you are using gear that is so new in design that you have not got a mean time to failure analysis for every part of it already, otherwise traditional logistics has got you covered in a pretty optimal way.

        1. there are printers that will print at 250mm/s on top of that you can use high volume nozzles, that way higher layers can be made for large purely structural construction, not saying they are inherently fast, but all machining takes time, many printed parts cant even be made using subtractive methods so it is sort of a mute point.

          there are FDM printers in the same quality and price range as SLM and SLS printers(ie. dedicated industrial equipment), they will also happily print with 0.05 mm’s of vertical layer height.

        2. Well 3D printing isn’t going to replace a stockroom of spare parts, but if the choice is 3D printing in the war zone or waiting a week to ship a part from the US…

          But sometimes the best way to test new weapons or modifications is to ship prototypes to soldiers in the field and get feedback from the actual users instead of sitting in a lab somewhere safe and trying to guess how it’s going to be used. Grunts always find new and different ways to break things and being able to modify and 3D print modifications in the field can reduce turnaround times to hours or days instead of weeks and months.

    1. It might go boom, but in a grenade launcher the high pressures are contained inside a chamber within the base of the cartridge. The barrel and the projectile are exposed to lower pressures. So it probably has a better chance of working well than a pla handgun.

      I’d suggest trying it with a dummy grenade, however. Just in case.

  4. “It’s interesting to look at, but we’ll settle for some replicas, desk warfare, and some not-NERF weapons”

    Uh, no the hell we won’t. Have you not heard of Defense Distributed?

  5. There’s lots of fascinating military technology, but I’d rather not have HaD fill up with stories about it. They aren’t “hacks” by any stretch of the imagination; they’re well-funded and usually corporate projects.

    1. Although I kind of agree with you i on this, it uses 3D printing and that’s what trigger people in writing about it. That it is a whole different kind of 3D printing then we “all” use at home is something that is easily forgotten.
      Although the old/retro kind of warfare related articles are much more inspiring they are also more far away from reality (as it happened in a country far far away and a long long time ago). But honestly… military related articles mostly seem to concentrate on devices that cause death and destruction.. though fascinating technology, it should not be glorified in any way and if it is then show from militaries (is that a good word) around the world not only the US.

    2. Let’s go down the check list:
      -begins by complimenting the post topic
      -proclaimed not a hack
      -one post means HaD is going to fill up with it
      -good funding and corporate involvement negates it being a hack

      Damn, if you could have fit in how you would have down it with half the parts in a quarter of the time, we would have hit all the marks! Maybe next time.

    3. I agree. Don’t spread all this military stuff. Some of this is certainly really impressive if you only look at the technical achievements, but it’s still military stuff made to kill. Not good.

  6. s/Ballistic Ordinance/Ballistic Ordnance/

    Ordinance: n:
    A rule established by authority; a permanent rule of action; a statute, law, regulation, rescript, or accepted
    usage; an edict or decree; esp., a local law enacted by a municipal government; as, a municipal ordinance.
    [1913 Webster]

    as opposed to guns, grenade launchers, and other ordnance.

    (A “Ballistic Ordinance” would be “having the book thrown at you”, I guess. ;-)

  7. Maria Hill: What does R.A.M.B.O. stand for, Agent Ward?
    Grant Ward: Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistic Ordnance.
    Hill: And what does that mean to you?
    Ward: It means someone really wanted its initials to spell out “rambo.”

  8. Hmmm… That looks like an old M203 40mm grenade launcher that mounts underneath the barrel of the M16. Looks like they just printed out a frame and handle to mount it on as a separately deploy-able weapon. There doesn’t seem to be any technical innovation here, maybe in the administrative procurement end? The slanted hand grip on the chamber tube is a duplicate available from several online accessory distributors. Looks like someone just FDM printed a tube shroud and frame to mount an old launcher on. The fancy skeletonized handle and shiny plastic threw me for a minute.

    1. But didn’t you know, if you wallpaper over the nasty stuff it goes away! :D

      The 1920s were a whole decade of trying to deglorify war, with novels such as “All quiet on the Western Front.” intending to portray true horrors of it….. yeah, that worked.

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