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Thermal Defense Solutions Bantam II Silencer

Many Claim 3D Printing is the Future of Silencers– We Check for Ourselves

The Thermal Defense Solutions (TDS) Bantam II isn’t the first 3D printed Inconel suppressor; it’s not even the first one in 5.56mm. Daniel Defense, Delta P Design, and others have their fingers in this category. What initially made TDS really stand out to us is how they were formed in the first place.

Origins

All of the design work was paid for by American tax dollars at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). To learn what ORNL is all about, one need look no further than the first lines on their homepage:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest U.S. Department of Energy science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.

The initial testing and research was for a Naval Special Warfare program, but ultimately it was decided that the technology developed wasn’t right for the exact project the Navy had in mind. For several years, the plans and patents languished on a shelf.

If the ORNL were what we’d think of as a typical government program, this story would end here. But it doesn’t, because they’re not. They have a commercialization and partnership program, with the goal of taking taxpayer-paid-for technology and getting it out for public use. Keeping good ideas on the shelf benefits no one.

The patent drawings show that these are anything but normal baffles.

TDS was formed with a very small team, but none lacking the required experience to take on such a venture. Rodney Cox, Ed Ellis, and Andrew Edge are the players and partners behind the green curtain. While ORNL owns the patent, TDS currently has the exclusive licensing rights to it. That isn’t to say they made no changes or improvements. Rodney Cox of TDS explained, “We’ve taken the inception of that technology and improved upon it in terms of capability. It’s lighter, quieter, and stronger. Today we’re in the Gen2+ range, with more coming.”

Advantages of 3D Printing

When we’re talking about metal, the production process involves Selective Laser Melting (SLM) additive manufacturing. Essentially this means a small bit of metal powder (Inconel in this case) is carefully added to a working structure and then melted with powerful lasers. Currently, this process is fairly expensive, but there are some advantages aside from just being futuristic.

When manufactured properly, an SLM part will be stronger than any welded part of similar size and density because there are virtually no welds — or you could think of the entire item as one giant weld.

It also allows designers to do things that would either be impossible or prohibitively expensive with traditional fabrication and construction methods. TDS tells us this silencer, with all of the helical veins, could not be machined through traditional means. SLM is usually a fairly slow process, sometimes taking days or weeks for an entire tray of part. However, Andrew Edge from TDS explained that with their current crop of designs they’ve found ways to reduce their print times.

The exterior of the Bantam II, and other TDS silencers as well, is finely textured in order to increase the surface area, therefore enhancing cooling. Other manufacturers would be relegated to special exterior tubes or covers to accomplish the same thing.

How it Works

When a shot is fired through the Bantam II, gases from the first expansion through the mid-bore get pulled out to begin a helical route around the silencer itself. The hot, pre-exhausted gas ends up spiraling toward the front of the suppressor to create an unoxygenated environment, thus aiding in reduction of muzzle flash once the projectile leaves the bore.

Instead of stopping gas completely and creating massive backpressure, the idea is to keep it constantly moving. Because of this, you reach peak heat (or thermal saturation) very quickly compared to silencers of similar densities and of the same material.

A Look Inside

Rather than breaking out the hacksaw or water-jet cutter to see for ourselves, we…

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