Why Material Selection is Crucial for Engineering Design Process?

May 1st, 2014

Material selection lies at the crux of the engineering design process. The need to elevate (both structural and nonstructural) attributes of a material, has lead to the evolution of engineering materials.

Design engineers carry out a series of tests and material analysis both, physical and virtual using 3D solid modeling and simulation in CAD, to identify best material alternative. A virtual test by simulation of 3D prototype of the actual design will evaluate the material suitability and design features for the intended operational conditions on the component.

Factors that should be considered before selecting a material for engineering include:

  • Cost of the material
  • Its ability to manufacture
  • Environmental considerations
  • Chemical properties
  • Physical properties
  • Mechanical attributes

Engineering Design Process
Importance of Material Selection in Engineering Design Process

Some Mechanical Material Attributes that Matter Include:

  • Tensile strength
  • Yield strength
  • Fatigue limit
  • Impact strength
  • Flexural strength and modulus
  • Ductility
  • Compressive strength
  • Roughness and friction coefficient
  • Plasticity
  • Fracture toughness
  • Shear Strength
  • Resilience

Design engineers employ different approaches for material selection like, carrying out a class based selection for design requirements and then narrowing down the search to one variation that best suits the design. Another approach to material selection is finalizing the manufacturing process first and then choosing a material that can comply with the selected process and also justify the design requirements.

Material selection is of utmost importance in designing a product; engineers face this challenge while designing a new product.

Besides, if a design under performs, then in this case, design engineers might look for material alternatives to improve the performance of the product.

Selection of a material for an engineering design depends on:

  • The Functional Requirements of the Design: e.g : the design should have a certain load carrying capacity, ability to transfer heat etc.
  • The Main Objective of the Design: e.g : Improve durability, reduce overall weight of the product/component
  • The Constrains of a Design: e.g : Fixed dimensions, material should not buckle under pressure, should be able to retain shape and strength at high temperatures etc.

Why is material selection important?

  • If a systematic material selection procedure is not in place, it impacts the design of the product/component making it highly susceptible to failure. Considering the Mechanical Material attributes based on the function, objective and constrains your design, ensures that the design is technically fit to deliver the desired performance.
  • Analysis of a design and subjecting it to real working conditions using FEA Analysis and CFD Analysis techniques helps identify the shortcomings and hence identify material properties that need to be altered and improved. This process thus helps choose the best material that augments your designs durability, performance and output.
  • Ideal material selection is crucial to ensure that the product does not succumb to extreme conditions and performs well in unpredictable conditions.

Ideal material choice for your design gives you a competitive edge by affecting and invariably improving the factors such as function, mechanical properties, quality, manufacturability, endurance and performance, environmental impact and the cost of your mechanical product/component design.

Gaurang Trivedi

About Author: is engineering consultant at TrueCADD. Besides, donning multiple hats, as a website manager and marketing in charge, he also oversees the editorial content, coordinating and managing the website, its news sections, blogs and social media promotions as well.

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