3D printed grenade launcher: U.S. Army RAMBO

08 Mar

3D printed grenade launcher: U.S. Army RAMBO

The researchers at U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center have fire tested the 3D printed grenade launcher – popularly known as RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance).

Hike in Expenditure of Defense

Being the president of USA, the first budget by Donald Trump will definitely propose an enormous hike in expenditure of defense. Likely to be the biggest casualty, it is not only stated that an extra $54 billion with foreign aid will be propelled into the military but arts funding will also be cut significantly.

Sylvester Stallone Declined the Proposal

Without giving a second thought Sylvester Stallone – the actor who played the headband wearing war hero Rambo declined to the proposal that was offered by Trump of taking a senior arts role in his administration around the Christmas time. Due to this reason the few extra million of the arts budget were being made siphoned to the military.

Along with its inflated department of defense, the president’s commitment to defense spending may yet procure his government with not an Italian-American war veteran but with a new kind of 3D printed grenade launcher.

According to the Research

The researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center were busy developing a new 3D printed weapon called RAMBO even long before the budget was being announced. Paving the way for a new era of 3D printed weaponry, the 3D printed grenade launcher has been now been successfully tested.

technology, the3D printed grenade launcher was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program and America Makes – the national accelerator for additive manufacturing.

Besides its springs and fasteners, each and every part of the M203A1 grenade launcher was produced using a 3D printer.

The3D printing research was being made with a purpose to determine whether weapons and munitions could be made using additive manufacturing processes and will they effectively fire or not. This research was not only done in order to save money.

Being the aluminum receiver and barrel of the 3D printer, the grenade launcher RAMBO still requires tumbling and machining after being printed. With faster speed manufacturing process, this process could even allow the military to supply soldiers with modifications and fixes for their weapons in just hours or days.

Post-Processing Stage

With a further five hours needed for machining, the barrel and receiver of the RAMBO grenade launchers took near about 70 hours to 3D print. The post-processing stage not only involves the barrel being tumbled in an abrasive rock bath but also involves the Type III hard-coat anodizing.


As quoted by the researchers, the cost which was used to 3D print the RAMBO grenade launcher was around $100 per pound. Though there was no scrap material being wasted and no staff required to man the 3D printer therefore the labor and money that was being saved with the process was quite significant even if cost-cutting remains a lower priority than ensuring high functionality.

The researchers even attempted to 3D print a munitions, a M781 40 mm training round in addition to 3D printing the grenade launcher. Furthermore, the 3D printing was not only used to create the windshield, projectile body and cartridge case with selective laser sintering but was also used to print the glass-filled nylon cartridge cases and windshields.

After being remotely fired for safety reasons the 3D printed grenade launchers and munitions did not show any signs of degradation on the barrel. Moreover, the velocities rounds were achieved within 5% of those achieved with production-grade M781 rounds shot from a production-grade grenade launcher.

The researchers further landed up by demonstrating how useful can be the 3D printing for rapidly amending a design. Even it came into noticed that while testing some cartridge cases of the 3D printed munitions were been cracked out which was further being modified and re-printed.

Seen first at the 2016 Defense Manufacturing Conference, the successful testing of RAMBO grenade launcher and 3D printed munitions portrays great promise for defense-focused additive manufacturing although 3D printed weaponry is unlikely to find its way into soldiers’ hands in the immediate future.

Rife since 2008, the rumors of a fifth Rambo movie has been tentatively titled as the Last Blood.

Image Credit: US Army

Chris Joel (Author)

3D printed grenade launcher: U.S. Army RAMBO
Chris Joel is a writer at 3D Printers Online Store. Hailing from South London, he has a degree in English Literature. His interests include the application of 3D printing technology to art and its popularization.