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Engineering the Engineered

Posted on December 5th, 2015 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

What good is an advanced material if you can’t make it? And it’s not just about making it once – in a test tube or a controlled lab. Even the latest, most innovative breakthrough material is useless unless it can be manufactured efficiently, economically, safely, with suitable quality, and at a scale to fulfill demand. For any new material, there is at least as much engineering in determining the how as in the creation of the what.

As a consumer and a self-proclaimed “technology geek”, I’d be the first to admit being wowed by the latest gadget – particularly when filling out my holiday gift wish list. But as an engineer and a lifelong maker, my inquisitive nature quickly turns to wonder how those same gadgets are constructed. A phenomena once again experienced in a recent “black Friday” shopping excursion with my family. As I walked – and was pushed – around a local electronic shop, I found myself picking up each new gadget, examining the fit and finish on all sides, wondering how the raw materials were prepared, how the tight tolerances were controlled, what was the scrap/yield rate, and marveling at how each manufacturer planned precisely to have all this activity culminate as a device just in time for me to become enthralled and take it home with me on this day.

Advanced materials like composites take this concept one step further. Engineers need to determine what raw materials, laid in what order and configuration, then combined with what matrix will result in the desired performance properties. A video created by Think TV with support from eTech Ohio entitled Advanced Manufacturing and Materials covers these considerations and more.

Whether done at the atomic level with nanotechnology or at a macro level with techniques like composites, advanced materials open new opportunities to intelligently design materials for a specific purpose. To do this, engineers are solving problems and finding applications where there is no prior art. They must think functionally at the physical level – chemistry, thermodynamics, structures, materials, etc. – about the phenomenon need to produce the desired outcome. This does more than just advance research, it offers real solutions to today’s greatest challenges.

How have you overcome the engineering challenged of manufacturing new materials at scale? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

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