Arena PLM

Introduction to Material Selection & Material Attributes in CAD Software

A “material” means different things to different people. A material engineer, a manufacturer, and a CAD designer all have different notions of materials. Spending unrewarded weeks trying to ensure consistency or attempting to find or verify data, is something companies would prefer to avoid.

Repeating tests and analyses (often at high cost), and the remapping bills of materials are essential. Errors promote risks that find their way into a product through incorrect specifications and ineffective simulation outcomes.

It often increases the number of product failures, product recalls, and warranty issues. There is also a breakdown in processes that maintain version control, regulatory compliance, and consistency with CAD and PLM.

Outline of the Significance of Material Selection in Engineering Design

It is essential to specify standard procedure in material selection during engineering design. Like almost anything in science, there is first a clear definition of the problem. Then, designers conduct background research to determine material suitability for the product.

Then, we proceed to clarify requirements, putting everything is as clear terms as possible. Then there is brainstorming to evaluate and decide on which material will be a viable solution considering the objectives of this product. Only then can a prototype follow.

The next logical step is to test the solution against requirements. If the solution holds up against the conditions, or if it meets most requirements or not,  a communication pipeline collects the results.

Sometimes, there is the fulfillment of only some or even none of the requirements. Depending on the results and data, the design will incorporate changes. New prototypes will emerge for testing. The latest data also undergoes review, and this process repeats if necessary.

Flexible electronics have shown us that the materials that make things up to drive today’s product innovations. Selecting proper materials for different components is one of the most challenging tasks in engineering activity. The way to select materials is traditionally by wading through literature and materials datasheets.

The development of information technology is the driving force behind the change in engineering work. Engineering work is no longer the mere arduous task of browsing catalogs and guides. It is also about defining queries in database applications.

This approach has dramatically advanced the material selection process. However, it did not eliminate issues with obtaining information from large data sets, as designers often encounter.

Material selection is the pinnacle of the engineering design process. The evolution of engineering materials is the result of the need to elevate the structural and non-structural properties of a material.

More than eighty thousand materials exist on the market. Each of these has descriptions based on several properties. These properties may be mechanical, physical, chemical, economic, and so forth.

Design engineers have the task to conduct several tests and material analysis. These tests are physical and virtual (using 3D solid modeling and simulation in CAD). Their goal is to identify the best material alternative.

A virtual test through simulation of a 3D prototype of the actual design will assess how suitable the materials are for the design. They will also evaluate design features for the intended operational conditions on the component.

These factors that are essential to select a material for engineering include:

  1. The ease of manufacture.
  2. Prevalent environmental factors
  3. Cost of the material
  4. Physical properties
  5. Chemical properties
  6. Mechanical properties

On the other hand, significant mechanical attributes include:

  1. Tensile strength
  2. Yield strength
  3. Impact strength
  4. Compressive strength
  5. Shear strength
  6. Fatigue limit
  7. Ductility
  8. Roughness and friction coefficient
  9. Fracture toughness
  10. Plasticity
  11. Resilience

Design engineers often employ a variety of approaches for material selection, such as conducting screening based on class to fulfill design requirements. After meeting these requirements, the search continues until finding a suitable variation that suits the design.

A divergent approach to material selection is finishing the manufacturing process first and then choosing a material that complies with the selected process while meeting the design requirements.

One could never know the full scope of material selection in product design. Thus, engineers must embrace the challenge of material selection in the design of a new product.

Factors that Influence the Selection of Materials in Engineering Design

In selecting a material during the engineering design of a product, the following are broad areas of consideration:

  • The Functional Requirements of the Design

The design should have a specific ability to transfer heat, capacity to carry a load, and a particular amount of light allowed to pass through.

  • The Principal Objectives of the Design

The primary objectives of the design should include reducing the overall weight of the product or component, improving product durability, and improving other product properties.

  • The Constraints of the Design

A product should be able to retain its shape and strength even at high temperatures. The material should also not cave in under high pressure. Fixed dimensions are highly essential in product design.

Reasons Why Material Selection is Important

Engineers take design seriously. It is why engineering design is a discipline itself. But, why do engineers obsess over material selection during engineering design?

  1. Selecting the ideal material for a product during design is crucial to ensure the product does not succumb to extreme conditions while performing excellently in unpredictable circumstances.
  2. Analyzing a design and testing it not under simulated conditions, but under standard working conditions using CFD Analysis and FDA Analysis techniques, often reveals material shortcomings. Thus, the process helps in selecting the most suitable material properties that need to be improved or altered in some way.
  3. In a situation where a systematic material selection procedure is not in place, it impacts the design of the product or component. The probability of product or component failure then multiplies significantly.

Ideal material choice for any product design provides a competitive edge by influencing and more crucially, improving factors such as:

  • quality
  • function
  • endurance
  • manufacturability
  • mechanical properties
  • quality
  • environmental influence
  • performance
  • cost of the mechanical product or component design

Effectively managing materials in a consistent way across development and design is something all companies desire. The simple way is by integrating unit materials definitions inside their PLM (product lifecycle management). In the worst-case scenario, these inconsistencies stifle innovation and increase time-to-market. It leads to the next question.

How to Avoid Materials Jeopardy

Materials data is vast, as this article has pointed out. It is essential to understand the nature of the information we are going to be capturing, analyzing, using, and re-using. Numerous threads exist between data. These are complex to manage and navigate. Pairing up this data to understand it is vital. There should also be measured consistency of materials definitions, though this becomes more difficult when information goes in disparate databases. Materials data evolves, independent of the product cycle.

Mitigating Materials Jeopardy

Materials intelligence is the way to handle the challenges with materials data. It is a way to look at data. It promotes consistent materials information strategy consisting of a single, corporate gold source of materials data. This data is weaved in with all design and simulation tools implemented across the company.

Consider the GRANT MI materials information management system. It can handle all interrelationships in the depth of materials information. Integration options make this data available within CAD, PLM, and CAE systems, with absolute traceability. Materials connect to product data, and organizations can maintain digital continuity throughout design and development in a cost-efficient way.

It is optional to use GRANT MI or a similar materials information management system. Only decide what to use after careful consideration and consultations.


Companies must begin to think in light of making materials options more accessible to designers. There are many missed opportunities and outcomes due to inconsistent materials definitions. Regardless of the chosen method to handle vital materials technology, it should be part of a deliberate materials information strategy.