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Speeding Up Airsoft Gun Development

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 9:04am
NVision

Soft Air USA used NVision’s laser scanning services to save three months in getting an Airsoft replica of FN Herstal’s FNP9-17 handgun to market. This is a significant time-savings over Soft Air’s previous process, which involved making silicon molds of real guns and using the molds to create injection molds that in turn make the replica Airsoft guns.

Laser scanning saves time because it eliminates the need for manual touchup of the silicon mold and the resulting CAD model of the real gun can then be electronically sent to manufacturers in Asia.

“Airsoft” refers to a specific type of replica gun that shoots lightweight plastic pellets at a muzzle velocity of less than 600 foot per second. The combination of the light projectile and relatively low muzzle velocity means that Airsoft guns are generally considered safe when used with safety equipment such as protective eyeware.

Soft Air USA is a subsidiary of Cybergun S.A., the world’s leading manufacturer of replica Airsoft guns. Soft Air USA has licenses from gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson, Colt, Sig Sauer, IMI (Uzi), Mauser, Thompson, and Kalishnikov.

The FNP-9 is a polymer-framed pistol that weights 25 ounces and has a 16+1 magazine capacity.

“The FNP-9 handgun has never been done as an Airsoft gun in the past,” said John Steele, President of Soft Air USA. “We wanted to make as accurate a reproduction of the gun as is humanly possible.”

In the past, Soft Air has reproduced guns by first making a silicon mold of the actual gun. One problem with this approach was that the gun used as the master was destroyed in the process. Another problem was that the silicon mold typically had many imperfections such as bubbles that needed to be fixed by hand. This process took a considerable period of time. Also, the mold had to be shipped to contract manufacturers in Asia that build the replica guns, which took additional time.

Soft Air contracted with NVision’s Engineering Service division to make a laser scan of the gun. Laser scanning works by projecting a line of laser light onto the surfaces to be measured, while a camera continuously triangulates the changing distance and profile of the laser line as it sweeps along. A computer translates the video image of the line into accurate 3D coordinates of the object’s geometry.

NVision engineers create a point cloud consisting of millions of points and use the scan data to create a parametric solid model. The resulting CAD file is provided to Soft Air USA.

“The digital file produced by NVision duplicates every detail of the original gun with outstanding accuracy,” Steele said. “This eliminates the time that was previously spent in manually correcting the silicon mold. We are also able to send the CAD file electronically to our manufacturing partners, which eliminates shipping time.”

For more information visit www.nvision3d.com.

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