Designing for Manufacturability – Part 3: Materials

Now that you know the needs of your product, it is time for material selection. In Part 3 of our Designing for Manufacturability series we will be exploring what material properties need to be considered to ensure that you make the best material choice for your product.

Material Considerations:

Mechanical: How strong does the material need to be from a mechanical perspective? Is it a product that deals with high loads? Is it something that needs to be metal or can it be a plastic part?

Optical: Is there transparency or optical clarity that is required?

Thermal: Are there high/low temperature heat requirements that need to be met?

Color: Does color matter? Is it a part that is seen every day that has human interface? Or is it hidden inside a machine, so color won’t matter? Engineer Note: A material like a silicone and its base polymer is a milkier translucent appearance, so in theory, you can color silicone to meet almost any pantone color; however, a material like FKM will limit your color options because the base polymer is not translucent.

Electrical: Does the material need to insulate, or does it need to conduct electricity?

Flammability: Is the product exposed to an open flame or high temperature? If so, you would need a material that doesn’t burn.

Panova Real World Example:

We had a client that was designing products and using EPDM foam, because it was readily available; but it severely limited the design of the component parts. Therefore, we spoke with them about the option of molding the product out of gum rubber. Their concern about materials remained, so the team at Panova stuck with the same base polymer they were using with the foam and made additional recommendations on materials that could be colored, handle higher temperatures, and have better chemical resistance. Eventually, we convinced the client to change to a silicone material and it opened a whole new depth of color that the client’s designers and marketing team could consider when developing future models of the product.

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