U.S. Firm Claims to Have Made First 3D-Printed Metal Gun [Video]

The first metal gun made on a 3D printer has been unveiled, with a video showing the firearm being successfully tested.

The 3D-printed metal gun is made by the Texas-based 3D-printing services company Solid Concepts. But Solid Concepts, which describes itself as a world leader of 3D printing services, said making the classic 1911 shotgun did not come cheap, requiring a lot more than a souped-up desktop printer.

The company used a laser sintering process to create the gun and powdered metals for the firearm’s material. The gun comprises more than 30 3D-printed components, including stainless steel and other metal parts.

“The whole concept of using a laser sintering process to 3D print a metal gun revolves around proving the reliability, accuracy and usability of 3D metal printing,” said Solid Concepts’ vice president Kent Firestone.

“We’re working to change people’s perspective,” he added from the company’s base in Valencia, 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

The pistol is a version of an M1911, a handgun designed by John Browning and first used widely in the latter stages of combat stemming from the Philippine-American War.

“It functions beautifully,” it said of the gun, in a blog accompanying the video clips. “Our resident gun expert has fired 50 successful rounds and hit a few bull’s eyes at over 30 yards (meters).

Solid Concepts went out of its way Friday to point out that producing the metal gun isn’t meant to advance a trend that worries law enforcement and some politicians. As 3-D printers become more widespread and affordable, some envision a near future in which criminals can crank out untraceable weapons without having to leave their homes.

“This isn’t about desktop printers… the industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition – and I went to a private university,” said Firestone.

“And the engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3D printing better than anyone in this business.”

Basic 3-D printers, such as the MakerBot Replicator 2, can be bought for around $2,000. But Solid Concepts used a specialized, high-end printer whose cost would be out of reach of most people.

Solid Concepts said its system is legal, claiming it is the only 3D printing service provider with a Federal Firearms License.

The company said: “Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver.

“We have the right materials, and the right engineers who know how to best programme and maintain these machines, to make 3D printing accurate, powerful and here to stay.”

The first known 3D-printed gun was made by another Texas-based outfit called Defense Distributed. The gun, called the “Liberator,” is made entirely of plastic, except for a nail used as a firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel designed solely to allow the gun to be detected by metal detectors. A spinoff 3D-printed rifle dubbed “The Grizzly” also recently hit the scene.

The Liberator can be instantly downloaded and anonymously printed by anyone who has access to 3D-printing technology. While the gun debuted amid much fanfare, it has since been said the firearm rarely works, says CNet.

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