Yes, I was surprised recently to find out from a large distributor that the military is still prompting the purchase of tons of COTS parts. Not everything the military uses has to withstand 20 years of dusty desert winds.
You're right, Ann, COTS is still going strong for military items that don't have to last a couple decades. Many of the component manufacturers ran two lines, but the leaded line was a smaller volume and thus sold at a higher price. However, many other component manufacturers ditched their leaded line altogether when they shifted to lead-free components. There was a scramble for leftover leaded parts, but eventually, the military had to pay the higher rate for leaded components that have now become specialized (read expensive) products.
Dr Meredith, thanks for providing the information on what parts were constructed. Thanks also for the links to articles with more details. Unfortunately, since these require a fee, not many readers will be able to access the information. Is any of it available elsewhere, such as in a prepublication version?
Rob, many producers of board-level COTS products had a tough time making the shift if they were serving both military and industrial customers, They essentially had to run two different lines for the "same" product, in leaded and lead-free versions. Those serving only the military got to wait a bit longer, but were not out of the woods entirely, since the supply chain had already become global by then. The COTS movement is still going strong.
Yes, Ann, that R&D investment is often supported by cost-plus contracts that do not make cost a high priority. The COTS movement was gutted to some extent by RoHS. The military still gets a pass on leaded parts. Those parts are now priced at a premium since they have become specialized components. So the $200 hammer will be with us for some time.
The military definitely likes to save money when it comes to what they buy for soldiers. That's one major push that was behind the COTS movement several years ago and is still a prime driver of that ongoing trend. OTOH, although my $200 wrench remark was tongue-in-cheek, they can still afford more at the R&D end than is often the case in industry.
A little more information for you all in case you are interested.. we utilised recycled carbon prepreg to manufacture the damper hatch (the body work part just in front of the wind screen) and we used flax prepreg to manufacture the balance panels (an aero part just adjacent to the doors).
The only way we could use these materials on the car was by first proving that they are capable. Hence, I have been working on these materials at WMG for a while now to determine their static and dynamic properties. recycled carbon retains ~70 - 95 % of the properties of virgin material and flax is similar to glass. Some results have been published (see links) and others are due for publication over the summer - so watch this space.
Jerry, composite unibodies for commercial automotive manufacturing are being studied, but one of the main barriers holding that back, as well as one of the main barriers against composites in car manufacturing in general, is the processing: it still requires many manual steps and is not yet adapted enough to high-volume, highly automated commercial car production. R&D to solve this is going on in Japan, Europe and the US.
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