Engineers also printed a 40-millimeter training rounds for the grenade launcher.
Engineering center for research and development of weapons of the US army (ARDEC) have successfully produced the first 3D-printed grenades for 3D-printed rocket-propelled grenade as a demonstration of the capabilities of new technologies to create prototypes and modifications of the weapon while reducing costs.
Grenade launcher RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance), was created on the base of the grenade launcher M203A1, and each component except the springs and fasteners, manufactured using additive technologies.
Although almost all the elements used to create RAMBO, was done with the help of 3D printing, some parts of the grenade launcher still required additional work due to the complexity of the individual components. For example, an aluminum barrel and receiver were made using direct metal laser sintering, when the aluminum layer of powder is fused into a solid metal due to the heating by the laser beam. One advantage of this approach is that the rifling in the barrel was printed directly on the barrel, not milled later. Then the barrel and receiver were hardened by applying a hard-coat anodizing, forming a hard, wear-resistant outer layer.
ARDEC says that the cost of making the barrel and receiver was about $ 100 per pound. The Agency recognizes that it is not cheap, but notes that the process took only 75 hours, and for such production does not require experienced professionals, just recorded a program with the algorithms, which results in significant savings.
In addition to grenade engineers also printed a 40-millimeter training rounds for the grenade launcher. These munitions were selected because of the training projectiles require no explosives, which have not yet been approved for printing. Here there is a problem with the manufacture of the projectile body because it is made from zinc which is not suitable for 3D printing. Engineers have developed alternative housing to replace the zinc, but the body was still solid. So the developers built the housings from aluminum, steel, urethane and ring of steel with a plastic ring, printed directly on the case.
ARDEC reports that RAMBO has been tested on indoor and outdoor shooting range in Picatinny Arsenal, new Jersey. With the help of the remote control system of the launcher was successfully test fired 15 rounds without any signs of damage to the barrel or other parts. However, there was a slight cracking of the body of the cartridge, but this problem was quickly resolved.
ARDEC engineers emphasize that the purpose of the experiment was not only to create a modified grenade launcher, but also a demonstration of how 3D printing can create the weapons necessary quality. In addition, they hope that 3D printing will provide an opportunity for rapid prototyping and modification of weapons that will allow engineers to create prototypes in a few hours or days, not several months.
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