Something small: In recent years, 3D printed firearms have attracted controversy over their relatively new manufacturing technology. Some groups are now designing 3D printed weapons capable of firing explosive payloads. This new class of weapon appears to be in its infancy but could evolve into something more practical and dangerous.
A recent report from Vice Highlights Many people and groups are trying to use 3D printing to make cheap and effective rocket launchers and grenades. So far, the designs have not caught on, much less appearing in conflict zones, but they are steadily progressing.
A company called D&S Creations recently posted a video on YouTube showing their attempts to recreate the AT-4 recoilless anti-tank missile launcher. Designers have managed to 3D-print explosive rounds capable of neutralizing a tank but are a long way from getting a 3D-printed launcher to fire it accurately and safely.
Initial tests required a wire to be attached to the launcher to guide the missile toward its target, and even that didn’t stop it from flying in random directions. Furthermore, the designers had to operate the launcher remotely out of safety concerns, which proved to be well-founded when it detonated during one of the trials.
However, D&S told Vice that it has a working anti-tank grenade design that it could theoretically use with a drone. One team member suggests that governments could use them for cheaper munitions or help the Ukrainian military fight off the Russian invasion.
However, unlike some groups that publish blueprints for 3D-printed weapons, D&S does not plan to release all of its work publicly. The group’s tests used munitions that fell within legal ATF regulations, and core design components will remain proprietary.
Another hobbyist has tried 3D printing multiple designs of rocket launchers, including the M202 FLASH, made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1985 movie Commando. A YouTube video shows the M202 knockoff finally achieving a reasonable degree of range and accuracy, but the designer kept his ammo load within legal limits.
There is some concern that 3D-printed anti-armor weapons could end up in war zones or in the hands of criminals, but it appears that this has not happened yet. Violent Mexican cartels have used homemade grenade launchers and armed drones, but the ATF has yet to find a 3D printer in any of its secret factories. 3D-printed firearms have appeared in the hands of Myanmar rebel fighters, but so far, no usable rocket launchers have been found.
Meanwhile, Relativity Space is still trying to launch a space rocket made primarily of 3D printed materials. To date, the Terran 1 missile has been fired twice Delay. A successful launch could lead to faster and cheaper deployment of future spacecraft.