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3D printing used to make first real handheld railgun, which fires plasma projectiles at 560 mph

Zach Epstein
October 19th, 2015 at 9:43 AM
Handheld Railgun Video

If you think the image above looks frightening, you’re right. The crazy contraption pictured in the image is the first portable railgun, a futuristic projectile launcher associated most commonly with the military or NASA. The man in the image above isn’t in the military, and he’s not a NASA engineer. Instead, he’s a civilian who used some engineering smarts, some widely available parts and a 3D printer to create a functioning weapon that can fire graphite, aluminum, tungsten and even plasma projectiles at speeds of more than 560 mph.

And then there’s the best part: There are videos of this homemade railgun in action.

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Little is known about Imgur user “NSA_Listbot” beyond the fact that he’s just short of being a wizard with AutoCAD and a 3D printer. The man took to Imgur over the weekend to share what may very well be one of the most amazing and terrifying DIY projects that has even been attempted. And he didn’t just attempt it, he built it.

Using a combination of 3D printing and widely available components, the man built a functioning handheld railgun that houses six capacitors and delivers more than 1.8 kilojoules of energy per shot. What does it shoot, you might be wondering? So far he has tested the gun using metal rods made of graphite, aluminum and copper-coated tungsten, like the ones pictured below.

It can also fire carbon projectiles and teflon/plasma rods. That’s right, this guy built a plasma gun.

The portable device works just like a full-size railgun, using electromagnetic technology to fire projectiles. But it’s important to note that this portable railgun isn’t quite as lethal as a military-grade railgun. While 560 mph projectiles can certainly do some damage, a military railgun can accelerate a projectile to speeds exceeding 13,000 mph in just 0.2 seconds.

Here’s a video of the man test firing a graphite rod at an aluminum-backed plywood target:

And here’s a second video of an aluminum rod being test fired:

The latter reached its target and the impact can be seen, while the former “probably just vaporized” before reaching the plywood.

A few more images of the incredible project follow below, and the full gallery is linked down in our source section.

Post updated to correct an error that stated the gun is capable of 3,000 kilojoules of energy per shot. The correct figure is 1.8 kilojoules.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.




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