What goes into material selection?

In the past twenty years, new materials have emerged that have significantly changed the structural design and component manufacturing process. While a mechanical engineer can design a component based on material strength and dimensional requirements, structural engineers have to take into consideration many more parameters in how materials interact to determine the life cycle of the structure, its serviceability, and other aesthetic factors. This means that structural engineers have a lot to watch out for in the design process.

When deciding on the appropriate material for a structure, the design engineer has to take into consideration several factors such as life span (i.e. service life), performance, reliability, appearance, and cost. These factors will determine what material is best suited and also how the design will be modified for a particular project. The most important factor is the performance of the material and its ability to meet the demands of the intended function. Structural engineers must evaluate whether or not a material can stand up to weather-related forces such as temperature and moisture exposure as well as mechanical factors such as wind loading, impact loads, and mechanical stress due to vibration or uneven support surfaces. When evaluating any environmental factors it is important to be aware of how they will change with seasons and over time, as these will change the structural behavior.

As an example, Metal Composite Materials (MCM) are composite structures consisting of a metal outer layer and a plastic interior. MCM is a class of its own and requires specific considerations in design from a structural standpoint and a component manufacturing viewpoint. Some MCM components are fire resistant and so will be included in the design criteria for this benefit. The durability of the material is a major factor in material selection. In most cases, the material must be resistant to moisture and high temperatures or corrosion caused by chemicals, salt air, and water jet wash cleaning. Depending on the application requirements these different environments may or may not be an issue, but the designer must take into consideration all of these factors when designing the structure and must select a material that meets all the above requirements and more whenever possible.

Material selection is one of the most crucial steps in the structural engineering process, and a mistake in the material selection could spell trouble for your project. If you’re in need of an expert team that can help with the material selection process, and ensure that your next project goes off without a hitch, contact DDA Engineers today at (305) 666-0711.

The following two tabs change content below.

DDA Engineers, P.A.

Latest posts by DDA Engineers, P.A. (see all)