Cost estimation for rapid manufacturing - laser sintering production for low to medium volumes

Rapid manufacturing (RM) is a modern production method based on layer by layer manufacturing directly from a three-dimensional computer-aided design model. The lack of tooling makes RM economically suitable for low and medium production volumes. A comparison with traditional manufacturing processes is important; in particular, cost comparison. Cost is usually the key point for decision making, with break-even points for different manufacturing technologies being the dominant information for decision makers. Cost models used for traditional production methodologies focus on material and labour costs, while modern automated manufacturing processes need cost models that are able to consider the high impact of investments and overheads. Previous work on laser sintering costing was developed in 2003. This current work presents advances and discussions on the limits of the previous work through direct comparison. A new cost model for laser sintering is then proposed. The model leads to graph profiles that are typical for layer-manufacturing processes. The evolution of cost models and the indirect cost significance in modern costing representation is shown finally.