The Shot 2018 show is ongoing in Las Vegas. While several media fire up the debate on the right to own firearms, loudly making headlines, a much quieter segment of gun manufacturing is also making a lot of noise: 3D printed silencers (or suppressors). According to a reportage appeared on The Firearm Blog (TFB), as many as three companies presented 3D printed silencers. They seem to be quite the star of the gun show.
Metal 3D printing is enabling registered and legal (stressing “legal” here) gun part manufacturers to produce new products with geometries that were impossible to create with traditional machining. As TFB clarifies, “one of the gun accessories that often have complicated parts design are the suppressors. The development of metal 3D printing made it possible to make suppressors with complicated internal geometries and unusual external shapes.”
The first model presented is by H&P Manufacturing. As seen in the images above, these have a really unusual shape. The portion that goes below the barrel allows having less added length over the muzzle at a given suppressor volume. Thus it also allows shifting the weight rearward compared to a conventional silencer of similar volume. Finally, the internal geometry of these suppressors directs the gasses to the lower expansion chamber. The front vent slots are designed to let the cooled down gasses leave the suppressor body.
Another model, the 5.56 mm by Ellison Dynamic Concepts, claims to reduce the sound signature to ~140dB on a 16 inch barreled AR15 when measured one meter to the right and one meter above ground level. This does not make it one of the quietest, however the model is both shorter and lighter than the direct competitors’ models.
3D Printed Silencers for Everyone
The third set of models, presented by Thermal Defense Solutions, clearly shows the innovative 3D printed geometries. The engineers at Thermal Defense Solutions worked on building rocket engine parts that need to endure harsh temperature changes. They initially started building silencers for military and government entities. TFB reports that they have built mission-specific silencers like a lightweight polymer suppressor for pilot escape and evasion kits. In addition they produced a 3D printed aluminum silencer that has extreme temperature control abilities. All models are built in-house and scalable to meet demand.
The above-pictured models are pre-production units that have gone through testing, so pattern designs and colors may change. In fact, because the process doesn’t require retooling, surface designs can be changed to add logos or limited edition patterns. Quick detach models are planned for the near future.
According to a CNN article, gun silencer sales started booming in 2015, when they grew by 38% in terms of registered units sales. If it passed at the House and Senate, the new bill wanted by the Trump administration (the Hearing Protection Act 2017) would ease restrictions on the sale of silencers meaning more sales and business. It is no surprise that more companies and getting into this segment and with a relatively small investment on a metal 3D printer they can actually be the ones driving innovation.
Who would have said that the promise of mass customized manufacturing would have lived on through the gun industry?