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Properties of Materials

At some point in the design process, material will have to be chosen. 

The advance of knowledge and the development of material science provide the designer with a far better choice than ever before. To be better informed about materials should lead to better choices and better products.

A designer may be looking for a component that:

Knowing that there are appropriate materials with the properties that are required, is a step in the right direction.

This does not mean that designing something starts when all knowledge about materials has been collected.

Most importantly, the early part of the design process will rarely require detailed decisions about materials. 

There may also be other constraints:

Consequently, the specific knowledge about a suitable material may be more appropriately collected and considered after some initial ideas have been recorded. The information is then relevant, focused and likely to be of specific use to further design development. 

The guide shown below is intended to provide an aid to making design decisions and material choices.


Property Behaviour
Hardness Will resist wear, being scratched or dented. (Surfaces)
Strength Will resist forces, (tension, compression, shear, torsion, bending)
Stiffness Will resist being distorted from its original shape or form
Brittleness Has hardness property throughout and shatters when it fails.
Toughness Has combined resistance to damage but can be flexible.
Ductility Can maintain and be easily shaped and formed.
Conductivity Allows various energy forms to be resisted or encouraged to flow.
Optical Noticeable reflection or transmittance of light
Absorption Allows energy or substances to be stored.
Light or heavy Less or more 
Visual Provokes sensual qualities
Conversion Ease of shaping, forming, cutting, bending, mixing and joining.
Hygienic Resistance to unhealthy influences
Disposal Energy efficient and environmentally safe.


It should be remembered that some properties may be undesirable and choices should be made accordingly. 

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