The U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) together with the U.S Army Manufacturing Technology Program and America Make recently developed and successfully tested a 3D printed grenade launcher called RAMBO, which stands for Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance. The most impressive fact about the weapon is that all the parts, except for the springs and fasteners, were made using a 3D printer.
Preparing the Weapon in 75 hours
RAMBO consists of more than 50 components that were manufactured using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) 3D printing technology. The barrel and receiver were produced from aluminum, whereas the trigger and firing pin were made from 4340 steel. The whole process took about 75 hours in total (70 for 3D printing and 5 for the post-processing work). They also used selective laser sintering (SLS) to 3D print several different samples of munitions with glass-filled nylon.
Results and Perspective
The primary objective of the testing was not to determine if 3D printing would be a more cost-effective solution compared to traditional methods, but rather if the grenade launcher could meet performance requirements. 15 test shots were remotely fired using RAMBO and the munitions, and the results were impressive. The grenade launcher showed no signs of degradation and the rounds achieved velocities within 5% of those achieved using production-grade rounds shot from a production-grade grenade launcher.
The main outcome of this project is that additive manufacturing can play a part in producing 3D printed weaponry in the future. Production time can be cut down from several months to just days, costs are reduced as 3D printers can work unsupervised and with no scrap material being wasted, and parts produced with 3D printing can meet performance standards and be highly functional. ARDEC claims that their experiment is mostly about the prototyping perspective: “By using the additive manufacturing researchers and developers will be able to build and test their prototypes in a matter days than months.”
However, people on the internet take this piece of news ambiguously: some of them are worried about terrorists using the same methods to 3D print weapons for attacks, while others are more optimistic about the world of possibilities that could become available for the army with such modern technologies. One thing for sure, nobody doubts that 3D printing technology is capable of opening doors and making things that were once deemed impossible, possible.
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