How It’s Made: The 3D Printed 1911 Pistol

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The original 3D printed metal gun, which debuted back in November 2013, made headlines when it became the world’s first handgun produced using additive metal manufacturing technology. The .45 caliber pistol has since fired over 4,600 rounds without failure (as of 6/12/2014) and continues to prove the strength and accuracy of laser sintering technology for mainstream applications.

As our limited production run of John Browning’s classic handgun design gets underway, we’d like to take you behind-the-scenes and show you how a 3D printed metal gun is manufactured at Solid Concepts.

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Direct Metal Laser Sintering (3D Printing!)

The 1911 pistol begins its life as a 3D CAD model. After the model has been mathematically sliced into 2D cross-sections, a DMLS machine can sinter the metal material layer-by-layer based on the data contained in each cross-section.

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Removing the Completed Build

After a few hours of printing, the 1911 build is complete and the excess powder can be removed.

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Barrels and Slides

In this particular build, we’ve printed a collection of barrels and slides.

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Frames

We’ve also printed a set of frames to go along with the barrels and slides. All of the parts have been cleaned and are ready to be removed from their base plates.

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Production Finishing Begins

After the raw parts are taken off their base plates, our finishing experts can get to work. A variety of surface treatment and hand polishing processes are used to get the 30+ 3D printed components featured in our 1911 pistol ready for assembly.

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Removing Supports

Any support structures that were required to add supplemental strength to fine features or overhanging surfaces during the build are removed.

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Hand Lapping the Slide and Frame

A lapping compound is used to marry the frame and slide together for a perfect fit.

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Stoning the Rails

After lapping the slide and frame together, a stone is used to achieve a smooth finish.

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Surface Grinding

A surface grinder is used to give the 3D printed slides a production-grade finish.

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Barrel Links

A surface grinder is also used to finish the raw 3D printed barrel links.

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Firing Pins

The firing pins are hand polished by a Solid Concepts finishing expert.

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Assembly

The finished pistols are assembled for the first time by Eric Mutchler, our Firearms Project Manager.

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Test Firing

The newly assembled 1911s must each pass a 50 round test firing with zero malfunctions.

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Boxed and Ready

The completed firearms are each shipped in a wooden showcase box containing a personalized 3D printed metal plaque and signed certificate of authenticity.

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The First Production Pistols are Delivered

The first two 1911s manufactured during our limited production run were purchased by Joe Allison, President and CEO of Solid Concepts. Allison took home serial numbers SN001 and SN007 after successfully test firing 100 rounds through each pistol.

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