|December 9, 2016
J. Manuf. Sci. Eng
, (2016); doi: 10.1115/1.4035420
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 will have to 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 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 for commercial aviation with equivalent performance. 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 cheaper material prices without compromising quality, being able to produce 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.