A major impediment to the use of composites has been their relatively higher acquisition costs, especially as related to commercial applications. Riggs (1988) has argued that advanced materials such as composites are often not adopted because of a failure to understand the potential cost impacts on the total system. The Office of Technology Assessment has suggested that advanced materials may exhibit lower assembly costs and longer service lives (OTA 1988). The report further argues for the use of a systems approach to cost, and for the use of different cost information systems suitable for the new needs of composites. Table 6.11 shows cost-pertinent responses of an industry-wide survey conducted under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Commerce (1990).

Considerable cost modeling has been conducted at MIT and IBIS using traditional cost-modeling techniques, including a study of the application of automation to composites manufacture (Krolewski 1989). However, these models are specific to special conditions and may not be of generic use for manufacturing. Work is currently being conducted to develop activity-based cost models including the use of stochastics at the Center for Composite Materials to aid in the facilitation of cost as a strategic planning tool. Table 6.12 shows cost economics of the major processes.

Cost models are intrinsically used by the Japanese based on historical data rather than on computer-based simulations. However, it should be noted that the Japanese probably make a sufficient number of prototypes of each part to gather enough cost- related data that can be used to bid, as opposed to U.S. industries which are traditionally funded to the level of only one or two prototypes, making bid-type information almost impossible to obtain.

Published: April 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian