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California company claims to create first 3D-printed metal gun

LOS ANGELES--A Californian engineering company says it has produced the first metal gun made on a 3D printer, releasing a video showing the firearm scoring repeated bullseyes in successful tests.

But Solid Concepts, which describes itself as a world leader of 3D printing services, said making the classic 1911 firearm did not come cheap, requiring a lot more than a souped-up desktop printer.

“It functions beautifully,” it said of the gun, in a blog accompanying the video clips. “Our resident gun expert has fired 50 successful rounds and hit a few bull's eyes at over 30 yards (meters).

The gun comprises more than 30 3D-printed components, including stainless steel and other metal parts.

“The whole concept of using a laser sintering process to 3D print a metal gun revolves around proving the reliability, accuracy and usability of 3D metal printing,” said Solid Concepts' vice president Kent Firestone.

“We're working to change people's perspective,” he added from the company's base in Valencia, 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

The 3D printer they use does not come cheap.

“This isn't about desktop printers ... the industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition — and I went to a private university,” said Firestone.

“And the 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 use of 3D printing technology to manufacture weapons is not new. But making them out of metal is.

Earlier this year computer files allowing someone to make a single-shot Liberator gun were downloaded more than 100,000 times from Defense Distributed, an open-source website dedicated to 3D printable gun components.

The State Department, which oversees U.S. weapons exports, ordered the blueprints to be taken off the Internet in May — but by that point, users had already reposted them widely on various file-sharing sites.

But Solid Concepts said its system is legal, claiming that they are the only 3D printing service provider with a Federal Firearms License.

“Now, if a qualifying customer needs a unique gun part in five days, we can deliver,” the company said said.

“We have the right materials, and the right engineers who know how to best program and maintain these machines, to make 3D printing accurate, powerful and here to stay.”

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