Aerospace AM Economics: Printing

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On December 12, 2017, Posted by , In Aerospace, With No Comments

This post is Part 2 in Addaero’s series on the Economics of Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace Production.  If you missed Part 1 of this series, which focused on Material Economics, you can read it here.


Whether a part is in initial qualifications or under a production cycle, in most cases, the largest contributor to the total cost of an additive manufacturing (AM) component is the printing.  What is not often understood is what are the drivers that make this the case.  Part 2 of this series will breakdown the primary inputs of the printing cost:

Setup:  Setting up an additive manufacturing machine for aerospace applications can often take longer than rapid prototyping.  At a minimum, the setup process requires removing the previous build and prepping the machine for the next.  The time this takes varies based on AM equipment but ranges from 1-4 hours depending on what is required.  So why does it take so long?

Machine setup time vs. the total build time. As builds become longer the machine setup time (orange) becomes more negligible.

At Addaero we strive to keep our equipment in like new condition to drive consistency for every build. This requires the operator to go beyond the minimum machine setup by implementing quicker maintenance cycles for the AM equipment.  The chart to the right breaks down the effect of machine setup on the overall cost of printing. The setup factor is dependent on the build length; for a 100 hour build it is a small portion of the pricing while for a 24 hour build it can become a large percentage of the cost.



Run Time:  This is the largest portion of the printing cost and is driven by multiple factors.  Although there is often debate on the specific drivers and how it is allocated the pie chart below is a good indication.


Build Reliability:  Build reliability covers the inherit risk of a build design.  This considers the complexity of the build and the probability of success.  By the time a component goes to production a portion of these risk factors will be learned out but there is always risk that needs to be considered.  The key to minimizing risk is the build setup, as there can be multiple ways to orient components in a build envelope without compromising part quality however the difference in success rates between the setups can be drastic. Below is an example of two builds that have the same number of parts but dramatically different risk profiles.  Build 1’s success is contingent on every part finishing at the same time so if there is a machine failure when the build is 80% complete there will be a 100% scrap rate.  In the case of Build 2, multiple parts are successful before the build reaches 100% completion.  A machine failure when the build is 80% complete would yield 75% of the parts as acceptable. 


Comparison of two build setups for the same 8 components.


Machine Utilization:  Like other methods of manufacturing, a factor that has a significant driver on pricing is the utilization of the equipment.  If a component has the volume to consume an entire machine for multiple years, the pricing will be drastically lower than a qty of 1.  High volume applications allow the AM service provider to secure more aggressive machine discounts and more known capacity planning that ultimately drives costs lower.  Below is a chart that provide an example of notional pricing based on annual machine utilization.  

Notional price of an AM aerospace component based on how much machine capacity it would fill.



As you can see above these factors can contribute to the overall economics of a part and must be considered when determining the pricing.  In the coming blog post these will all be tied together to demonstrate the overall picture.

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