Scott McGowan, Solid Concepts’ V.P. of marketing wrote up an interesting follow-up to the announcement that the company successfully 3D-printed a stainless steel 1911, including the rifled barrel.
“Our 1911 pistol was created via a metal laser sintering process and then stress relieved. The gun was not post heat treated in order to prove 3D-printed metal could perform phenomenally at a raw level. ‘The 17-4 stainless steel has not been post heat treated because that would further strengthen it and we wanted to test our least strong option first,’ said Eric Mutchler, Project Engineer at Solid Concepts. Mutchler explained testing the material without reinforcing material properties before testing out Solid Concepts’ super-alloys or using heat treatment processes would reveal more information about the process as well as better prove what it can accomplish.
“The 1911 3D-printed metal gun was manufactured 40-micron layer by 40-micron layer with 3D printing; it was not machined via conventional CNC methods. ‘The barrel was cleaned up with our hand tools only,’ said Mutchler. The rifling was sintered into the barrel layer by layer, just like the rest of the gun components (save the springs, as mentioned before, which were store bought). Our 1911 has a unique serial number as the ATF requires.”
I spoke with several of the people at Solid Concepts who wanted to know how many rounds would it take to prove that a 3D-printed gun could be just as reliable and they went with 500, based on the Army’s 495 mean rounds between failure requirement for service pistols.
While there will always be some people who won’t be satisfied until they test-fire the gun 5,000, 50,000 or 500,000 times, the truth is that the first 3D-printed stainless steel 1911 didn’t hickup once during the 500-round torture test or the 100 rounds they fired through it before; besides, if it ever does crack or fail, it’s not like they can’t just print up more 1911 parts.