When 3D printing was introduced years ago, we knew it is going to be the next big thing for consumers, but what we did not anticipate is, it will be the next big thing for the military too, such as rapid prototyping a heavy-hitting weapon like a grenade launcher in months, load and ready for test firing. And that is exactly what U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program did.
The initiative produced a grenade launcher named RAMBO (no relation to fictional Vietnam vet John Rambo, btw), which is short for Rapid Addictively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance, that has a total of 50 parts and, with the exception of the springs and fasteners, are entirely produced with 3D printing technology using different materials and addictive manufacturing techniques. It took just six months to get from zero to a complete weapon with the associated ammunition, ready for range testing and that alone is enormous leap from the current process which could take years to achieve.
In addition, 3D printing is deemed to be more cost-effective in that it saves materials and reduces manpower as compared to traditional production process. However, it is worthy to note that 3D printed weapons are not time-tested. It is an entirely new field which still require much study, especially on the reliability over long-term use, which is the utmost priority with weapons. Also, live rounds on 3D-printed ammunition were not tested because explosives, at this point, have yet to be approved for use in a 3D-printed shell.
So, while the test of both the 3D-printed grenade launcher and the mostly 3D-printed standard 40-mm M781 training round was successful, the yield from live rounds have not been determined. Nevertheless, it is an impressive achievement which will forever change the game of weapons manufacturing and no doubt, warfare, in general. I mean, just imagine the prospect of 3D printing replacement small arms in the battlefield?
via Digital Trends.