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Thread: US Army Unveils 3D-Printed Grenade Launcher Called RAMBO

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    US Army Unveils 3D-Printed Grenade Launcher Called RAMBO

    The U.S. Military has a new firearm in its itinerary: Meet RAMBO, the 3D printed grenade launcher that could revolutionize the way soldiers are equipped for battle.

    RAMBO, or the Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance to give it its proper name, is based on the U.S. Army's M203 underslung grenade launcher for firearms including the M16 and M4A1 carbine. But RAMBO is unique in that all of its parts save for the springs and fasteners have been produced by 3D printing -- and that includes the grenades themselves. The breech-loaded grenade launcher consists of 50 individual parts, the majority of which were developed through the additive manufacturing process.

    Additive manufacturing is a form of 3D printing whereby layers of material, commonly photopolymer resin, are printed on top of each other to create a 3D object.

    During testing, RAMBO successfully fired 15 shots without showing any sign of deterioration. The ammunition itself was also 3D printed, based on the M781 40mm training round. U.S. Army researchers selected this particular round because it doesn't require any explosive propellants, the use of which are have not been proved safe with 3D printed objects.
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    Army researchers selected this particular round because it doesn't require any explosive propellants, the use of which are have not been proved safe with 3D printed objects.
    No wonder, considering last thing I heard about 3D printing it was still all plastic (like). And as long as stays that way I remain of the opinion that it is over hyped. And have it also been tested after the rifle that has been attached to has fired several and a lot of rounds?
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    Quote Originally Posted by GroeneWolf View Post
    No wonder, considering last thing I heard about 3D printing it was still all plastic (like). And as long as stays that way I remain of the opinion that it is over hyped.
    Actually 3D metal printing, has been around for a few years. Usually not like printing plastics with a continuos stream of molten material, although even that exists for very specialised things.
    It's mostly a type of metal sintering using laser, which is available in a few variants: Direct metal laser sintering, Selective laser sintering, Selective laser melting and some others.
    Mostly pioneered by Germans, of course.
    How Metal 3D Printing Works

    U.S. Army researchers selected this particular round because it doesn't require any explosive propellants, the use of which are have not been proved safe with 3D printed objects.
    This, however, makes no sense, as any given projectile launched by a grenade launcher has to have an explosive propellant, though it's grantedly a weaker charge on training munition. Unles they reverted to the use of a sling/spring now. Perhaps they simply meant "without explosive warhead", though.
    And have it also been tested after the rifle that has been attached to has fired several and a lot of rounds?
    It's more of a stand-alone grenade launcher, it seems, so that shouldn't be a problem.



    While 3D printing technology is obviously fascinating, I'm not exactly sure what the US Army wants with it. Their defense industries, or in the case of the USA rather attack industries(), can certainly produce all needed launchers much faster in a conventional way.
    At least for the limited amount of front-line soldiers that actually see combat. Unless they're planning for a conventional total war, where they have to equip millions of soldiers, now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juthunge View Post
    While 3D printing technology is obviously fascinating, I'm not exactly sure what the US Army wants with it. Their defense industries, or in the case of the USA rather attack industries(), can certainly produce all needed launchers much faster in a conventional way.

    If they produce a large batch conventionally and arm certain groups with it it can backfire if found out. However if a certain group was to get a hold of a 3D printing machine and knows how to utilise it to produce weapons, well... Even better if the printing device was to be more compact.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haliaeetus View Post
    If they produce a large batch conventionally and arm certain groups with it it can backfire if found out. However if a certain group was to get a hold of a 3D printing machine and knows how to utilise it to produce weapons, well... Even better if the printing device was to be more compact.
    Well, correct, my naive, innocent self didn't think about that at the time.

    I found an article that explains this launcher in depth. The launcher was indeed made with a direct metal laser sintering process.

    Every component in the M203A1 grenade launcher, except springs and fasteners, was produced using AM techniques and processes. The barrel and receiver were fabricated in aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering process. This process uses high-powered precision lasers to heat the particles of powder below their melting point, essentially welding the fine metal powder layer by layer until a finished object is formed. Other components, like the trigger and firing pin, were printed in 4340 alloy steel, which matches the material of the traditional production parts.

    The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the utility of AM for the design and production of armament systems. A 40 mm grenade launcher (M203A1) and munitions (M781) were selected as candidate systems. The technology demonstrator did not aim to illustrate whether the grenade launcher and munition could be made cheaper, lighter or better than traditional mass-production methods. Instead, researchers sought to determine whether AM technologies were mature enough to build an entire weapon system and the materials’ properties robust enough to create a properly functioning armament.

    To be able to additively manufacture a one-off working testable prototype of something as complex as an armament system would radically accelerate the speed and efficiency with which modifications and fixes are delivered to the warfighter. AM doesn’t require expensive and time-intensive tooling. Researchers would be able to manufacture multiple variations of a design during a single printing build in a matter of hours or days. This would expedite researchers’ advancements and system improvements: Instead of waiting months for a prototype, researchers would be able to print a multitude of different prototypes that could be tested in a matte
    And especially:
    The barrel and receiver took about 70 hours to print and required around five hours of post-process machining. The cost for powdered metals varies but is in the realm of $100 a pound. This may sound like a lot of time and expensive material costs, but given that the machine prints unmanned and there is no scrap material, the time and cost savings that can be gained through AM are staggering. The tooling and set-up needed to make such intricate parts through conventional methods would take months and tens of thousands of dollars, and would require a machinist who has the esoteric machining expertise to manufacture things like the rifling on the barrel.
    In short, you pretty much only need a granular raw material, which can hardly fall under an embargo or even then could easily be smuggled due to its flexible nature, a (few) printers and a single skilled CAD/CAM programmer. Given that universities in the Middle East or Europe are breeding grounds for Islamists...Good luck to the world.

    A shorter variant, based on the preceding article.
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