Metal Additive Manufacturing: Cost Competitive Beyond Low Volumes
86 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2016 Last revised: 9 Dec 2016
Date Written: July 1, 2016
Additive manufacturing is increasingly of interest for commercial and military applications due to its potential to create novel geometries with increased performance. For additive manufacturing to find commercial application, it must be cost competitive against traditional processes such as forging. Forecasting the production costs of future products prior to large-scale investment is challenging due to the limits of traditional cost accounting’s ability to handle both the systemic process implications of new technologies and cognitive biases in humans’ additive and systemic estimates. Leveraging a method uniquely suited to these challenges, we quantify the production and use economics of an additively-manufactured versus a traditionally forged GE engine bracket of equivalent performance for commercial aviation. Our results show that, despite the simplicity of the engine bracket, when taking into account part redesign for AM and the associated lifetime fuel savings of the additively-designed bracket, the additively manufactured part and design is cheaper than the forged one for a wide range of scenarios, including at higher volumes of 2,000 to 12,000 brackets per year. Opportunities to further reduce costs include accessing lower material prices without compromising quality, producing vertical builds with equivalent performance to horizontal builds, and increasing process control so as to enable reduced testing. Given the conservative nature of our assumptions as well as our choice of part, these results suggest there may be broader economic viability for additively manufactured parts, especially when systemic factors and use costs are incorporated.
Keywords: additive manufacturing, process based cost modeling, metal alloys, aerospace, forging
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