The product definition, we discussed earlier, leads us to the materials we want to use in our product. Each material has several potential processing technologies, from which we want to select the most appropriate one.
Some of the considerations in the material selection are:
Aesthetics, perceived image and feel
Resistance to chemicals, physical stress and environmental conditions
Effect on and by electromagnetic fields
Material processing technologies
The cost of material and cost of material processing
Decomposition and depletion
Among the most common materials, you can find plastics, metals, wood, paper, glass, rubber, synthetic and natural fibers, etc. Among a wide variety of processing technologies, we find machining, pressing, injection molding, vacuum forming, calendaring, extrusion, stamping and foam forming, to name just a few. In recent years, 3D (three-dimensional) printing, which was traditionally used to make prototypes, is also used for small commercial production runs.
When choosing the materials for your product you need to know the material's processing technologies, their benefits and their limitations.
These are very important parameters affecting the quality and cost of the product as well as its image and functionality. For example, one of the most common technologies is plastic injection molding. There is a wide variety of plastic materials with different properties such as mechanical strength, durability and chemical resistance, aesthetic appearance, flexibility, heat conductivity and even electrical conductivity.
Most plastic materials can be injection molded in sizes ranging from a few millimeters up to several meters.The greatest advantage of Injection molding is the ability to produce cheaply and accurately very complex geometric shapes, which otherwise would be very difficult or impossible to produce with other technologies. You can coat and paint plastic parts, assemble them, insert screws and add hardware and electrical components, and much more. More and more products and components that were traditionally manufactured from metal are replaced with plastic due to benefits such as cost, chemical resistance and weight.Therefore, it is not surprising that injection molding is the first choice of industrial designers for so many parts in the automotive, medical equipment, food packaging, consumer electronics, furniture industries as well as many others.
Product designers are now facing wider selection of materials and processing technologies than ever. This great diversity allows for designing better and cheaper products than before.
Tip: Manufacturers are an inexhaustible source of knowledge about materials and their processing technologies. Use them when designing a new product.
Look forward for the next article where we will discuss the product design phase in view of Design for X.