Print 36 comment(s) - last by Piiman.. on Dec 29 at 3:39 PM

3D printed AR lower receiver doesn't meet expectations

One of the more interesting technologies for creating rapid prototypes and other items is 3D printing. 3D printing is capable of producing just about anything you can imagine from implantable cartilage for medical uses, to prototype parts and even weapons.

A project called Defense Distributed has been working on 3D printer files that allow users to create components to build their own guns using a 3D printer. A group of testers used a 3D printed gun part design from creator HaveBlue to produce an AR lower receiver (the lower receiver is a key component of the weapon that receives the rifle cartridge from the magazine) and headed to the gun range.

Unfortunately, it appears that recoil pressure in the completed weapon was too much for the buffer section of the 3D printed lower. The buffer is a section that separates the stock from the upper receiver reports NBC News. The part failed after firing only six shots. To make the failure even more embarrassing, the testers were using ammunition specifically designed for lower recoil.
The creator of the part claims to have printed his own and used it to fire hundreds of rounds.
While the firearm breaking in half while in operation seems to offer the potential for harm to the shooter and those nearby, the testers say that the only damage the operator faces is that of ego. When the weapon failed, the spring and buffer popped out of the tube and fell to the ground according to the testers.

Sources: NBC News, WikiWep DevBlog

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They haven't taken the extra step.
By Imaginer on 12/4/2012 5:59:17 PM , Rating: 1
Making your own gun from 3D printing is viable, if you realize that the model you are 3D printing is an intermediary step towards the final product.

Take the 3D model, make your molds for your desired casted metals, take the casted metal and finalize it from imperfections (or verify tolerances of your casting processes) and you will have a MUCH better gun than one out of plastic derivatives.

Sadly, most people stop when they have their 3D printed product finished out the gate and not further realizing the ways to do it right.

RE: They haven't taken the extra step.
By Imaginer on 12/4/2012 6:01:11 PM , Rating: 1
And with a mold, you can mass produce things much faster than the printing rate of a 3D printer.

RE: They haven't taken the extra step.
By RufusM on 12/5/2012 10:24:04 AM , Rating: 3
And with a mold, you can mass produce things much faster than the printing rate of a 3D printer.

Until 3D printing technology catches up. Also, with 3D printing, changes in the production process are purely software. With a mold, you have downtime to change the mold tools in the production chain.

RE: They haven't taken the extra step.
By FITCamaro on 12/5/2012 10:37:13 AM , Rating: 2
You'll likely never be able to make a resilient gun with a 3D printer. At least not at your home. Plastic isn't known for resiliency.

By AssBall on 12/6/2012 2:04:55 PM , Rating: 3
They are working on higher end metal deposit printers that could be very viable. But like you said, these machines aren't something your gonna have in your garage any time soon.

RE: They haven't taken the extra step.
By FaaR on 12/5/2012 10:53:58 PM , Rating: 2
These objects are basically just pure epoxy resin, or something fairly similar. Epoxy on its own is not very strong (especially in tension), and quite brittle - as evidenced here. You simply drop that plastic gun on a hard floor and it's very likely to crack. Doesn't seem very viable - or safe.

Maybe if glass fiber reinforcement could be added automatically during the printing process these items would stand up to some more abusive treatments. Still wouldn't be as tough as glass fiber reinforced thermoplastic of course, but better than now anyway...

By H0rnet on 12/6/2012 4:31:10 PM , Rating: 3
From my understanding of the 3d printing process this is very true currently. At least the models I have seen have been very delicate. However there are newer technologies that are based on laser sintering, where metal powder is used as a feed stock. It's still a more high end process, and the equipment is much more expensive currently.

Scary possibilities
By craniumbox on 12/6/12, Rating: 0
RE: Scary possibilities
By bobsmith1492 on 12/6/2012 9:31:19 AM , Rating: 2
Or you could just, you know, dump it in a lake. Much easier.

RE: Scary possibilities
By Schrag4 on 12/6/2012 12:01:05 PM , Rating: 3
How is that scary? Do you think criminals already only use guns that don't have a serial number? It's still much easier to just buy a firearm illegally Heck, the US govt was helping the illegal gun market along a couple of years ago - you may have heard about it. Also, the parts that cannot be printed, such as the barrel/chamber and the extractor are going to leave the evidence that will be needed to match spent bullets and casings to the gun.

Let me put it another way. It's quite simple to create the same part using a block of aluminum, a few templates, and a drill press, and that piece would probably last forever (not to mention it's perfectly legal for you to do in your garage). That tech has been around forever. Are you even more scared now?

RE: Scary possibilities
By kmmatney on 12/19/2012 5:32:12 PM , Rating: 5
RE: Scary possibilities
By talikarni on 12/20/12, Rating: -1
RE: Scary possibilities
By GreenChile on 12/20/2012 11:50:01 PM , Rating: 3
I was with you right up until that last bullet point. Where on Earth did you get that statistic from? You give gun owners a bad name with BS like that.

RE: Scary possibilities
By Piiman on 12/29/2012 3:35:19 PM , Rating: 1
"- Responsible gun owners that carry with them everywhere save more lives every week than these criminals and mass shooters kill every year."

really? Show me the proof. Personally I think you made it up.

By deogi on 12/4/2012 8:54:09 PM , Rating: 3
I remember when Glock Pistols first came out. All the anti-gun nut jobs were frothing at the mouth that the 'plastic' guns were going to get through the metal detectors at the airport.

The did not realize that the slide, firing pin, and slide guides were all metal, not to mention that the ammo was made of metal.

Another duh moment for those of us that know! LOL

By th3pwn3r on 12/4/2012 3:32:21 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder who funded this project to steer people from 3D printing. It just seems as if they're trying to make people think twice before printing up a 3D arsenal along with a 3D army of cyborgs :D

RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By Misty Dingos on 12/4/12, Rating: -1
RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By jaysan on 12/4/2012 11:22:52 AM , Rating: 5
Cue the cuers to keep cuing in on every possibility, real or imaginary.

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By Misty Dingos on 12/4/12, Rating: 0
RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By Armageddonite on 12/5/2012 10:32:55 AM , Rating: 2
Way to take off-topic time-wasting to an epic new level, especially on the first post. I'm surprised you didn't go ahead and fulfill Godwin's law in the process.

On topic: I'm sure it's just a matter of finding the right printing material and/or printing pattern for that type of application. There shouldn't be a universal answer for all uses.

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By Misty Dingos on 12/5/12, Rating: 0
By Piiman on 12/29/2012 3:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
" Think of the unique weapons that could be produced. It would be magical."

and it will be called the iGun

By tigz1218 on 12/8/2012 8:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
Hey buddy, FU-CUE ;)

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By shanej on 12/4/2012 11:41:45 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not surprised at all that it failed at that point. They are already making polymer lower receivers that hold up just fine to full sized 5.56 or .233 rounds.

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By shanej on 12/4/2012 11:44:06 AM , Rating: 2
I realized my two thoughts kind of contradict each other. I'm not surprised it failed there as it is the area that sees the most force.

However, they are making polymer lowers that are holding up just fine so it can be done.

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By Adonlude on 12/5/2012 12:30:57 PM , Rating: 5
No it is not the area that sees the most force, not by a long shot. The title of this article is misleading as all the most intricate and stressed parts of an AR-15 were not printed.

The explosion happens in the upper which contains a steel barrel, chamber, and bolt assembly. A bullet is loaded into the chamber which surrounds the bullet casing while the tip of the bullet extends into the start of the barrel. The bolt assembly presses in behind the bullet and is held tight for the massive 50,000ish PSI explosion that takes place then the bolt assembly slides back and is slowed by a basic spring in a buffer tube right behind it.

All this thunder and ligntning takes place in the upper. The lower is just a nice frame that the upper sits on. The lower holds a magazine, handle, trigger assembly, and shoulder stock which houses the buffer tube.

Nobody is going to be 3-D printing a gun until cheap 3-D printers are cranking out hardened steel parts on your desktop.

By Schrag4 on 12/6/2012 3:38:39 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, I think he meant that the part where the lower broke is the part of the lower that sees the most force. The rearward force from the bolt and buffer basically "bounces off" the buffer tube, which is attached to the lower precisely where the lower failed. Think of how the buffer tube attaches. If you pull straight back on that part of the lower, since it's only attached to the lower at the "bottom" of the buffer tube, and since that printed material flexes easier than aluminum of the same thickness, that part of the lower will flex and allow the buffer tube to move downward, pivoting on the lower. IMO, no surprise at all that it failed there.

Assuming you don't dry-fire the lower with no upper attached, which can damage even standard aluminum lowers (would probably shatter this printed lower), I'd guess that the next largest force the lower sees is probably from the pistol grip. I'm sure the pin for the hammer probably exerts quite a bit of force for a very brief period of time, but that force isn't being exerted in a place where it can really snap anything off.

By FaaR on 12/5/2012 10:59:30 PM , Rating: 1
Those (commercial) polymer parts undoubtedly use better/more suited materials than in this case, so that hardly proves anything regarding the viability of DIY 3D printing of firearms...

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By 91TTZ on 12/4/2012 2:23:46 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see what the uproar is about. It's easy enough to make a gun out of real steel using machines that have been available for hundreds of years.

RE: RELAX! All is well. Please do not panic.
By Armageddonite on 12/5/2012 10:35:58 AM , Rating: 2
This is about a new way of doing things though...if they can perfect this, there'll be no shortage of replacement parts for soldiers in the field.

By twhittet on 12/11/2012 12:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
I don't remember having a "shortage of replacement parts" while I was in the field.

If a major part of my weapon failed - I am not so sure I would trust a part printed in an easy bake oven to have the same strict specifications of a factory made part.

Cool tech - yes. Changing the battlefield anytime soon - no.

By swampjelly on 12/4/12, Rating: -1
RE: Ummmmm......
By DuctTapeAvenger on 12/4/2012 12:38:50 PM , Rating: 3
1) This was a rifle, not a handgun.

2) The component printed was only the part that holds the magazine and all the trigger components. They did not print the springs, guide rods, bolt, barrel, firing pin, trigger, etc. Basically all the parts that make it function had to be purchased. Think of the part they printed as the shell of a mouse (computer, not furry). It's completely useless without all the parts inside that make it work.

RE: Ummmmm......
By Schrag4 on 12/5/2012 10:22:58 AM , Rating: 4
Correct. To put it simplistically, the rifle in the test has 2 main parts: the "upper" which consists of the barrel and bolt (keeping it simple) and the "lower" which basically just holds the magazine in place and has the trigger and hammer. The stock attaches to the lower. On this particular rifle, the recoiling bolt stays in the upper but pushes a buffer into the stock, against a spring, and when the buffer is pushed back foward, the bolt obviously is pushed forward, chambering another round. Like others, I'm not surprised that the part of the lower that the buffer tube (in the stock) connects to is where it failed.

The reason I explained all that is to emphasize that the part that was printed basically just holds the magazine in place and contains the trigger and hammer (and the stock and pistol grip hang off of it too). It's a very mundane part of the rifle, but it's considered THE rifle by our government. In most states, you can buy every other part of the rifle, including the parts that go into the lower, and have them shipped to your house. You have to buy the lower itself from an FFL dealer. Being able to build your own lower would mean you can build a complete rifle without going through an FFL.

Oh, and as others have said, you can build your own lower out of aluminum without very much equipment, and it will last pretty much forever. I've never done it but the proess looks pretty straightfoward. It's also technically legal as long as the lower is never transferred to anyone else (Disclaimer: I've never done it).

RE: Ummmmm......
By patronanejo on 12/5/2012 1:27:57 PM , Rating: 2
The receiver is the gun. If you can print that, you can buy everything else off-the-shelf without identifying yourself, registering your ownership, or asking your mom.

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