Company uses 3-D printing to make steel handgun

The fabrication of these pieces is a revolution of sorts, and the military is probably watching closely to see what happens next.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 8, 2013 5:35PM
World's First 3D-Printed Steel 1911 .45 Caliber Handgun by Solid Concepts
© 2013 Solid Concepts Inc.By Geoffrey Ingersoll, Business Insider

Aside from the Duke's classic Colt six-shooter, no pistol has such a place in American history as the 1911 .45-caliber handgun.

Now the folks at Solid Concepts have successfully produced one of these handguns (pictured), all steel and all 3-D-printed.

Fabricating 3-D weapons has come a long way in a short period.

Just within the past year, a Texas company called Defense Distributed made headlines for creating 3-D-printed weapons. But it had problems producing pieces that could stand the heat and pressure.

From the Solid Concepts press release:

It is composed of 33 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 components, and decked with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) carbon-fiber filled nylon hand grip. The successful production and functionality of the 1911 3D Printed metal gun proves the viability of 3D Printing for commercial applications.

Already, special operations teams out in the middle of who-knows-where have support from "expeditionary labs" that draw and print custom pieces of gear, based entirely on the military operator's specifications.

President Barack Obama has also promised $200 million for a 3-D printing initiative in the Defense Department.

Certainly, the fabrication of stainless-steel pieces is a revolution of sorts, and planners in the military are probably watching closely for what happens next.

As for .45-caliber pistols, Solid Concepts maintains that the pieces are not machined but entirely "grown" in 3-D printers.

From the press release:

Laser sintering is one of the most accurate manufacturing processes available, and more than accurate enough to build the 3-D Metal Printed interchangeable and interfacing parts within our 1911 series gun. The gun proves laser sintering can meet tight tolerances.
3-D 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. 

"We're proving this is possible. The technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3-D printing," said Kent Firestone, Solid Concepts' vice president of additive manufacturing. "As far as we know, we're the only 3-D printing service provider with a federal firearms license. Now if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver."

Mentioning the license is no mistake. Certainly the idea of 3-D printing of small arms has caused a bit of a stir in the weapons-control community. Cody Wilson, the owner of Defense Distributed, ran into this problem, but at the time of his troubles -- last summer and late last year -- he did not yet hold a federal firearms license.

Certainly the implications of this new technology -- both for domestic and federal use, as well as for military and humanitarian use -- are nothing short of staggering.

More from Business Insider
Nov 11, 2013 2:54PM
why doesn't this article stress that you could buy every piece of machinery needed to make a gun from scratch for a fraction of the price of a 3D printer that can print with stainless steel?  It makes it sound like anyone can just buy one of these and start m****ducing untraceable guns.  Not even close to the case.  Is it possible to do that?  sure, but what kind of criminal has tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a gun he can buy for $600?  And how stupid would you have to be to spend that kind of money?  The relevance of this article is that now there is a company that can produce a customized part with tight specifications in a short amount of time.  That is a great leap forward not just for the gunsmithing business, but for any kind of mechanical business.  Prototyping and customization are expensive processes that take time, and this can speed that up and reduce costs greatly.  But I guess the real issue is that someone with a few hundred thousand dollars can make a gun.. OMG!
Nov 11, 2013 3:18PM
I just want a printer that will print me a 36' catamaran so I can get the hell out of here.
Nov 11, 2013 3:35PM

They can slant anything they want to, this article is missing some important information...


1. The printer used is expensive, we are talking about hundreds off thousands of dollars.


2. it was done by a team of engineers who have been in this type of production for awhile. The company itself has been around since the early 90's.


3. The company did this to show how dmls (the type of printing) has real world application and that the technology does work. What better way than a gun, with the tolerances and stress it requires to fire one. 


What ever happened to when journalism used to tell the whole story and not just an abridge version to suit their needs?    

Nov 11, 2013 2:54PM

Now Obama is going to require us to have a permit for our printer. 


He wouldn't want people turning to God, guns and printers now, would he.  He only wants us to turn to him.

Nov 11, 2013 3:21PM
It's about time.  Those 2D printed guns were giving me paper cuts.  Seriously, the 3D printer they used cost $170,000, and it's more than simply printing one out.  Many other things are involved in the process.  It's just not practical.  Maybe in another 50 years, maybe. 
Nov 11, 2013 2:56PM
The gubbmint will try to choke off this technology and 'crippleware' the printers out of existence.

Yankee ingenuity will always prevail.
Nov 11, 2013 3:07PM
Let the anti-gun spinsters begin...GO!
Nov 11, 2013 2:41PM
Love it, I don't feel comfortable without a gun close by my side anymore with all these low lifers out trying to steal others money and property. Better not try and get in my place.... Obama has cause a lot more bad people because of no jobs for them and they get hungry and angry.
Nov 11, 2013 3:23PM

Don't really see this as a "practical" application of a developing technology , but that won't stop the "gun-grabbers" from snide comments . They won't be happy till there are no guns anywhere , and the unicorns graze peacefully , with butterfies flittering everywhere .

  And "they" will never notice as Comrade Obumbler leads us quietly to the Gulag , "for the good of many" , "over the advantage of a few" !

  And these are the same people who thought the ACA was going to "fix" another "crisis" for everyone . Guess the word "Consequence" never enters their "nirvana" mind-set , but even the word "Gun" causes terror for them . As does words like responsibility , personal freedom , Constitution , Bill of Rights .......

Nov 11, 2013 3:14PM
The over simplification of this technology in this article in monumental, only the morons that voted Obama in would believe such a thing.
Nov 11, 2013 3:19PM
For all of you that don't get the concept of how the rifling is done:  The printer builds the part layer by layer.  Anything that can be machined can be printed and to think it would be any less precise is laughable.  You can print vacancies and any detail within a solid cube.  No machinist could do that.  As they improve the speed and accessibility, they will eliminate the role of the machinist as no one will have to cut anything.  All details will be rendered.
Nov 11, 2013 3:13PM
What a load of humbug. There has been CAD/CAM computer assisted drafting/computer assisted machining going on for decades. The reality is CAM is way faster in producing parts than the current printing processes. Surprise all the gun manufactures are currently using it. Correctly set up computer assisted machining can produce parts to extremely close tolerances, and do it really fast. The ignored reality here is the CAM machines are way cheaper than the current 3D printers, and much faster to program. So all this trash about the 3D printers are going to be the end of the world as we know it, is just more media fraud, they are trying to create a problem where in fact non currently exists.
Nov 11, 2013 3:51PM
The potential here is astounding. Yes guns could be produced and cheaply in volume. The initial cost are very hogh but tha
t may come down too. What is fascinating to me is the other possibilities. Think about someone restoring an old car and he needs a part. turnaround time could be days instead of months. Think how mush faster it will be to make prototypes. The possibilities are almost endless.

Nov 11, 2013 3:19PM
For anyone, who has read, the "Weapons Shops Of Ishtar", over the years, this is ROTFLMAO .
For all practical purpose, gun control is dead, which, effectively, kills socialism.
Socialism, can not exist with an armed citizenry..
The socialists count on being able to pass laws like Canada's hate speech laws, which will never stand in the face of an armed citizenry.

Nov 11, 2013 3:18PM
If I had the coin, Ed Brown would build MY custom 1911.
Nov 11, 2013 3:29PM

First, a FFL is not required to manufacture a gun.  To commercially produce and sell wholesale, yes.  To manufacture for your own use, no.  I've made several for my own use in the past two years.  No big deal.


Second, the printer used here costs somewhere around three-quarters of a million bucks.  I doubt anyone is going to go to that expense to produce a firearm that can be legally purchased for around $500 if you're not brand conscious (Hi Standard rather than Colt).

Nov 11, 2013 2:31PM
we need more guns, Its our only hope! Arm the children before its to late!
Nov 11, 2013 3:06PM
It was only this year that someone made a gun out of plastic on a 3-D printer.  Now it's been proven possible to  make one out of steel on a 3-D printer.  Yes, the costs of the printers capable of doing this are out the normal person's the moment.  But all technology improves & becomes cheaper.  Remember how clunky & expensive the first home computers were?  Now we have PC's in our homes more powerful than the ones than NASA had during Apollo 11.  The same will be true of home 3-D printers in the near future & guns will be made on them, legally or otherwise.  Once it's been proven that something is possible people will always refine & improve it.  The genie is out of the bottle & there's no way on earth to stuff him back in.

Nov 11, 2013 3:38PM
Wal-Mart has the printers!  Everyone rush right out and buy  a dozen, while supplies last!
Nov 11, 2013 3:02PM

So a 3D printer can do rifling inside a barrel?  I find that hard to believe.



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