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Is 3D Printing Airsoft Guns a Reality?

By Michael Keller — As an airsoft passionate and a 3D printing aficionado, I can’t complain with regards to the wonderful technological times we’re living. I am at the perfect crossroad between technology and airsoft popularity!

With the technological development that happened in the last decade, 3D printers stopped being the Unicorn of technology and became readily available to domestic users. The prices are just right (and still dropping) and you only need a bit of skill and imagination to print your own crazy ideas.

Speaking of crazy ideas, how about printing your own BB gun and accessories? Actually, the idea is not that new (or crazy) as several ingenious people out there already tried and succeeded.

Pros & Cons
Before I continue talking about how to print your own BB gun, I think it’s important we discuss the implications, both positive and negative. After all, like any new technology that wowed the large public, the opportunity to use a 3D printer comes with both risks and benefits.

Even more, the opportunity to print a weapon, even though it’s just a BB gun, in the comfort of your own home requires a responsible person who understands all the implications.

Pros:

·         Once you have the initial design, you can make as many guns as you want
·         The process is fun and cheap
·         You can manufacture spare parts whenever you want
·         The customization possibilities are limitless
·         You get a better understanding of airsoft weapons’ inner workings

Cons:

·         Homemade BB guns may malfunction if not designed properly
·         You need time and dedication
·         Not all parts can be printed
·         Some people tend to see 3D printed objects as toys, but a BB gun (even a printed one) is dangerous if used without protective gear
·         You need to know how a BB gun works and this requires in-depth study of the concept

As you can see, putting together a BB gun using a 3D printer requires both skill and a considerable time investment. Even as a person who understands how printing works, you must take the time to understand how an airsoft gun works.

How does it work?

When you think about 3D printing, there are two ways to go: buy your own printer or find a local printing service, such as 3D HUB, that will do the printing according to your specifications. I honestly like the hub version since it’s cheaper than buying a printer and taking care of maintenance. Still, this is a personal choice.

The process can be easily divided into three steps, as described below.

#1: The Design
Once you decide which way you’ll print the parts, I recommend talking with an expert in the field. In my case, I talked to Tom from Goog Gun and asked about the inner workings of the gun I wanted to print. This step is important in putting together the design for every piece.

You can also find various designs online and the data base is getting bigger and bigger every day.

#2: Preparing the materials
Once you have the designs, you’ll need to gather the materials. For an airsoft gun (any airsoft gun), I recommend using ABS or PLA filament. ABS is actually used on many guns on the market so you won’t feel the difference. PLA is less resistant but you can use it on less-important pieces.

One reel of ABS filament (about 800g) should be enough to print all the plastic parts. The inner workings are different from one BB gun to another, but for most springers you’ll need springs, a few metal tubes, a piston, an airsoft barrel, and other similar pieces that can easily be found in stores or around the house.

Keep in mind: if you’re trying to print a rifle, some of the parts require a bigger printer which is why the idea of a hub sounds better.

#3: Printing, cleaning, and assembly
The next step is printing and cleaning the parts. I recommend following a certain orientation during printing – this will increase the strength of the piece and prevents layers grabbing between parts.

Once every piece is printed, all you have to do is put everything together according to specifications. Next step is testing the BB gun in the field and bragging to everyone else that this is your own creation!

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