RAMBO: 3D-Printed 40mm Grenade Launcher Fires 3D-Printed Ammo

Meet RAMBO, the 3D-printed grenade launcher. (Photo: Sunny Burns/ARDEC)

The Army’s ARDEC team has taken 3D printing to the next level by printing not only grenade launcher components but also actual working 3D-printed grenades. This isn’t necessarily for use in the field but it will help them design and test grenade systems using advanced rapid prototype equipment.

The team also gave it a pretty kick-ass name. It’s the RAMBO, or Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance system.

The RAMBO was developed with the help of military and 3D printing experts. ARDEC, or the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, collaborated with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program and America Makes.

Even the ammo was 3D printed. (Photo: Sunny Burns/ARDEC)

America Makes is the national additive manufacturing innovation institute, focusing on improving and expanding 3D printing technology in private and public sectors.

“RAMBO is a tangible testament to the utility and maturation of additive manufacturing,” said the Army in an announcement. “It epitomizes a new era of rapidly developed, testable prototypes that will accelerate the rate at which researchers’ advancements are incorporated into fieldable weapons that further enable our warfighters.”

Nearly every part in the launcher was produced using a variety of 3D printing systems. “Every component in the M203A1 grenade launcher, except springs and fasteners, was produced using additive manufacturing techniques and processes.”

“The barrel and receiver were fabricated in aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process. This process uses high-powered precision lasers to heat the particles of powder below their melting point, essentially welding the fine metal powder layer by layer until a finished object is formed.”

Developers printed the barrel vertically with 3D-printed rifling. Parts were minimally machined to remove support material, then tumbled and finished.

“Other components, like the trigger and firing pin, were printed in 4340 alloy steel, which matches the material of the traditional production parts.”

See Also: Instructor Zero completes Rambo shooting challenge!

Over 90 percent of the parts were printed. Some parts, like springs, must be manufactured conventionally. (Photo: Sunny Burns/ARDEC)

The point of the project wasn’t to build a better or cheaper grenade launcher. It was to demonstrate that 3D printing is mature enough today to make complete weapon systems.

This isn’t the first time people have successfully produced this tier of 3D-printed assemblage. Solid Concept has 3D printed several 1911-pattern pistols in .45 ACP and 10mm Auto as early as 2013.

Using these rapid prototyping the military researchers can now go from weapons design to testing in a matter of days.

The team also printed the grenade but it was a non-explosive training round. The only outside component of the training round was a commercial handgun cartridge used to launch the grenade.

Their next step will be to 3D-print functioning ammunition. “Research and development is underway at ARDEC to print energetics and propellants,” said the release.

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. Like Thomas Paine, he’s a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

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  • loupgarous November 18, 2017, 9:35 am

    In an odd coincidence, I found out yesterday that our local public library just got a 3-D printer. For $1 per fifteen grams of plastic, you can make anything you can design on CAD software. Not, of course, in laser-sintered metal. But original blanks for casting items be reproduced in the lost wax process are plausible. So are things like fingered hollow plastic sabots to hold subcaliber bullets (like Remington’s “Accelerator” series of .224 metal bullets loaded inside in 30-06. .308 and .30-30 fingered plastic sabots) for handloaders. Conceivably, you could experiment with things such as sabots to carry multiple bullets, polymer bullets to carry shot or other nontraditional loads… an ingenious handloader could do all sorts of things.

  • texasradio March 20, 2017, 5:27 pm

    The left is going to go insane with this……

    • loupgarous November 18, 2017, 9:00 am

      That’d be a short, short trip in a fast, fast car/

  • Rich K. March 17, 2017, 9:48 am

    Too bad this wouldn’t work in ABS plastic. Then we could print ’em at home and render the NFA almost totally unenforceable!

    • Mike March 17, 2017, 10:30 am

      But THEN you would have to acknowledge all the Evil People, Like ISIS would also have that came capability if they had the equipment and knowledge how to produce their own weapons… What Then ???

      • jon March 17, 2017, 11:07 am


        • Agustin L Gonzalez March 18, 2017, 1:28 pm

          And the Americans’ weapons are also for ISIS. The CIA created them to push Syria and build the Oleoduct. Everybody has weapons but us, the Law abiding citizens so we can’t rebel or defend ourselves because the Globalist want absolute power.

      • Oldefarte March 17, 2017, 11:42 am

        “If we keep this technology away from Middle Class Americans, our enemies in Al Qaeda and ISIS, supported by lavish Saudi cash contributions and North Korean technical and material assistance, won’t be able to use it against us…” Really? REALLY? Why am I having a hard time swallowing that one? The only thing keeping this away from Middle Class Americans will do is to… keep it away from Middle Class Americans. It’s the same argument used for gun control: “If we forbid law abiding citizens from owning firearms, then criminals will HAVE to give up their guns too…” When I was a kid, I was told to eat my vegetables because “Children are starving in China” (my, how times change). My retort (okay, I was a smart alec kid) was “Name one”. Same thing here. I will accept your argument, Mike, just as soon as you give me the name of a single, active criminal who turned in his guns because they weren’t legal for him to own.

      • iman March 18, 2017, 4:06 am

        Weapons is not one of
        ISIS problems because we sell them all they need

      • George March 18, 2017, 1:26 pm

        Sad to see people buying into the concept of banning items because they might be abused by others. I’m a cop but I don’t want to ban your F150 because I arrested another guy for driving drunk in one the other night. Same concept people.

      • Dkoc1966 August 22, 2021, 7:20 am

        Do you think ISIS or any other terrorist group are all uneducated sheep herders gone bad as if they are dumber than some 14 yr old tech kid who can 3d print a glock or ar lower and other parts? Do you think you’re smarter than say.the wholes who managed to devise a plan to hijack 3 big ass jets, make it onto the planes with box cutters and take them over and fly into a few sky scrapers. They already have the capability to 3d print firearms. To think they dont is ignorant.

    • Paul Walton March 17, 2017, 3:40 pm

      Come On Rich! You know darn well, they’ll just make us register our printers!

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