As indicated in a previous blog, aerospace projects like fighters are using composites at an increasing rate due to technical benefits that traditional metal does not give. To keep up with current demand, the cost research team regularly updates the guidance through processes such as literature review. For the composite literature review, a document written by the RAND Corporation that was derived from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Sikorsky, and Hexcel data was heavily utilized. Average cost and labor information for completed programs such as the B-2, F-117, F-18, F-22, and V-22 were included as well as concept designs such as the RAH-66. The study compared cost/labor required to manufacture IM7 carbon fiber against the baseline aluminum in 1989, 1995, 1999, and 2005. The data indicated gradual reductions in the manufacturing cost of composites over the 15 year timetable of the study. This is due to technological improvements in manufacturing due to increased use of composites, which the PRICE team attempted to quantify and project to modern day. The data in the study was used to estimate manufacturing complexity for structure (MCPLXS), the measure for cost per weight unit in our estimation software, for each given material type. The study repeated information listings for major cost drivers, which led to the following takeaways:
Review of our prior research also indicates that there are also three other main cost drivers:
All of this research, and our deep dive work to best understand its uses was utilized to construct a new calculator in the PRICE Cost Analytics® software, which is now in the data validation phase, and testing. More to come!