Here’s the First 3-D Printed Pistol Made From Metal
But you probably can’t afford it
Here's the First 3-D Printed Pistol Made From Metal
But you probably can’t afford it
It was only six months ago when Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed produced a fully 3-D printed gun that’s since been duplicated by hobbyists around the world. But the plastic gun was fragile, prone to explode and gave 3-D printing a bad rep.
It’s also why one major 3-D printing firm just announced a gun of its own. And it’s made entirely out of metal.
The gun isn't an original design. It’s a printed duplicate of the 1911 pistol, the popular handgun that dates to before World War I. For California-based design firm Solid Concepts, it’s part marketing and partly an attempt to see if its engineers could actually do it.
The gun’s 33 pieces are almost entirely made out of printed metal—both steel and Inconel 625 alloy—with the exception of a few springs that can be bought at a hardware store. The printed 1911 is heavier than a standard 1911, as most conventionally-manufactured guns are made out of aluminum and not steel.
But that also means that the printed version actually has greater accuracy. The barrel pressure when fired—the company has fired it around 50 times so far—is around 20,000 pounds per square inch.
The other big difference is that it’s really expensive.
Solid Concepts uses big, heavy and sophisticated printers to prototype everything from gas tanks to architectural models and drone components. Parkinson didn't say which specific model of 3-D printer the firm used to manufacture the gun, except that it’s an industrial-scale machine that uses a laser-sintering process and might cost as much as your home, Solid Concepts spokesperson Alyssa Parkinson said.
“You’re not going to have one in your house,” she added. “These are not desktop printers. They’re huge, they’re expensive and you need to know how to use them.”
But that doesn't mean the technology isn't legit. Instead, the firm is trying to show that 3-D printers can make a gun that’s not much different from one bought at the store, and one that’s not brittle or at risk of exploding.
That could be an attractive sell for gun manufacturers looking for rapid prototyping—the process by which an industry creates prototypes cheaply and quickly. On a longer timeline, that could even mean the ability to produce specific, custom-made gun parts with the press of a button.
The company’s engineers were “tired of people not thinking that this technology wasn't ready,” Parkinson says. “But that it can handle pressure, it can handle stress and it can handle heat. That’s the whole concept behind the gun.”
The company is also wise enough to avoid the thorny legal issues surrounding printable plastic weapons like the Wiki Weapon—which face potential restrictions owing to the Undetectable Firearms Act. Solid Concepts acquired a Type 7 Federal Firearms License to stay legal and it doesn't have to worry about copyright issues, as the 1911 design passed into the public domain years ago.
The firm has also shown that it’s possible to build a pretty sophisticated weapon with the right printers. But unlike the printable plastic gun, it’ll stay out of reach for most.