Changes in the way design engineers select materials
Pilz Automation Ltd
Posted to News on 21st Feb 2019, 18:26

Changes in the way design engineers select materials

Materials selection is a vital aspect of new product development. For as exciting or interesting as a design project may be, it will never be more than a concept without due consideration of the right materials. With vast quantities of materials data available online, more design engineers are turning to materials databases like Matmatch for information. But what are they searching for, and why? Here, Ben Smye, Head of Growth at Matmatch, highlights how materials sourcing is changing.

Changes in the way design engineers select materials

We only need to look to the past two decades to see how quickly materials science has advanced. It was only 15 years ago, in 2004, that scientists were first able to isolate and characterise graphene, which has subsequently become one of the most widely discussed materials of recent years.

The rapid advancement of materials science has made the move to digital platforms almost a necessity for design engineers and product designers. Since its launch in 2017, Matmatch has provided a platform for researching and sourcing materials, which has provided us insight into the tendencies of those in the industry. In fact, we recently produced an infographic of materials specification trends from our findings.

There were three observations that stood out from our data and users surveys. The first is how design engineers were using the platform, which turned out to be predominately for researching and sourcing materials they had already made a somewhat strong decision on.

This is particularly interesting. As a platform with thousands of materials in its database, Matmatch has a wide variety of materials that designers can choose from to innovate with their product design. Despite this, 65 per cent of respondents weren't using it to identify new materials for their projects, but rather to source and confirm the properties of their desired material. This tells us that there is a huge opportunity to help designers innovate when it comes to material selection.

This brought us to the question of why design engineers were using the platform. In the days before the digitalisation of materials selection, engineers and product designers would simply select a material from a printed catalogue, which outlined all the properties. 79 per cent of respondents use online databases in a similar way, but 29 per cent of the overall respondents also take advantage of the side-by-side comparison tool for materials for more detailed, convenient insight.

Innovate with materials selection

For example, a design engineer might be struggling to choose between two types of steel for their project, from two different suppliers. Using Matmatch, they can open a comparison of the material's properties and see which offers the best performance suited for their design. This same tool can be used to compare between different materials as well, giving engineers an easy way of innovating with materials selection.

So, we know why and how product designers and design engineers are using materials search engines, but what are they searching for exactly?

The leading reasons why engineers search for materials data are to identify and research the mechanical properties of a material, according to 38 per cent of respondents, and chemical compositions, according to 22 per cent. These tie into the level of detail that engineers can access by using online databases, allowing for better selection of materials. After all, the more knowledge you have, the more informed a decision you can make, which will benefit a project in the long term.

While most may currently be using online tools to improve the effectiveness of sourcing rather than to innovate with materials, it's clear that online materials platforms serve an important purpose for modern design engineers. And as such tools develop further, they could play a key role in driving innovation. As such, suppliers should partner with these databases to ensure that they are among the thousands of materials on offer; because as materials advance, so too does the way in which they are sourced.

Learn more at

Matmatch GmbH

Leopoldstrasse 250A

+49 89 262075200

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