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A 3D-Printed Grenade Launcher? Meet RAMBO

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

The RAMBO or Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance, is a 3D-printed grenade launcher developed as a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program; and America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

The RAMBO, and the 3D-printed round it fires, is the result of a project to “demonstrate the utility of AM [Additive Manufacturing] for the design and production of armament systems.” Rather than try to determine if AM/3D-printing could result in less-expensive or superior manufacturing, the researchers wanted to test the validity of AM/3D-printing technologies in building a weapon system, as well as if the properties of the materials were robust enough for a functioning weapon system.

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

RAMBO has proven itself initially successful: every component of the launcher, save the springs and fasteners, was developed using AM techniques and processes. The barrel and receiver were fabricated from aluminum processed using a Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) process, while other components were printed in 4340 alloy steel.

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

(U.S. Army photo by Sunny Burns, ARDEC)

The round, a M781 40mm training round chosen for its simplicity and lack of energetics, was manufactured using Selective Laser Sintering along with other AM processes to print glass-filled nylon cartridge cases and windshields. The projectile body underwent four separate manufacturing approaches, including printing the body in aluminum; steel with a urethane obturating ring; and zinc with a lost-wax casting process. Only the .38 cal cartridge case was not printed, as the capability to print cases isn’t quite yet feasible.

The RAMBO system and its accompanying 3D-printed rounds were test fired at both indoor and outdoor faculties, including the Armament Technology Facility at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, remotely fired for safety purposes, and recorded with high-speed video. 15 test shots showed no degradation of the system, and rounds met muzzle velocities within 5% of a production M781 round fired from a production grenade launcher.

While widespread adoption of AM/3D-printing processes is still a ways out, the RAMBO project has show that there is validity in these processes for developing weapon systems. If anything else, AM/3D-printing can be used to greatly expedite the production of prototypes, which will be of benefit towards better equipping our warfighters.

Original story: asc.army.mil/web/news-alt-amj17-rambos-premiere

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