One of the key decisions in the development of every product is the selection of the material, or materials, of which it will be constructed. But as new materials and manufacturing methods have proliferated, this decision has become more complex than ever.
In this blog, Joshua Devlin explores why material selection has traditionally been so difficult, and the importance of other factors involved in the decision-making process.
When developing a new product, there are a number of key decision points involved. In addition to choosing a material, developers need to consider function, design, manufacturing and cost. Each of these aspects has a push-pull relationship with one another. A set constraint in any of these areas will have a flow-on effect influencing all the others. These relationships create a complex optimisation problem during product development. Of all these decision points, material selection – due to its complexity – is arguably the most difficult.
The Decision is in the Details
Selection of the right material or materials has increased in complexity over time as new materials and manufacturing methods become available, and the amount of in-depth material data has increased.
According to Myer Kutz, author of Handbook of Materials Selection, there are an estimated over 100,000 potential materials for a designer to select from, and this number is only growing every year. Engineers are then required to evaluate these materials based on a broad range of information, such as:
- Strength of the material
- Optical properties
- Manufacturing methods available
- Corrosion properties
- Industry standards
- Potential suppliers
- Source location
Accessing this information is key to making the choice, but navigating to find the right information is a recurring problem for engineers.
Materials data sourcing challenges
Until now, one of the main challenges has been that there is no single location to go to find all the required information. Many people still rely on general search-engines, traditional methods like textbooks and material supplier catalogs, as well as leaning on in-house expertise and external consulting. The problem with these methods is that the information is relatively inaccessible by modern standards and is dispersed across multiple sources.
Modern digitised sources for material data, while considerably easier to access, still suffer from several limitations, such as:
- Narrow scope
- Focused information e.g. either on metals or ceramics or polymers
- Little or no scientific information
- No machining or welding specifications
- No links to suppliers
A review of online material data resources by J. H. Westbrook back in 2003 already found that while there are numerous sources for material data on the internet, a step change in their presentation, accessibility and scope is required for them to really modernise the material selection process.
The flow on effect of product developers not having direct access to material information hinders their ability to make an informed selection. This may result in project problems from increases in development periods to a reduced capacity for innovation in respect to material selection.
A solution for the digital age
Matmatch was founded to address the problems mentioned in this article. Our goal is to provide easily accessible, diverse and detailed material information online.
We’re ambitiously working towards developing a modern material selection knowledge hub, combining quantitative material data with qualitative information such as applications and processing methods.
To construct this solution Matmatch is combining information from traditional materials sources, some modern digital sources, and materials manufacturers. We’re aiming to link general material properties, manufacturing information, standards, use cases, available suppliers and more to provide the most comprehensive set of information for materials.
By developing a unified database linking specific information around materials we’re empowering product developers to make the best material selection.
There are a few ways you can help us in our mission. Firstly, sign up for an account to stay up-to-date with our latest news.
If you are a materials supplier looking for ways to expand your reach online, you can list on Matmatch. By listing you can take advantage of digital and connect with relevant buyers from around the world. just fill in this form to get started.