3-D printing a rifle action?

Ballistic RPh

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So I came across this video on YouTube the other days and I think it’s cool as shit. And yes I realize vice news is a BS filled leftist rag. But out of curiosity, does anyone think a steel 3-D printed rifle action, or any other components would be a possibility in the future and how well do you think it would perform? I know there’s a few companies making 3-D printed silencers now. No idea how well they function or compare to traditionally manufactured ones.

 

G-Dog

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It is a possibility to print most parts now. The reason no one is doing it is the cost. 3D printing is slow, and the materials are often an order of magnitude more expensive. Fine for suppressors which are relatively complex, expensive, and use minimal materials compared to say a Remington 700 style action.
 
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MinnesotaMulisha

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I don't know what the capabilities of 3D printing are when it comes to metal or powdered metal pieces, but everything that I've seen that has been printed has fairly rough surfaces on it. Rough enough that I would be concerned about fucking something up when attaching a barrel.

Things may be different when comparing metal to plastic, but I don't know.
 

E. Bryant

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It's currently possible to 3D print an effective rifle action in plastic. Use a design with a barrel extension that receives the bolt, and the action pretty much doesn't have to do more than maintain alignment between the barrel and the shooter's shoulder. It's an open question of how long such an action might last; it really depends upon the capabilities of the designer, the printer, and the material.

Metal 3D printing has come a long way, and we're now seeing low-volume production applications in aerospace and sporting goods (sometimes because 3D printing can make parts that cannot be made any other way, and sometimes just to avoid tooling costs). The parts are generally at least as good as MIM, and that's pretty good.

If someone simply tries to do a copy-and-paste of an existing design, they are likely to be disappointed. But sometime with knowledge of the process capabilities and limitations could certainly make a useable design.
 

Coyote-6

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Can't speak for metal printing, but generally ABS and PLA are weak to shearing forces along their "grain" or layers. As such, a concussive force would be catastrophic to those weaknesses.

As for roughness, everything can be printed then sanded to easily make things smooth, but tolerances would be undoubtedly worse than Remington's already are ;).
 
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candyx

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Can't speak for metal printing, but generally ABS and PLA are weak to shearing forces along their "grain" or layers. As such, a concussive force would be catastrophic to those weaknesses.

As for roughness, everything can be printed then sanded to easily make things smooth, but tolerances would be undoubtedly worse than Remington's already are ;).
I thought Remington started to use plumbers black iron pipe that had better tolerances ?
 
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acudaowner

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i would print my own arsinal to hell with selling it for a while print store and wait if the dims get there way and real guns go good bye those things will be valuable as hell take it apart and no one would know what the parts were .
 

ralfabco

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Would be interested to hear if it is somewhat cost effective for magazines. I remember $600.00 b/w laser jet printers. Willing to wait for the hi end 3D printers to come down in price even more.
 

Ballistic RPh

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It is a possibility to print most parts now. The reason no one is doing it is the cost. 3D printing is slow, and the materials are often an order of magnitude more expensive. Fine for suppressors which are relatively complex, expensive, and use minimal materials compared to say a Remington 700 style action.
I don't quite follow. Would 3D printing suppressors make them more expensive then? Why would manufacturers do it then?


It's currently possible to 3D print an effective rifle action in plastic. Use a design with a barrel extension that receives the bolt, and the action pretty much doesn't have to do more than maintain alignment between the barrel and the shooter's shoulder. It's an open question of how long such an action might last; it really depends upon the capabilities of the designer, the printer, and the material.

Metal 3D printing has come a long way, and we're now seeing low-volume production applications in aerospace and sporting goods (sometimes because 3D printing can make parts that cannot be made any other way, and sometimes just to avoid tooling costs). The parts are generally at least as good as MIM, and that's pretty good.

If someone simply tries to do a copy-and-paste of an existing design, they are likely to be disappointed. But sometime with knowledge of the process capabilities and limitations could certainly make a useable design.
There was a video I saw about some company that was 3-D printing a partial AK receiver and then installing steel trunnions on (I think) rather than just print the entire receiver. Brandon Herarra was talking about it on his youtube channel.
 

Ballistic RPh

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Would be interested to hear if it is somewhat cost effective for magazines. I remember $600.00 b/w laser jet printers. Willing to wait for the hi end 3D printers to come down in price even more.
Theres a few pretty good 3D printers that can be had for less than $300 that I think would be capable of printing magazines. I was playing with the idea of buying one and learning to use it a while ago. Can't find the one I was looking at now.
 
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Coyote-6

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Theres a few pretty good 3D printers that can be had for less than $300 that I think would be capable of printing magazines. I was playing with the idea of buying one and learning to use it a while ago.
I've printed all sorts of things for about 3 years. From full joysticks for a flight sim cockpit, to hydraulic actuator systems.

I'd be concerned printing any gun part that has to deal with any stressers. Those layer grains are often extremely weak. You'd really have to make sure you do it right. Mags might be okay, as long as you're bench shooting. Fieldwork is a no-go. The only part I've printed that I regularly used was a scope throw lever and 2 round holder.

Any non-pistol caliber (maybe could get away with .22x's) would have too much concussive force for a receiver, IMO.

Could be things out there, but I'd want to see 1000 rounds through it before I touch it hot.

Edit: I do plan on trying out a scope sun shade once I get the new scope in. (Those threads will be tough)
 

brazz04

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High precision Titanium 3D printers exist, so yes I'd say printing an action is more than possible. Check out EOS's Metal printers. They are not a viable option for a consumer though as they are verrrry pricey.
 

Steel head

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Considering the pressures it would have to endure I’ll pass though a breech ring setup could be a possibility.
 

G-Dog

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Most metals used in suppressors are already expensive and on the more difficult side to machine. Think Inconel, so the additional cost is smaller relatively speaking. 3D printing in suppressors also allow for unique geometries that would be impossible or expensive to machine. Pros and cons to each technique, but the high dollar suppressors allow more manufacturing flexibility than trying to compete in the $50 ar lower market.
 

sirhrmechanic

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High precision Titanium 3D printers exist, so yes I'd say printing an action is more than possible. Check out EOS's Metal printers. They are not a viable option for a consumer though as they are verrrry pricey.
Exactly this... Rolls-Royce has been 3D printing very complex blades for its Jet engine turbines for years. Parts are printed then sintered and final machined. If they can print turbine blades which undergo incredible rotational and thermal stresses, a rifle action is certainly doable.

The question is not one of can you, however. The question is “why would you?” Rifle actions are simple. The raw material is a relatively mild forged bar or drop forging that is cheap and fast to make. All the machining operations use equipment and methods that has existed since that late 1800’s, though now is CNC and has lots more widgets and geegaws ranging from coolants to tool changers that have made the process fast and have eliminated the need in many cases for expensive labor (machinists and toolmakers) on the shop floor. There is simply no need to print a rifle action.

3D printing for suppressors is another matter, because acoustics engineers can design really interesting baffling systems that include blind chambers, helix’s, torroids and other shapes that become impossible to machine in a single piece. Think of a Nautilus shell and its chambers. You can’t machine that... or if you could, it would have to be done in sections and then assembled.

But with 3D printing, you can make blind chambers, twisted passages, areas to tune out specific sounds, Harmonics, or dissipate gas more efficiently. The result is really effective suppressors in small packages that do things ordinary baffled/chambered suppressors can’t do.

Every tool has a use. But every tool also comes with a run time, programming, materials set-up, MRO and operator cost. The engineer today can’t just design an action and say, “here, 3D print this.“ Because the production engineering and cost engineering departments won’t let it get through. Every part is calculated to fractions of cents in todays markets. Because when you make a lot of something, quarter cents add up. So all that gets factored in to making a design an affordable reality... not just a reality.

BTW it is in production Engineering that companies like Ruger utterly shine. And why they can offer a RPR that performs almost as well as a rifle costing 3x the price. Design, engineering, production engineering and materials all come together... along with an understanding that with volume, their cost comes down. Sako and AI make amazing rifles, but don’t sell nearly as many. Since it costs the same to keep the lights on, heat the building and pay the overheads... the company that can sell more, can amortize those costs across more guns... and the customer gets them cheaper. Economics 101.

For a couple of good books on the history of this stuff... Civil War Barons; The American System of Manufacturing 1700-1920 (about Springfield Armory among other concerns), and Wheels for the World, Douglas Brinkley’s masterful history of Ford Motor Company. All three all delve deep into the beauty of production engineering... and the arms industry.

cheers, Sirhr

PS, there is another great book which Ican’t remember the title of, but is a biography of Lord Armstrong, the brilliant cannon and gun and steel maker in England. Utterly amazing mind!
 
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Odysseus1911

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There are two major obstacles to using DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) to print a rifle action:

1. The cost per item does not decrease as much with volume as it does with standard methods.

2. The end product is significantly weaker than a product that is milled from billet.

For those interested in the physics of this: As the laser moves across the bed of metal powder, it sinters the powder into tiny beads of molten metal which rapidly cool. Before hardening, the beads coalesce, disturbing the powder bed. This unavoidably causes microscopic air bubbles to get trapped in the forming crystal structure, creating a porous and non-uniform grain structure. This reduces its resilience against mechanical stresses and heat cycling, while also making it prone to stress fracturing. Attempts to mitigate this have included varying laser pulse duration and energy and randomizing the laser pulses across the object rather than sintering linearly. These have resulted in some improvement, but nothing approaching the integrity of milled billet or forgings.
 
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Ballistic RPh

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There are two major obstacles to using DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) to print a rifle action:

1. The cost per item does not decrease as much with volume as it does with standard methods.

2. The end product is significantly weaker than a product that is milled from billet.

For those interested in the physics of this: As the laser moves across the bed of metal powder, it sinters the powder into tiny beads of molten metal which rapidly cool. Before hardening, the beads coalesce, disturbing the powder bed. This unavoidably causes microscopic air bubbles to get trapped in the forming crystal structure, creating a porous and non-uniform grain structure. This reduces its resilience against mechanical stresses and heat cycling, while also making it prone to stress fracturing. Attempts to mitigate this have included varying laser pulse duration and energy and randomizing the laser pulses across the object rather than sintering linearly. These have resulted in some improvement, but nothing approaching the integrity of milled billet or forgings.

Very interesting. Thanks for the info.
 
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Odysseus1911

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Definitely impressive. I wonder if barrel life could be improved by casting a barrel and cooling it into a single crystal? Temperature resistance wouldn't change, but perhaps with no grain boundaries, the bore may be more resilient to frictional erosion, fire-checking, etc.
 

BullGear

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Plastic 3D Printing has not come far enough to print receivers as far as I'm concerned with available materials today. Metal 3D printers are far too expensive and unproven. I would rather spend my money on a Mill and take a few Community College courses on the operation of these Mills. I have printed thousands of SLA and PLA models and would never recommend them. HOWEVER, there is supposed to be some new resins that could possibly be used to print an AR15 lower receiver.