Valencia-based company Solid Concepts is making breakthroughs in the world of 3-D printing, a fast-growing industry that is changing the face of manufacturing.
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At their Austin, Texas facility, Solid Concepts recently created a metal gun assembled only from printed parts.
Using a process called laser sintering that prints with powdered metals, each part of the 1911-style gun was printed separately and built by hand.
This breakthrough is not the stuff of science fiction, but the result of decades of development by Solid Concepts.
Though 3-D printing has recently caught public attention, the technology has been around for years, according to Solid Concepts’ Vice President of Marketing Scott McGowan.
“Our company was founded in 1991, and we’ve been 3-D printing all that time,” he said.
At both their Austin facility and Valencia headquarters, Solid Concepts prints parts for companies in the aerospace, special effects, sporting goods and electronics industries, among others.
McGowan said that at first the company printed prototypes and concept models, but as technology improved they were able to produce parts “used for real life applications.”
Solid Concepts decided to print a gun after receiving a Federal Firearms License, but they are not interested in selling firearms so much as proving what 3-D printing can do.
McGowan described the company as a “manufacturer that supports other people manufacturing things.”
Thus they expect to provide the complex, detailed parts needed by firearms manufacturers.
Yet, because of the interest this breakthrough has sparked, McGowan said that Solid Concepts may decide to print whole guns for customers in the future.
McGown cautioned that even with new and developing technology, it will be a long time before this kind of 3-D metal printing is available to the layman.
The printing machines alone start at $400,000 and require an industrial facility to operate.
But the industry has come a long way since 1991.
“The challenges that the industry has to overcome and the types of material and the speed of the equipment,” McGowan said. “We’ve seen those improve over time.”
“I see a very bright future for 3-D printing,” he said.
Solid Concepts also has facilities in San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. and Detroit, Mich. For more information or to learn about the services they offer, visit their website or call 661-295-4400.
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Source: Santa Clarita News