John Rambo pulling an arrow from a quiver

There was a time where everyone was having a go at 3D-printing guns and models of their favourite fictional weapon, and we have previously covered examples of people 3D-printing airsoft guns in our blog. But now, the US Army have stepped things up a gear…

Our friends across the pond have managed to 3D-print an entire grenade launcher which looks like an assault rifle straight out of science fiction! Oh, and they’ve called in RAMBO!

RAMBO is an acronym for Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance. Alongside several other agencies, US Army Research spent six months building the 40mm grenade launcher which has been designed to resemble the under-barrel grenade launcher of the M203.

The gun contains 50 different parts, all of which were 3D-printed out of steel, aluminium and other materials, bar the springs and fasteners. Even the rounds were 3D printed, albeit without the explosives added.

Benefits of additive manufacturing

The nature of additive manufacturing, or 3D-printing, meant that the Army could change their design as they went along. This came in handy during the grenade launcher’s first live-fire test which took place in October last year. Long story short, it was a success (you can see some evidence of this in the video below).

An Army statement speaking of the test-fire said the following:

The testing included 15 test shots with no signs of degradation. All the printed rounds were successfully fired, and the printed launcher performed as expected. There was no wear from the barrel, all the systems held together and the rounds met muzzle velocities within 5 percent of a production M781 fired from a production-grade grenade launcher. The variation in velocities were a result of the cartridge case cracking, and the issue was quickly rectified with a slight design change and additional 3-D printing.

What does this mean for the future of weapon manufacturing?

Now that a successful working prototype has been printed and fired with little issue, will this drastically change weapons manufacturing going forward? There will be those who say the plans may easily end up in the wrong hands, spelling disaster.

However, the equipment needed to 3D-print something as complex and durable as a grenade launcher will no doubt be expensive - many millions of pounds expensive! It will be interesting to see how things develop from here, but one thing is for sure; it’s an advancement as futuristic as they come!

Let us know what you think about the whole thing on our social media channels, and check out the video below of the launcher in action:

Photo courtesy of BagoGames on Flickr, under Creative Commons