3D Printed Suppressors: The Newest Silencer Technology
Direct metal laser sintering is a new cutting-edge technology manufacturers use to produce high-end silencers.
Initially developed for use in the automotive, aerospace, and medical industries, DMLS has found merit in silencer production.
DMLS (3D printing) is much different than the desktop filament 3D printers you might be familiar with. Instead of extruding hot plastic and allowing it to cool to bond together, DMLS printing uses high-powered lasers to weld fine metal powder together in thin layers.
This style of additive manufacturing has allowed silencer manufacturers to build incredibly high-performing silencers that are also extremely durable without compromising weight.
How to 3D Print Suppressors
The process for 3D printing a suppressor is very advanced.
First, a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) drawing is created. The drawing is a model of the final suppressor.
Then, the DMLS machine lays out a thin layer of ultra-fine metal powder. The metal powder is smaller than grains of sand. The powder is laser welded together, creating the first layer of the suppressor. This process repeats, layer by layer, until the suppressor is complete.
The layering process allows DMLS printers to be incredibly accurate. The layers can be as thin as 0.0008", resulting in extremely tight tolerances.
Once the suppressor is complete, it goes through a few machining processes to make it ready to send to customers, including:
Threading the base for your favorite QD system.
Trueing the bore with a wire EDM.
Performance and Longevity of 3D Printed Suppressors
3D printing allows for silencer designs that were previously impossible.
Traditional subtractive manufacturing cannot build the complex structures in many DMLS silencers today. We have seen a boom in suppressor performance because of the freedom and ability to reimagine how a silencer baffle can work. 3D-printed silencers can take advantage of more volume within the silencer and direct gas in new and unique ways. Leading to many suppressor improvements:
Better sound suppression.
Lower back pressure (compared to traditionally manufactured models).
3D printing also creates exceptionally strong suppressors. The fine powder and the accurate laser create one continuous structure.
Evan Miller, Sig Sauer's silencer designer, explained that the welds on a suppressor are often the strongest point. With DMLS, the entire silencer is welded together, thus boosting durability by eliminating stress points.
This makes printed silencers stronger than CNC cans, even when using the same material.
Miller continued, "DMLS allows us to build silencers without compromises. They can be quiet, strong, light, and expose the shooter to less gas."
Metal Alloys: A Key Factor in Suppressor Design
DMLS printing uses materials that are traditionally difficult to machine or expensive to use, primarily Inconel and titanium.
Inconel is a durable metal and does not get softer as it heats up. This makes it an excellent material for suppressors, as it has incredible wear characteristics and durability. However, this makes it very difficult to machine.
Generally, we see Inconel used sparingly for this reason, often only used in the blast baffle of a suppressor.
DMLS bypasses the difficulty of machining, allowing manufacturers to build 100% Inconel silencers. These suppressors are rugged enough for anything you throw at them -- from long days at the range to machine gun burn-downs.
Titanium is also great for silencer designs because of its strength and lightweight. While titanium is already very strong, DMLS manufacturing makes it even more durable.
DMLS silencers can be printed thinner, and the monolithic structure increases their strength. That means you get a lighter, stronger silencer than a traditional suppressor design.
Silencers using this technology are pushing the limits of suppressor performance.
DMLS-manufactured suppressors allow silencer designers to build incredibly quiet cans and use complex geometry to reduce back pressure, meaning:
No ringing in your ears.
No toxic gas in your face.
No need to tune your guns to run suppressed.
These silencers achieve impressive sound and back-pressure reduction without sacrificing weight or durability.
The accuracy DMLS machines achieve means that 3D-printed silencers are incredibly consistent. There are no tolerance stacking issues as the entire silencer is made in a single process.
Traditional CNC manufacturing sends the average suppressor through 7-8 processes; each step in the assembly line adds the possibility of a tolerance issue.
These tight tolerances and lack of machining errors mean it is almost impossible to have a failure, such as a baffle strike, as long as your host has a properly threaded barrel. These precisely built cans will stay running and keep you on the range.
The Future of Suppressor Technology
It's clear that 3D printing tech is likely to transform the making of suppressors.
The ability to design things without limitations previously imposed by CNC mills and lathes will open up the possibilities for suppressor design and likely push performance further than previously thought possible.
We have already seen a trend of low back-pressure models rising to the top. These high-flow rate silencers are only possible because of the level of accuracy and the ability to build internal flow paths, series of channels, and tubes inside of the silencer that only DMLS can create.
A common advantage expressed by multiple manufacturers was the ability to prototype new models rapidly.
Now, companies can quickly design and print as many iterations of silencers as they like to hone in on the performance they're looking for perfectly.
The ability to test multiple designs means you will get the best version of suppressors available.
We asked Max Miller of HUXWRX how he thought DMLS would change silencer design over the next few years, and he said:
"I'm most excited about the materials that will be possible. There are certain superalloys that are difficult or prohibitive to machine but could be DMLS printed. That would allow us to make suppressors even stronger and lighter than they are now. I think weight and size can still be optimized."
3D Printed Suppressor FAQs
Is it legal to 3D print a suppressor?
Yes, 3D-printed silencers are perfectly legal. DMLS printed suppressors are becoming more common in the market and are in compliance with the NFA.
Who makes 3D-printed suppressors?
Many of the top brands, such as CGS, Dead Air, HUXWRX, Sig Sauer, SureFire, and PWS, are making 3D-printed silencers.
Can 3D Printed silencers be repaired?
Yes, 3D-printed suppressors can be repaired by cutting off the damaged section and then welding a new section back to the base. While failures are extremely unlikely on these models, they can be fixed if needed.
DMLS may be the most significant innovation in the silencer industry over the last century, and that is not an exaggeration.
This tech allows suppressor manufacturers to build silencers that push the boundaries of silencer performance to provide the absolute best products for consumers.
3D printing is eliminating the need to compromise when choosing a suppressor. Newly designed 3D-printed suppressors achieve top-tier sound suppression, remarkable back-pressure reduction, and full-auto rating while maintaining their lightweight.
With 3D-printed silencers, you can have your cake and eat it, too; these units are really able to do it all.