Thermal Defense Solutions Factory Tour
I recently had the opportunity to visit Thermal Defense Solutions (a division of Volunteer Aerospace) in Knoxville, Tennessee. Volunteer Aerospace manufactures critical components for the rocket engine for the space shuttle using a super-alloy called Inconel. Inconel is an extremely strong material that can withstand high heat that is used in applications such as car exhaust manifolds and jet turbines.
Inconel is already used by major suppressor manufacturers to make the internal baffles. However, Thermal Defense Solutions is one-upping the game by creating the whole suppressor using Inconel. How can that be done? By using additive manufacturing technique a.k.a. 3D printing.
Inconel are procured in powdered form. Using a state-of-the-art 3D printing machine that is size of a truck that costs $800,000, it spreads a layer of Inconel powder on a plate and they are heated up by industrial grade laser, layer by layer building up to dozen of suppressors at one time. While the initial investment is extremely high, the cost of manufacturing is lower due to less machine time compare to traditional suppressors which requires precision welding of baffles to the body.
Based on their existing knowledge from working in the bleeding-edge aerospace industry, they managed to design suppressors that are lightweight, one-piece, maintenance free and with a starting price of $699. Their suppressors feature an unique bypass-design that it is able to self-clean (as long as you’re using rifle ammunition) using an inner and outer baffle within the unit. Notice the small outer holes on the muzzle end, air goes through the bypass outer baffles and exits out front. Their suppressors are full-auto capable and unlike titanium, Inconel has a higher operating temperature and does not need to be cooled down as frequently as titanium suppressors.
As of the time of this writing, their suppressors are direct attach only. There are plans to introduce quick detach mounts in the future that is licensed through an existing design, so it will be cross-compatible with other brands of muzzle devices as supposed to their own.
These guys are extremely knowledgeable at their job. There were a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that I still am trying to understand as I am not an engineer.
There’s currently more demand than supply as they’re working to fulfill orders and further streamline production to increase the rate of production. They have actually only started selling their suppressors in March 2018 (but the 5″ suppressor called the Specter took 4 years to develop) and they have not put any serious effort in advertising.
In addition to suppressors, they are looking into manufacturing other products such as 3D print Glock slides, cool looking AR15 buffers, etc.
Thermal Defense Solutions definitely have a bright future ahead of them and we will keep a close eye on what they’re working on next.