It’s interesting to think about how 3D printing could impact the airsoft world, especially when you consider that 3D printing is now more advanced than when it was popularised in 2011. It has been utilised in many different ways, one of which was for military use when creating concrete barracks for the Marines. This was a huge time-saver, with the project being printed in only two days and serving as a base capable of resisting enemy fire. Particularly impressive when compared to the self-built options by the Marines, which can take substantially longer, require a lot more manpower and are typically made from materials that can’t compare to the concrete 3D printed alternative.
3D printing has also already been seen within the airsoft community, with 3D printable attachments available for download online and even 3D airsoft guns being developed for print! With that said, the printable air guns available currently aren’t particularly accurate or powerful in comparison to the options you will find in the main market.
Despite the 3D printable airsoft guns not entirely being up-to-scratch just yet; can the same be said for 3D printable airsoft weapon attachments? There’s already a community based around this premise, with people uploading their air gun accessories to the web, ready for you to print and try with your arsenal! This is a great way to put into practice the ideas and concepts that you have but can’t find on the market. Plus, instead of making prototypes for ideas you have by hand - which may not function very well and take weeks or maybe even months to create; you can design your plans to the correct dimensions and print within a couple of days. However, this timeframe will vary drastically based on design time and size of the print. It’s also important to note; printing accessories as an alternative to buying existing products off the shelf can be significantly more expensive.
However, while put simply in writing, 3D designing (required if you want to create your pieces) is an art that takes some considerable time to master. With complicated designing software, the entry level at this moment in time may take a while to harness and could mean that you’d have to invest a lot of time and effort to be capable of creating anything that works well with your gear.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. How many times have you thought up ideas for air gun parts or accessories that you wanted to create? Now, imagine how awesome it would be to design, perfect and print your creation? Alternatively, with accessories available online already, you don’t need to be able to develop the pieces yourself, you just need to know where to look for other people’s creations - and a 3D printer. Who knows, maybe you already know someone who is into 3D printing that could create and print your ideas?
What about the printers themselves? Well, they’re pretty expensive! There are more cost-conscious options available if you’re looking, but these printers may not be capable of printing what you require without extensive tinkering. Those that are great low-cost printers typically get popular really fast, meaning some of the manufacturers can’t keep up with their quality assurance, resulting in poor end products, failed prints and a whole lot of wasted time and money. Though, on the bright side, there is plenty of free software to help you design your parts and make the files ready to print, just sometimes lacking a few of the more luxurious features of their paid for brethren!
Okay, so maybe 3D printing today isn’t quite as accessible as we would like it to be for the airsoft world. But surely we can agree the idea of it is incredible, and more often the case with new technology– as time passes, the quality gets better, cheaper options become available without being naff, the learning curve to use them becomes easier, and with all of that, thriving communities can be established. All of which could lead to a bright future for 3D printing and the airsoft community.
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