We have been following 3D weapons printing with great interest. The technology has taken a new leap as the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center successfully developed and fired a 3D-printed grenade from a 3D-printed grenade launcher. Imagine the logistical advantages of producing ammo in theater!
The RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance) grenade launcher was designed and developed as a collaborative effort between the Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program and AmericaMakes, a program which brings together the best minds in additive manufacturing and 3D-printing technology.
The RAMBO grenade launcher has 50 parts. All of them, except the springs and fasteners, were made using 3D-printing. Different materials and additive manufacturing techniques were used to make the various parts, the barrel and receiver were fabricated from aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process, while the trigger and firing pin were printed using alloy steel.
Moving RAMBO through the prototype stage quickly, instead of a traditional machined prototype weapon, Army researchers printed and tested multiple versions of the grenade launcher in a fraction of that time. It took 70 hours to print the barrel and receiver and another 5 hours to finish off the part in post production, only six months to produce a weapon and compatible ammunition that was suitable for test firing.
3D-printing is time efficient and cost-effective for materials and workers. The process of additive manufacturing can print intricate parts that would take a machinist hours to complete by hand. Once it is programmed, all you have to do is turn it on and wait.
This video shows the new 3D printed Grenade Launcher & 3D printed Grenade Prototype after successful test
The Army is also working 3D-print the ammunition for the launcher. RDECOM research and development centers, researchers have 3D-printed 40-mm M-781 training rounds.
The Army is continuing testing for reliability under sustained and long-term use. This is only the beginning.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army