4 Ways Metal 3D Printed Parts Fit Into the Firearms Manufacturing Supply Chain

Metal 3D Printing firearms supply chain procurement
How metal 3D printing fits in the firearms manufacturing supply chain

More firearms manufacturers realize that additive manufacturing is on target for their supplier sourcing strategies. How? Essentially, they’re banking on reducing costs by collapsing their manufacturing supply chain.


The internet was blown away a few years back with the historic announcement of the world’s first 3D-printed gun (the classic 1911 .45), leaving many firearms manufacturers and gun accessories producers wondering how (or if) metal additive manufacturing (AM) was going to affect their production models and procurement procedures.

At the nexus of operational management and exciting technologies like metal 3D printing lies the supply chain manager. They need solid information about new technologies and “process improvements” before making recommendations.

Here are four considerations to help your procurement and supply chain team assess how metal AM can make a positive impact on the bottom line.

1. Simplified Logistics and Warehousing

Printing parts on demand and reducing the need for warehousing inventory. In fact, tomorrow’s warehouse will be digital, with CAD files at the ready for on-demand parts printing. Metal AM can keep firearms manufacturers in control of their entire product line and production queue  –  even if their parts suppliers go under.

Need a case study to gauge if this trend is gaining traction in the real world? How about the the U.S. Marine Corps.

Known for their “first in, last out” military operations around the globe, the Marines can experience long-term deployments far removed from a stable supply chain. Eventually parts in the field break, and resupplying one-off replacement components can be a logistical nightmare.

Instead of waiting around for the paperwork to land in the right warehouse, the Marines are adding 3D printing maker’s labs to their arsenal. No more waiting for the convoy. No more extra (or incorrect) parts. Field units get the right parts at the right time.

Unlike the Marines, small- and mid-sized firearms manufacturers don’t have a sizeable tax base to fund their equipment and staffing costs. That means they are loathe to invest in 3D metal printing technologies that will continue to evolve  –  and rapidly  –  over the next few years. Outsourced additive manufacturing providers are the right choice for companies who want the benefits of metal AM without increasing the cost of their infrastructure.

2. Rapid Prototyping for Firearms Design Modifications

With an increasing number of powder metals available, firearms manufacturers can create and test their parts in a variety of metals within days, not weeks. Or if a brilliant designer wants to test a modification that decreases gun weight or kickback, they can produce the new components quickly and inexpensively.

In fact, a recent PwC survey showed that about one-third of the surveyed industrial manufacturers said they already use 3D prototype printing while almost another third were “experimenting” to see how they can benefit from using industrial 3D print manufacturing for custom part builds or even for finished metal parts.

Prototyping also allows manufacturers to dip their toes in the metal AM pool before committing to full-scale production of finished pieces.

3. Metal AM Ideal for Firearms Components Design Complexity

Yes, metal additive manufacturing can reduce your inventory and lead time for production, but can it take your parts design to the next level? Consider the garden-variety noise suppressor (aka “silencer”).

A 2017 Smartech Markets report stated that the powder-bed method of metal additive manufacturing is particularly suited to meet increasing demand for firearms silencers, which contain “complex internal geometries in the silencer baffles, which are designed to slow and control gases escaping the barrel…a superior control of gaseous expansion can be achieved, while also optimizing weight without added machining time.”

3DEO's process is unique in that we are able to avoid design limitations presented in CNC milling. Our bulk sintering process produces finished parts with isotropic properties in the X, Y, and Z directions for engineered stability. In fact each part adheres to quality MPIF Standard 35  –  a first in metal additive manufacturing – while producing the cleanest surface finish in metal 3D printing.

Metal additive manufacturing’s sweet spot is where complexity meets low- to mid-volume runs. This is ideal for firearms manufacturers who want to increase production volume while reducing cost per part. Speaking of which...

4. Reduced Cost Per Part for Gun Components and Accessories

In conventional outsourced CNC milling, firearms manufacturers pay a premium to have their parts manufacturers set up for custom projects. Manufacturers often feel compelled to bulk up their order to achieve volume discounts in order to bring down the price-per-part on paper and make it “worth their while”.  But this is false economy.

3DEO’s metal 3D printing technology offers firearms manufacturers on-demand complex design and reduced lead time for high quality, integrated parts.

You can order what you need when you need it. No need to inventory your “volume savings” and take up valuable warehouse space. Plus, you don’t pay shipping charges for the parts that would otherwise be “mothballed” until needed.

Because 3DEO’s Intelligent Layering® metal AM technology uses material efficiently and doesn’t require minimum volume or setup charges, we can reduce the final part cost by as much as 80%.


If you’re ready to see how 3DEO 3D printing service fits your firearms manufacturing process, contact us.