Solid Concepts manufactures first 3D-printed metal pistol


November 8, 2013

The fully assembled 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP (Image: Solid Concepts)

The fully assembled 3D-printed Model 1911 45ACP (Image: Solid Concepts)

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In a prime example of past meets future, a Texas-based company has used a century-old classic firearm as the blueprint for the world’s first 3D printed metal gun. Solid Concepts' use of a laser sintering method to create a fully functional Model 1911 automatic pistol is the latest demonstration of the potential of 3D printing techniques in industrial processing.

3D-printed guns aren't new, but most of those produced until now have been made of plastic. They may have given law enforcement and gun control advocates the hives, but at the end of the day they appear to be nothing but overpriced zip guns that are more dangerous to the shooter than the target. Some companies have produced metal gun components, but, to date, that’s as far as it’s gone.

It’s ironic that Solid Concepts, one of the world leaders in 3D printing services, chose the 1911 45ACP for its model. The pistol is a classic and has long been a favorite of armies, law enforcement, shooting enthusiasts, and pulp fiction artists, but what made it stand out is that when it was designed by John Browning, he made the layout of its working parts two dimensional. In fact, he sorted out the arrangement by using cardboard cutouts of the parts on a table top. Its classic nature, and its design being in public domain, attracted Solid Concepts.

According to the company, the over 30 components were made using a laser sintering process in which powdered metals are melted by a laser in layers using a digital plan. In this, a layer of powder is fused, then the printing machine lays down another layer and the process continues. Once complete, the excess powder is removed as are any supporting structures and the component is filed and cold hardened.

The 1911 is composed of 33 stainless steel and Inconel 625 components and even the carbon-fiber filled nylon hand grip was printed. Unlike previous plastic guns, the steel barrel of the 1911 was rifled and by directly building the barrel. Solid Concepts is keen to emphasize that, though some hand tooling was used in finishing the gun, none of it was machined. Assembly of the 1911 took less than 7 minutes.

Solid Concept says that the point of the exercise wasn't to create a cheaper pistol, but to demonstrate that 3D printing had reached the point where it could take on real world applications as well or better than conventional techniques. In this case, the printed parts were less porous than cast parts, could be made faster than conventional machining, and could be made more complex.

"The whole concept of using a laser sintering process to 3D Print a metal gun revolves around proving the reliability, accuracy and usability of metal 3D Printing as functional prototypes and end use products," says Kent Firestone, Vice President of Additive Manufacturing at Solid Concepts. "It’s a common misconception that 3D Printing isn't accurate or strong enough, and we’re working to change people’s perspective."

In the end, the printed gun barrel handled the 20,000 psi pressure of each shot with 50 rounds successfully fired, and even a few bullseyes hit at 30 yards.

"We’re proving this is possible, the technology is at a place now where we can manufacture a gun with 3D Metal Printing," says Firestone. "And we’re doing this legally. In fact, as far as we know, we’re the only 3D Printing Service Provider with a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver."

Though the 3D printed 1911 is a breakthrough, it's not exactly a gun runner's dream and the company says that we won’t be seeing college kids cranking out Kalashnikovs in their dorm rooms. The printers used weren't the desktop sort using plastic filaments, but industrial printers that require expert handing and cost many thousands of dollars .

According to the Solid Concepts blog, "[T]he engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3D Printing better than anyone in this business."

The company has not yet calculated the cost of the printed pistol.

The video below explains the printing project.

Source: Solid Concepts via Techcrunch

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Great....just what we needed: anyone with a 3D printer can now make guns.... What's next? Printing bomb components? I'm sorry for my harsh comments, but aren't we all sick of all shootings?

Charlie Channels

Oh great, just what we needed - another bloody gun! What is it with these people? - They come up with a great new technology, and the first thing they think of is "I know, let's see if we can make a gun with it!". What is the point? !!



wouldn't it be better if they started doing some prosthetic hip or knee? Something that could be done in O.R. suitable to every patient and lower health costs?

making real working guns? that is NOT a good exercise, history should have thought you better...

Mário Varandas

I am not surprised the printed a gun. It will make a much bigger splash in the media than a prosthetic hip. I knew the day would come, but I didn't expect the technology to move this fast. Costs will drop. Other models of 3D printers will come out soon. It will be impossible to stop plans circulating around the net for all kinds of weapons, bombs and other implements of destruction. 3D printing is going to be the next technological revolution in the world, and guns are only one of the scary things that it will usher in. Buckle your seat belts! Things are about to change in a huge way. But not everything will be bad. It will also be able to create some great good in the world. Isn't this the case for all technological revolutions?

Frederick Potter

Why if your not an enforcement officer would you want a gun. Printing your own gun is nothing but bad news for people who do want them around. This is nothing more than bad news.

Richard Unger

Americans, all they want is more guns. Food replicator?

Vladimir Popov

1:39-1:40 mins into video you see the slide return after the shot is very slow. curious why


The idiots who are against gun ownership are in for a reality check, The new technology of the future is here NOW!, and the barbaric and primitive social structure of thinking of the Liberal mindset is not able to find any solutions because of the inherent ideology subjectivity. Logic is the only way to combat this new threat to society, it's not that I'm against gun ownership, because I'm not!, what I'm against is any idiot with a 3-D Printer spitting out production of any weapon without responsibility of it! ...We are as a society have no choice but to mature in order to survive and progress forward into the goal of attaining to be and accomplish in being an advanced peaceful civilized social culture and society in which we can live with one another no matter the differences among us!...That will have to be the new and logical ideology employed into all the different social and political cultures that makes us human....let's see if we are up to this task and endeavor that seems to always be oblivious to us all!..."Perception is everything, but everything is never perceived by those making distinctions without differences in failing to master the obvious."....

Sam Joy

Nice a gun, this shows how far we have come with this 3d building, a 45 is a big gun with lots of forces working against it, proving the 3d a neat machine that can bring ideas to life for testing quickly, for all sorts of new products. good job guys !

Jay Finke

this isn't just another gun its a remake of a classic .45 cal pistol that has been in service for 102 years and its the sidearm I carried while serving in the Army. printing this weapon is a technological marvel, the first of its kind with many more innovations sure to follow.

for those that are sick of guns but want to remain free, you're conflicted, don't know history and don't realize whats going on with the shootings. the common thread in each event was pharmaceutical drugs. every single shooter was on psychiatric drugs and all of them claim side effects of "suicidal tendencies and violent thoughts." thats where the problem lies. we've had guns throughout our history so why is it only now when 20% of the US population are on psychiatric medication that we have these horrific, violent episodes.


Charlie, you obviously didn't read the article. Typical of "anti-gun" people. Never reading and paying attention to all the facts. All you see is the word gun and react. The 1911 is actually one of the most intricate firearms designed. I personally look at this as a magnificent achievement. By doing this it proves it can be applied to many other applications, especially the fact that its actually better and stronger than tooled steel. My hats off to Solid Concepts. Keep up the fine work.

Joe Sobotka

They comment that the printer they used was a laser sintering printer costing thousands like it was a barrier to adoption. They are over looking a few key facts.

Printers that can crank out metal parts are dropping in price.

Folks who might be interested in making unregistered weapons have the funding to buy one of these machines and the leverage to get a qualified operator to run it.

Controlling firearms is definitely going to require a massive change in methodlology. The plans for these things will become tradable via P2P and Darknets so preventing the plans form spreading will be nearly impossible.

Then there is the advent of very accurate 3d scanners coming to the market. Take a sample firearm a scanner and a qualified cad person and you could easily replicate the parts. Heck using the newer technology like the CISRO electron beam printer the parts could be made lighter and stronger using titanium powder rather than steel.

This tech doesn't just effect firearms it affects all markets that have metal parts that can be made within the print area of available printers.


Bravo to Solid Concepts for managing this.

Anti-gun comments are obviously from people who have never needed a gun to save someones life or protect themselves from someone else. Get used to this next comment guns are a common day necessity that's why every country in the world has a military armed with guns to protect you and guns don't kill people, people pull the trigger. I have never had or heard of a gun going off by itself.

The reason people want to see if a gun can be built from printers is because it is the ultimate test in strength for printers. I can think of no other object you could print that would require a regular operational workload of 20,000 psi. This will ultimately lead to smaller and better customizable high quality products with less layout and overhead expenses.

Again, Congratulations to Solid Concepts.

Matt Fletcher

I've been following 3d printing since it came out. It is/has been used for medical purposes for awhile. Here is a article from gizmag a year ago.

They have/are working on 3d printed cartilage, arteries, and possibly bone as well.

So 3d printing is used for medical, ceramics, plastics, stone construction, and even parts for space vehicles like this rocket.

Is it so surprising then that it would be used in weapons as well? Also as stated in article above, the printer is custom made for them and so not available to just everyone. However as we all know, once something is made and proven it will only be time before it is replicated.

I'm more surprised it hasn't been done awhile ago.


I suspect they chose a gun because (a) it has moving parts, (b) it undergoes considerable stress in ordinary use, and unlike other items where both of these are true, it (c) is much smaller (unlike a V-8 engine) and (d) the design is in the public domain.

Basically, a gun is a good proof-of-concept item. If you can make a gun, you can make anything.

And no, not everyone with a 3-D printer can do this. Most 3-D printers use ABS plastic, melted and allowed to cool. This printer deposits metal dust using a laser to fuse it in place, a much, much more expensive device.

Jim Goltz

I think the pont of this project was not to produce a gun; the point was to show that 3D printing can be used to create parts that need to be strong and precise. They proved their point by makeing somthing that could hold up to the pressure needed to fire a bullet. I dont think the company will go into the "gun printing" business, they just wanted to show what these machines can do. They have opened up new possibilities. Where people have said "Well, thats just not possible with 3D prrinting." Now they will be thinking of what can be done instead. Now come all the medical possibilities. Like I stated at the beginning a product that had intricate parts that needed to be very precise to work as well as be able to hold up to great stress was the product that was needed, a gun just happened to be a good example. Thats at least what I got out of the article.

Dan Skender

Whether you like the idea of 3D printed firearms or not, this process of fusing metal powder with a laser is cool s**t!

Jeremy Pettit

Saying guns are bad is like blaming knives, forks, and spoons for obesity. Every crazed gunman that did harm was stopped by a gun. This is a great demonstration of what 3D printing can do, forces, precision etc. Soon prices will fall and people will be buying metal in bulk to print their own parts for anything. Goods will become cheaper, and the worlds standard of living will rise.

But yes there will always be bad people doing bad things and thankfully good people active in stopping them.


This is amazing....

What people don't seem to get is that a firearm needs to be able to handle a wide range of abuse to the materials it is made out of. Normal materials can't handle the pressures, nor the repeated hammering on the parts. If you can make viable parts for a gun that won't self destruct, parts for a knee or hip or other things become a reality.

What it shows, regardless of your take on firearms, is a huge stride in materials design. Any engineer or scientist worth his salt would see that. Imagine how manufacturing could go if you could specify a materials' structural makeup rather than cast corms. You could design an engine without separate heads, you could design parts that we can't currently make due to casting limitations...

People need to open their eyes to the possibilities that tech like this holds...stop being swayed by political and other bias. Learn and use what we have and what is discovered, for much more than what has been stated. I.E. Think outside the box, if it's even possible for you.

Michael Lambson

so did they take advantage of the process to create an internal serial number, something only visible by x-rays? yes technology like this is amazing, and getting fast enough to outpace traditional manufacturing methods, but why not use it to improve the product, instead of just replicating it? Don't show me a future production process, without using it to make a future product too!


Just want to point out the obvious. This isn't an "automatic pistol". Like the original M1911 .45 caliber pistol, it's semi-automatic, meaning each time you pull the trigger, one round fires and another round is chambered.

So, why did they build a gun? Because they knew that would be them the biggest bang for the buck in the blogosphere and press.

Lucas Mearian

Who cares about the cost of the printed pistol. What's the cost of the printing machine?

Personally I'm more excited about the kind of home made robots and trinkets people will come up with thanks to this.


Don't like guns? Don't buy one, and never call a cop. They have guns.


This is as great an achievement as a hemorrhoid transplant. The world will always have mentally ill people. Easy access to guns is a bad idea.

Roy Murray

Nice proof of concept, a gun is an excellent choice for the reasons given above.

The knockers seem to have overlooked that should anyone wish to build a gun, a laser sintering printer is going to be vastly more expensive than a small lathe and milling machine, or even that a serviceable weapon can be constructed from a handful of pipe fittings.

And for utter simplicity and rock bottom price, check the design of the classic Sten submachine gun, turned out in tens of thousands by toy factories. The M1911 is a highly sophisitcated weapon by comparison.


More curioud of a 10,000 round check up. how do parts wear and if galling occurs. barrel and slide data are quite translatable to engines, pumps etc. pistons in all apps. Surfaces have been the fiekd for a while in increased lifespans from 200k miles to now million(s) before service and rebuild. as per bad boy gun toys...the cheap hi tech sound moderator matched to each load. optimized velocity spread reductio. can yiu say 0.5 moa @500 yards? windless low humidity of course.

Walt Stawicki

I for one can appreciate the engineering challenge presented by 3D printing a 1911 handgun.

The 1911 was the perfect benchmark for 3D metal printing testing. The reason being that modern mass-production techniques largely fail to produce serviceable 1911 models because the tolerances required to make the gun function are too close to achieve in standard mass production.

Makers using the newer techniques like MIM are failing at a high rate to make this model work consistently. A firearm is a good test bed for this technology as its production marries strength at high pressure, aesthetics, durability and precision in one handheld package. The applications of this type of testbed to aerospace and space exploration are obvious.

As for worrying that this tech will be used to commit crimes, get real. A criminal can buy a stolen gun for $50 on the street from a fence. There is no reason for one to go to the trouble of gathering the requisite knowledge, and then going to the expense of printing one.

Jason Brown

Ok, this is a really big step in 3D printing. Now how about a less expensive 3D laser printer at home to make useful replacement parts for the car...

Dan Linder

That's it then, 3D printing is now a mature technology. If it can create a machine that can do and take the crap involved in being a pistol it has reached it's philosophical zenith. The challenge now is to use our imaginations to make better things not make things better.

Bill Mulger

@Sam Joy, " what I'm against is any idiot with a 3-D Printer spitting out production of any weapon without responsibility of it!" It is perfectly legal to make your own guns, NOW. You simply can not pass them on, or sell them. Someone recently built a semi-auto rifle from a shovel. You doubt me? try Youtube. I have watched the construction video, very interesting, and well within my abilities. Does this make me unsafe? No, just handy.

@Charlie Channels, no one needs 3-D printing to make a pipe bomb, or a fertilizer bomb, or a fuel bomb, or any other type of bomb except perhaps one that uses fissionable materials. In which case, you have much bigger problems.

@Richard Unger, "Why if your not an enforcement officer would you want a gun." First off, you left off part of the title, it's LAW enforcement Officer, they are not there for your safety, they are there to enforce LAW. Case in point, you have been shot, the responding officer will pursue the shooter, NOT tend to you. He will call an ambulance, but you may bleed out, before it arrives. His DUTY, is to catch the law breaker, not tend the injured. (I have cops in the family, and applied myself) It is up to YOU to defend yourself. When seconds count, cops are only minutes away.

@Vladimir Popov, you want one? you make it.

@VirtualGathis, "Folks who might be interested in making unregistered weapons have the funding to buy one of these machines and the leverage to get a qualified operator to run it." If I remember my history correctly, in every country, and in every time, when guns get "registered" as some are pushing for in the US, it has led to confiscation. I have a Right to bear arms, and I shall. It is part of my heritage, part of my life, and a family tradition that stretches back for centuries. I have guns older than you, still in perfect working order. As for trying to control what people create with these machines, shame on you. Would you tell Michelangelo what to paint? Creativity and drive are what created this country. Allow it to flourish, and fan the flames. If someone DOES do something wrong, THEN punish them, You have no right to punish without a crime. As for " the leverage to get a qualified operator to run it" We call that is already illegal.

@Chizzy, "so did they take advantage of the process to create an internal serial number, something only visible by x-rays?" So, you object because they didn't make it flawed? And just how would you do that? embed something, and weaken the metal? Why try to hide a serial number at all? they are applied now with a stamping press. This compresses the metal where the number is stamped. Even if the number is filed off, it can still be raised with acid. this eats away the softer metal and exposes the missing numbers. only criminal with a stolen gun would try to hide the numbers.

@Roy Murray," This is as great an achievement as a hemorrhoid transplant.The world will always have mentally ill people. Easy access to guns is a bad idea." the problem is clearly, mentally ill people, not guns. Treat the problem, not the symptom.

@ Jay Finke, zenLoki, Joe Sobotka, Matt Fletcher, telocity, Jim Goltz, Dan Skender, Michael Lambson, Catweazle, DLK811, Walt Stawicki, Jason Brown, Gentlemen, I salute you. You understood the purpose of this test was not really about guns, but about the procedure, and the perceived limitations of the tech. A gun was the proper test bed because of the stresses it is under, and the precision required in it's construction. The 1911, is a classic, and the first choice of many, as well a a work of metal art.


Oh good. The idiots will kill each other sooner! The 3D printer solution to over-population AND cleaning up the gene-pool!

Pari Gilmour

3D printing is now about 30 years old. Sintered metal parts from a printer or other sintering means are about 70 years old.

It's great that the existence of sintering is being understood by more people as a result of the gun "printing" but claims that the choice of the 45 Auto 1911 A1 US Army is hardly a choice that demonstrates the extreme accuracy and capability of the process. The design was made to be very sloppy with a wide manufacturing margin only the barrel and magazine needed to be precision formed. They did not make the magazine and spring, and they failed to provide evidence that they made the barrel in whole or in part.

Cost matters and this choice of additive machining can make sense


Thankfully I took the time to read the posted comments of Matt Fletcher, Jim Goltz, Dan Skender, Michael Lambson, and the other readers who "get it." There is always going to be liberals who want to control our lives and are completely oblivious to every truth that interferes with there liberal beliefs.



It is important to note that my particular political views never cloud my rational thinking ability. For those of you salivating to know those views, I am a registered Independent (read the Declaration of Independents by Nick Gillespi ).


Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with the beginning of the end. This mere tool can be printed right from the comfort of your home. Gone now are the days of stealing and trafficking weapons. Why now your local gang can just print up a gun or two for each of the members.

Wait, wait, wait I haven't even reached the best part: Not only do you get the convenience of printing a gun at home, and foregoing those pesky jail terms when you get caught at the border with stolen guns. Well no folks you also have a gun that is untraceable, can be manufactured to not leave identifying scratches on your bullets.

This beauty can leave you anomalous after you've killed. Also, since you can just print these babies, if you a running from the "Po-po" just throw the gun away, it can't be linked to you or the bullet, so why not? With features like these, the guns practically sell themselves - get 'em while ya can folks, and happy killing!!

Doug Maidens

Wow that's impressive! Wah wah guns, you're using a computer that was created to break codes. Don't shoot people with them and you'll be fine.

Craig Jennings

Excellent technology, and great demonstration of the versatility, strength, and precision capable of being obtained by DMLS.

Kyle Bradley

This is a great feat for 3D printing. Guess this will make breakthroughs in the gun and ammunition business but more importantly, it will help the military with their operations abroad. The problem is, this will also prompt criminals to create their own weapons for it is easier now.

Jacob Wadsworth

These Printers keep getting better and better. Although the subject may be unpalatable to some, I think the point they are making is, "If we can make a fully operational pistol, we can make pretty much anything". I'm really looking forward to the day when I can make one-off or obsolete parts for restoration jobs etc. I can't wait!

Terry Penrose

@Doug Maidens wow anomolus! that about sums your rant up for it's worth. Doug if you skip the rifling of the barrel to avoid identifying marks a gun becomes very inaccurate not that gang bangers are accurate to begin with this would render them completely absurd for killing people they want to kill. Next border enforcement? lol! drug cartels build submarines and tunnels and aircraft, the USA is awash in drugs and illegal border hoppers. Billions of dollars are at stake in the drug trade they will find away as they always have done to get what they need to keep the money coming. Then you have the metal powder to make the gun not widely available to buy or reproducible to a Gang banger and the energy requirements make it detectable just like indoor grow marijuana farms. Happy killing? How About happy not being killed because you're not a defenseless chump waiting 20 minutes for a cop who only comes after a 5 min 911 call.

Joseph Mertens

Point: Printed solid metal object with stronger characteristics than cast metal. Cheaper and faster than Milled. More complex construction than casting or milled can produce. Final product shows precision tolerances, able to handle high material stress under repeated use.

Yeah, it's a gun. So what. Like someone earlier said, it's smaller than a V8 engine, which would have been comparable, and the tolerances are actually smaller.

Look in the news. Do a google search. 3d printing is here to stay, and is rapidly becoming the new manufacturing "standard process." This? Not about making a gun, but about showing that 3d printers can make MACHINE TOOLED QUALITY PRODUCTS.

In other words. One printer= Orange County Choppers entire stable of machinesmiths. Who needs them. One computer geek with autocad and they could make any custom designed bike they chose.

Then think about cars... made entirely from printed parts. How about airplanes whose wings and frame are one single piece without welds or seams to give way at high stress points.

You see guns and say "how horrible"

I see the new manufacturing paradigm proven and smile. discusses why...

Valkyrie Ice

I love how they say Gangsters will be put off by the cost of the printer, when now I imagine many of the gangsters are making inroads to threaten/bribe/blackmail the smallish tech companies that HAVE the machines and get the night shift to print out as many untraceable guns as needed.

Ridiculous, they should just open the laws for gun owners now as the ONLY ppl not having guns will be the Legal ppl.


First off the metal 3d printer costs millions.. You are not going to be seeing any local gangsters pumping these out in the public..Why spend million on a machine when theres too many other sources of weapons that could be had dirt cheap..

James Davenport

Wake me up when they make a 3d printed car engine made to 1/10th scale. Or when they are able to 3d print food from the base components. Then I'll be impressed.

Edgar Walkowsky
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