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Surrounding a liquid inside of a har, round gelatin layer sounds difficult. Especially when they are fragile and are expected to break with a little bit of force. How do paintball manufacturers do it: how are paintballs made?
With help from factory staff, paintballs are made on big machines that mix paint, create gelatin capsules, and fill the capsules. The finished paintballs have to dry completely before they can be packaged and distributed so you can pick up a case before your next game.
How Were They Originally Made
The first paintballs were used for marking trees and cattle from a distance. These paintballs were originally made by encapsulating dye in a very thin glass shell. When the paintball hit its target, the glass would break and the dye would mark the target.
The dye that was used was hard to wash off, had a strong odor, and wasn’t the safest. There were a few injuries where rangers and ranchers would cut their hands on broken paintballs. The paintball markers would also jam because the broken paintballs had leaked paint on the good paintballs, and now the paint would stick to the inside of the marker.
Surely there must be a better way…
Curious about how paintball started? Check out the complete beginner’s guide to find out more!
Making paintballs is a multi-step process that can be best explained by showing you a video.
Employees measure and pour the ingredients for the paint in a giant mixing drum. Unlike the original paintballs, paintball paint is now specially formulated to be water-soluble, eco-friendly, and biodegradable. No manufacturer will give up their recipe, but the main ingredients in the paint are calcium, polyethylene glycol (PEG), mineral oils, iodine, and food colouring.
At the same time, the formula for the gelatin capsule is being made. The gelatin shell uses the same technique that the pharmaceutical industry uses for the liquid gel tablets. To get ready to hold the paint, the gelatin is stretched and thinned into small strips.
Encapsulating the paint inside the gelatin shell is a tricky process. It starts by taking the strips of gelatin, running them parallel to each other, and dimpling the gelatin to create a cavity for the paint to sit in. In one quick movement, the paint is filled into these dimples, and the two strips of gelatin are forced together to keep the paint inside.
The encapsulation process doesn’t form perfect circles, so the paintballs have to be tumbled in a drum to round out the paintballs.
The gelatin surrounding the paint has to fully dry, so the factory workers move the paintballs to shelves where they can air dry in a single layer.
After the paintballs have dried, they have to be inspected and tested. They are inspected for uniform shape, and they are tested for weight and diameter. A drop test is done to check the brittleness of the paintballs, and if they don’t break when being dropped, they are too brittle to be sold. Some of the paintballs will even be brought to a testing range, where their overall performance is measured.
Once the paintballs have been inspected, they are ready to be packaged. Paintballs are sold by the case which is supposed to hold 2000 paintballs, but they are packaged by weight. Each case could vary from approximately 1,990 to 2,010 paintballs.
There are a lot of trade secrets when it comes to making a paintball. This results in a variety of sizes, colours, designs, and brands. Before buying a case of paintballs that might not work, you should research the following aspects:
Performance: You will want to choose a paintball that has been tested for good performance. This will mean that all of the paintballs are the same size, uniformly round, and will fly in a straight line.
Reliability: If you can’t rely on your paintballs to be durable and keep their shape, you’re at a huge disadvantage for your next paintball game.
Safety: Check the ingredients to make sure that they are all safe for skin contact. A cheap paintball might be a sign of toxic products, and you wouldn’t want to be hit or hit opponents with something that could cause a reaction.
Environment-friendly: The best paintballs will be made of environmentally-friendly materials. When you play an outdoor game of paintball, you will want to be playing with paint that is biodegradable to protect the trees and wildlife that will take up the space when you leave.
Paintballs are a marvel to watch being made. Many steps are happening at the same time, many tests that need to be done, and what you are left with is a ball of paint surrounded by a gelatin layer that will burst upon impact.
Not all paintballs are created equally, so do some investigating of your own before you purchase your paintballs!