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The U.S. Army Introduces RAMBO, A 3D-Printed Grenade Launcher

ARDEC RAMBO 3D-Printed Grenade Launcher

Last March 1, 2017, Mr. Seung kook “Sunny” Burns and Mr. James Zunino, wrote on the United States Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) website, about the details of the Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance or RAMBO, which was the result of six months of collaboration by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program and America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

For its long name, RAMBO can be basically a 3D Printed Grenade Launcher. Taking advantage of the rapid prototyping as well as 3D printing being readily available to product parts, the research looked into developing weapons using additive manufacturing (AM), if it is a mature enough to use in making complete weapons systems.

Similar to the M203 grenade launcher, the RAMBO is comprised of 50 parts, with most of these can produced using a 3D Printer, with the exception of springs and fasteners. The barrel and receiver were produced with aluminum using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process that uses high powered lasers that heat up powders below melting point, wielding them layer by layer until the desired object has been finished. The launcher barrel 3D printed vertically with the rifling while the trigger and firing pin were printed using 4340 alloy steel.

It took 70 hours to make RAMBO, which probably is not enough time in a real frontline situation where everything is demanded to be delivered immediately. Old fashioned or high-tech logistic work could probably put an M203 into the hands of a soldier faster than with 3D printing at the pace RAMBO was made.

What the purpose of the project is not about replacing the standard issue grenade launcher, but to test the maturity of AM if it can help weapons developers prototype weapons designs faster. In this case AM does help in the doing the prototyping work in a matter of days rather than months according to the authors of the research. With the RAMBO, the researchers conducted a live fire test at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey last October and were able to fire 15 shots with no signs of degradation and the muzzle velocity just within 5% of the standard issue launcher.

Well, it’s another development in 3D printing where we see that products get developed faster. Even in airsoft, 3D printing is becoming a valuable tool to design and create products for the airsoft market. What worries authorities about unregulated use of 3D printing in weapons development could lead to untraceable weapons and being able to create a 3D-printed grenade launcher adds to a more destructive element to it.


All photos here are U.S. Army photos by Sunny Burns, ARDEC.