3D Printed Guns Part II

Hey everyone,

Remember that time when we were all talking about 3D printed guns?

Well here’s another 3D printed gun stepping it up a notch… the world’s first 3D printed metal gun!

What do we make of this?

I would love to know the cost and print time. I’m betting more than the $140 that one can buy a manufactured gun for.

Having said that, it’s exciting to see that one can prototype something like this without a machine shop.

Political implications aside, this is very cool. In the photos at least, you can’t tell this is printed. Amazing.

I would also guess cost is crazy high, but if you can’t legally buy one…

That is pretty cool. The implications, outside of firearms, seem boundless if this prototype functions well. Inside firearms though, Im not so if this changes anything. On one hand, its just another tool that anyone could use to manufacture firearm components since they’re not terribly elaborate anyways. On the other hand, the barrier to entry now is almost exclusively price (buy printer and material, download file, press print) rather than some additional talent and time behind the wheel of a mill. The latter seems mostly like a matter of convenience, though.

Maybe the biggest change here is the potential for non-metal materials (ceramics/detectors) or unusual forms (x-rays) but even those require a level of manufacturing ingenuity that would probably not be limited by lack of a 3D printer.

I have wondered, in a related manner, whether or not 3D scanners and printers will be used to create personalized grips for items like firearms, golf clubs, toothbrushes and other things that one may not usually see in the same run on sentence. It would be a novelty but such items often succeed in the firearm world if they positively influence technique and consistency.

Successfully fired 50 shots without breaking? Is that supposed to be good?

I don’t understand the point.

A while back there, as seen in the picture below, someone did an sls of lugs. I personally find these fugly, but the details of the construction is what was interesting. Only an sls process could effectively make the lugs, traditional casting would be cost ineffective.

Reproducing a design that can be done better with an alternative manufacturing method, imo, is pointless. Using the process to create something that couldn’t be done before, that’s cool.

If you can’t legally buy a firearm, you’re probably the kind of person who knows how to illegally buy a firearm. And chances are it would take you less time than it did for them to print that gun.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned sintered metal parts in the last gun thread, so I’m surprised it took this long. I think the bigger challenge is metal 3D printed parts tend to have a lot of dimensional stability issues, so I wonder how many test prints it took them to get the shrinkage right for some of the larger/smaller components.

What I find interesting is that they printed a design and the corresponding parts that were originally designed around traditional machining processes. It’s kind of like using a CNC router to cut sheet goods into planks. Firearms were one of the first “mass produced” items (interchangeable parts), but 3D printing allows designers and engineers to design things not limited to these traditional machining processes like integrated or encapsulated parts that don’t require servicing. A lot of product parts are accessible not because they require servicing, but for assembly reasons, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the design possibilities are in ignoring these traditional manufacturing and assembly constraints.

I get what is being said about wanting to see the “new technology print new things”. I am more impressed with it along the lines of quality of manufacturing sans tooling. Having played with my new makerbot for a few weeks now, I see the potential for the future. We truly are on the path to Star Trek Replicators.

It may be more expensive, it may not be of tolerance…but it will be cheaper and of tight tolerance eventually. Tooling becomes a thing of the past. “Impossible”, mass produced Möbius strip-like products become possible.

The gun…whatever. People want to piss other people off by using the shock value of the gun. Maybe they just want to try and scare people. It just falls under the category of “the more people I get to know,the more I like my cat”.

They give the impression that it is just 3D printed, assembled, then fired but I have a feeling in my dodgy knee that there is some very accurate post-processing work machining and polishing needed to make it actually work. If there was a process that could remove post-processing like polishing that would be awesome.

That’s what I thought as well, but the company behind it seems pretty adamant it’s straight out of the machine:


“Laser sintering is one of the most accurate manufacturing processes available, and more than accurate enough to build the 3D Metal Printed interchangeable and interfacing parts within our 1911 series gun. 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…The gun is 45ACP. It’s rifled and the rifling was built directly into the part – or as we like to say, “grown” into the part – using 3D Printing. This gun has NOT BEEN MACHINED. We used hand tools for some post processing (our finishers are wonderful), but we did not machine this gun.”

You can see the hand post-processing on another video:

Couldn’t agree more. Other than pushing the boundaries of manufacturing, what advantage does 3d printing weapons hold with current technology? If anything it’s more expensive and more time consuming to make.

People act shocked and scared when they hear weapons could be made with this technology, but in actual fact if someone wanted to cause harm with home made weapons it would be far, far easier using other methods.

IMO the shock value of 3D printed weapons is moot because of the reasons outlined above.

Cool technology though!!!

Awesome, thanks for clearing that up Sanjy. I guess it’s not just your run of the mill printer then.

I think part of what will make this interesting going forward is how it affects laws relating to both gun control and home manufacturing. It will be awhile before these weapons are as effective and affordable as what is currently available, but they won’t need to compete with mass produced guns to dramatically alter gun culture and the legal landscape regarding firearms in the US. Once someone is able to create a potentially lethal weapon in their home without entering the gun-related ecosystem currently in place (legal or otherwise), how effective are the laws set in place to govern said ecosystem?

Without getting into the details of the gun control debate in the US, I think it would be safe to say that the ideal legal system for regulating firearm sales and usage is one that allows responsible citizens as much freedom as possible while still preventing more nefarious and/or irresponsible parties from obtaining firearms to use for criminal activity. Everyone wants everyone to be safe, and it always seemed to me that the debates arise over how best to implement such a system. There are far more than two sides to that debate, with some seeing guns as inherently unsafe and needed to be limited (or eliminated) across the board, others advocating that criminals arming themselves is inevitable regardless of laws and being armed to defend oneself is a better bet, others arguing that current laws are adequate for protection but need to be properly enforced in order to be effective, and so on.

Regardless of how effective one believes the government’s ability to regulate the use of guns is in maintaining a safe society, it certainly depends on their ability to monitor and affect the flow of firearms from manufacturers to consumers and suppress or eliminate any firearm economy outside of that sanctioned system (with a few notable exceptions e.g. the sale or gifting of guns between friends and/or acquaintances). Once someone is able to create firearms on their own without needing to go to a regulated dealer, they won’t need a license, the gun won’t have any serial numbers, and there won’t be any record of any kind that the gun ever existed. A person will be able to arm themselves without ever setting foot inside the legal structure we’ve created to keep gun use safe. They will also be able to avoid the illegal gun trade entirely, keeping them out of the eyes of law enforcement and potential future witnesses.

This presents a challenge in how our society will deal with potential gun crime involving home-produced weapons. I don’t know what the current laws are regarding home-made weapons, so I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill here. I would guess that whatever laws are in place regarding someone’s ability to make their own rifle with their own machine shop are based at least partly on the fact that a very small percentage of Americans have the skill or capability to complete such a project. As the technology of 3D printing improves, doing something like printing a gun at home will become cheaper and easier and more people will be able to do it. If 3D printers do in fact become as ubiquitous in the home as an oven or a refrigerator, the potential for abuse increases as well.

If this is the case, what are governments to do to responsibly govern the flow of firearms in their states and counties? They can attempt to restrict the flow of information on how to print a 3D gun, but stopping files from moving around the internet has proven all but impossible in the past when it’s been tried on music and/or movies. They can attempt to regulate the sale of the printers themselves, but this would involve placing a lot of restrictions on the sale of printers because they could, maybe be used for something illegal in the future. This would stretch a current argument against gun control (that laws restricting their use are unfair because they assume the consumer is a criminal before they have actually committed a crime) even farther. They could also attempt to simply make 3D printed guns illegal entirely, which would only ever be effective once you caught someone with one (potentially after they have used it for whatever sinister purpose they made it for). So the introduction of a home-printable gun could put a new twist on the gun control debate, the laws surrounding gun ownership, and potentially on the future of 3D printing as an emerging part of our culture, even if they don’t become direct competitors with mass produced guns in an economic sense.

Hopefully I’ve made some sense and wasn’t just rambling incoherently.

It’s definitely not your average printer, but the sintered parts it produces aren’t exactly similar to a cast part. We actually get sintered metal pieces from that very vendor all the time, and they’re really high quality.

But things get weird if you do any machining/finishing of the part; you have to always bear in mind that the structure is that of a bunch of dots stuck to each other. It never really feels like you’re working with a dense solid mass.

However, skeptics should just give up now; these parts are every bit as metal as any other process.

Great and very relevant discussion!

From the technology perspective, this is impressive, especially if this almost came out of the machine like that. I have been skeptical that 3d printed parts, especially metals, can reach a quality of that of industrially manufactured parts. I always compare it with the art of forging swords, you just can’t expect a 3d printer to squirt out a product with a quality that a traditional craftsman would spend, say, a week on perfecting. But then again, maybe we can. Because all the (largely embodied) intelligence of the craftsman could be integrated as software in the 3d printer. Maybe 3d printers in the future should be able to not just dumbly melt material together, but combine all kinds of processes and regulate a lot more parameters to create a part with optimal mechanical qualities. A superintelligent minifactory in a single box. I am growing less and less skeptical and believe that 3d printing truly is the future of manufacturing for many products.

Then there’s the human perspective. I have been coming to accept that in the not so far future, people will be able to create anything they like for very little money, indeed like has happened to the music and movie industry. First the quality will be much lower, but slowly that will increase. There will be no more point for laws to regulate these things, people have set themselves free. This is sort of a natural tendency, I have been coming to see, and as mr. acm above here describes, laws tend to a priori treat people as criminals. If you treat people already as the little ego, the demon, the animal, who will defend themselves with violence whenever they feel threatened, then it will make people tend to behave that way since it’s the box they are put in. Nevertheless, laws have been necessary of course, but it is something that I feel we’d all like to be freed from. Now this is taking a step further by giving anyone the weapons they’d like to have, and at one point that’s a liberating and natural development, on the other hand it will need something other than law and restriction in order to have people not go shooting out bullets whenever they get angry as has happened in the US.

Now I am Dutch but I have lived in the USA for a little while, and I have seen that while there is the liberty to bear arms, there are other forces like religion in order to make people be connected. It is basically the love and empathy for each other that makes people reflect when they get angry instead of act on the impulse. In the USA you can go to Cabela’s around the corner and simply get your gun, so I don’t think 3d printing will have that much of a cultural influence there. But here in Europe, the situation is entirely different. Yes you could obtain a gun, but you will probably have to encounter some shady characters who can get it for you from Czech Republic, Ukrain, Bosnia or some other shady country. Many people simply do not want to associate themselves with such people, and I believe that when they could do it with a 3d printer, it’s felt not as a shady but maybe even as a cool thing to do, and then they would definitely do it. 3d printing takes the criminal ‘feeling’ off of it, and I think for many people over here, esp. fathers, it would make them want to have such a weapon. So also in Europe I feel that 3d printing of weapons will have a big impact.

A big cultural difference is that over here, personal freedom is only promoted within the boundaries of conformism. As long as you go along, and act normal, there’s no problem. The inner child, the ego, is repressed to a much larger extent than in the extrovert culture of the USA where everyone can simply act out their child if they like, and ‘be as they are’ (the confusion comes when people realize that they are not the character, the person, though). In the US, I see much more that the solution to inner anger is love, and people have not too much trouble expressing that, but over here there’s more of a tendency to repress the anger and just conform. We have not accepted the outside God as the way to love, so we’d have to dig all the way through all that anger and fear. Since that’s much harder, it’s easier to repress it and just act normal. I think if anyone could have a gun here, the cultural shift would be quite big. It will be the end of conformism, there is no more safety guaranteed (there never was anyway, but at least it seemed that way), so it confronts people with a deeper fear. I think it will shake things up quite a bit. But then when restriction and repression has become an outdated strategy of the old world you could say, I agree with people such as the Dalai Lama who emphasize that education is the main thing to focus on. We will need to transform society from the bottom up, by including emotional development into the educational system already for children at a very young age, so that they learn to navigate through not just the outer world of society, but also through the inner world of mind.

I know that was not very coherent, just my 2 cents.