Big disclaimer here, it’s not THAT Richard that’s provided the suppressor for review, It’s Mr Rickell. An avid airsofter, UKSF Impression scene member and 3D printing enthusiast. I’ll also take the time now to state that the suppressor was kindly sent my way, at no cost for the purposes of review, but also with zero expectations or promise of an impartial write up.
So with the formalities out of the way, let’s begin. I’ll be covering 3D printing in a bit more detail at some stage, but in regards to this suppressor review I’ll keep it simple, relevant and to the point.
I think it’s fair to say that there’s something of an arms race when it comes to some of the products on the market, and the world of 3D printing is no exception. One person prints a suppressor that looks like a smarties tube, then along comes another guy who adds a fake locking collar and a few bits and pieces… Before long, you’ve got two or three skilled designers all trying to outdo each other in a very niche market.
The nature of 3D printing means that you can build virtually any shape and therefore recreate any item you wish. For the impressionist community it’s an invaluable tool, certainly if much of what you’re looking to recreate simply isn’t available.
The suppressor I’ve got from Richard is one such example of something that’s generally not easy to come by, a reproduction of the Surefire FH556SA but with a 1/2” recess to allow a generic 10.5” barrel (such as on a Tokyo Marui CQBR) to fit flush as if it were on a 10” barrel.
The recess is one of the many things that are possible when making 3D components, another is the incorporation of a hollow chamber to allow a small tracer unit to be fitted within. It’s not something that’s been added to the review sample, but I know that Rich has been experimenting with this very idea.
The suppressor is made from a polymer known as Poly Lactic Acid (PLA), More specifically PLA Plus. This specific polymer is widely used within the 3D printing community as its relatively easy to print (its all relative in the 3D printing world), is capable of forming complex shapes such as threads and mechanical parts, is relatively stable and comes in a wide variety of colours.
There are downsides though, PLA is generally quite brittle. This is overcome by adding certain additives (as in PLA Plus) that make it a more suitable material to work with. Unlike more traditionally injection moulded materials such as ABS or Polythene, PLA can also take on a certain amount of airborne moisture (being Hydroscopic in nature) and is less resistant to heat and UV damage.
So, onto the suppressor in question. Richard has taken the novel step of printing his suppressor upside down. The reason for this being that in the world of 3D printing, everything requires some form of support. In order to build a recessed thread, it’s just far easier to print it upside down than start introducing additional break away supports that can often decrease the quality of a print.
Several details have been faithfully reproduced in Richard’s model, the locking nut, small pressure weld nib and profiled muzzle all appear as close as anything I’ve seen to a real one. However I’m less certain on the markings… I’m not a Surefire expert though, so I wouldn’t know what’s legit and what’s not.
Internally, the suppressor takes the form of a barrel extension. That is to say that there are no baffles and only a straight profile along the inner surface. It’s a little disappointing as I’d have liked to see some internal work, but ultimately I also appreciate that in Airsoft, there’s going to be very few builds that actually benefit from complex to make internal baffles.
Richard has sent me one of the earlier prototypes, which is made using an 80/20 infill ratio (80% material/20% void) this gives the suppressor a degree of bulk and heft but without needlessly wasting material. His more recent ones use around 35% infill which from my own experience in 3D printing is more than enough to offer good integral strength whilst cutting down on the weight.
One of the main post-printing steps is the addition of a quick spell in the oven. This helps with the structural integrity (tests have shown post print heating can yield up to a 40% increase in strength) and helps the individually printed layers bond more effectively. It’s a tricky process though and if not done correctly can lead to warps, loss of fine detail and potentially a stress fracture. I’ve yet to notice any issues with these though, so I’d say that Richard has his settings dialled in.
The other significant post printing step is the sanding of the surfaces, this helps blend the layers into one and can sometimes create a more realistic matt surface that even without painting can look very realistic.
So, are there any negatives? Sure… The sanding does tend to cut down on some of the detailing and wipes out some of the writing, but I’m really clutching at straws here. The printing is consistently well done throughout, the visible flaws and errors are minimal and overall it’s rugged enough to not cause any issues when out and about. Would I drop my gun muzzle first from waist height? No, but it’d probably act as a sacrificial part if you did, and that’s actually exactly what you want from a £30 printed suppressor.
For more information or to order one of Richard’s custom printed designs, follow the link below.