Made memorable by that showdown in Crysis and Quake and various other works of fiction, railgun recently made their way into the real world when the U.S. Navy showed off a prototype near the start of this year. Now, thanks to power of addictive manufacturing, railguns are available to DIYers and hobbyists.
For the uninitiated, railguns are weapons that use electromagnetic propulsion to blast projectiles at whatever their barrels are pointing at.
The U.S. Navy is actually known to have been testing railguns as early as 2008, but it was this past January that the government's war fighters shared demonstrations of a working prototype with the general public.
Now a DIYer just demonstrated a man-portable railgun, which he 3D printed, and it is not a joke. Someone, known only as NSA_Listbost on Reddit and Imgur, has created a railgun that can blast projectiles at speeds of up to 559 miles per hour.
"The railgun is capable of firing copper plated tungsten, aluminum, carbon and teflon/plasma," says NSA_Listbot.
That's not as quick as a typical bullet shot from a handgun, but that speed is plenty fast enough to bore holes in a lot of different things. Though composed of 3D printed parts, the railgun design isn't something most people can pick up and run with.
"The railgun's electronics are based around an Arduino Uno R3 [circuit board] which monitors the capacitor voltage, amperage, temperature and battery voltage to ensure even charging and operation," says NSA_Listbot.
Even the genius that put this thing together ran into some problems. However, those were resolved and it appears the railgun is ready for whatever.
"After the first test, the pressure broke a steel bolt in the injector and a piece of weak 3d-printed PLA which held the bolt in place. A new polycarbonate injector piece and nylon bolt plate were printed and the problem never happened again."
Check out NSA_Listbot's Imgur post for step-by-step details on the construction of this railgun, especially if you want to be prepared for bug-eyed people who putter about in saucer-like aircraft: