This year I’ve been granted permission to engage with “end-use” industry trade shows or trade shows of adjacent industries that are potentially power users of manufacturing technology! Well, first on the list was none other than the defense industry with SHOT Show. It’s the trade show for the shooting, hunting, and outdoor industry. Held annually by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), SHOT show takes place each January in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the 2023 edition was held on 800,000 net square feet. The show attracted more than 62,000 attendees and 1,600 exhibiting companies from around the globe, even post-COVID. That’s big, and these people know their way around metalworking! Here’s, in my opinion, the coolest thing I saw.
Did You See Anything Worthwhile?
I did! First was a cross-section of a metal additive firearm suppressor or can (or a “silencer” for those with a Hollywood education on guns). Conventional (non-3D printed) suppressors utilize a baffle style to dampen the sharp acoustic spike generated via rapidly expanding gases as the propellant deflagrates. Old-school baffle cans resemble reflective-type mufflers and Helmholtz resonators on ICE vehicles. However, as you’ve annoyingly heard a quintillion times before, “additive promotes more complex geometries,” and what we have here is essentially a rocket engine in reverse. Instead of attempting to abruptly stop over 50,000 psi of hot air in its tracks, this flow-through design allows the gases to expand and slow more gently, without nearly as much back pressure as a baffle system.
A cross-section of a 3D printed suppressor that is essentially a rocket engine in reverse.
The second cool thing I saw was a production version of one of the aforementioned suppressors finished, attached to the weapon’s muzzle (business end), and wrapped with a heat-resistant cover. The weapon is a light machine gun, but it only takes a few rounds for a can to get too toasty to touch. Yes, the weapon is unloaded with its firing pin removed (made inert).
Now I want somebody to print me a lightweight Tesla valve car or bike exhaust out of Inconel, but I’ll have to go to SEMA for that!
Why a Defense Industry Trade Show Though?
This is a common and understandable concern, but please let me try and talk you off your ledge. The fact that a metal AM-produced suppressor won a huge defense contract in 2022 is a huge win for metal additive technology. Technological viability is almost always due to trickle down from defense adoption. Also, the most common disability among U.S. veterans is hearing loss. This could help dial that back.
I’ll be going to a lot more manufacturing industry-adjacent (read: end use) events in the future to see how other industries utilize manufacturing technology! Not just the defense industry, but automotive, audio, cutlery … heck, if you have any suggestions, let me know!
If you have any questions about this information, please contact Stephen at slamarca@AMTonline.org. For more LaMarkable content, stream Seasons One and Two of “Road Trippin’ with Steve” now on IMTS.com/rtws.