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# Material selection

Material selection is a step in the process of designing any physical object. In the context of
product design, the main goal of material selection is to minimize cost while meeting product
performance goals.[1] Systematic selection of the best material for a given application begins
with properties and costs of candidate materials. For example, a thermal blanket must have
poor thermal conductivity in order to minimize heat transfer for a given temperature
difference.
Systematic selection for applications requiring multiple criteria is more complex. For
example, a rod which should be stiff and light requires a material with high Young's modulus
and low density. If the rod will be pulled in tension, the specific modulus, or modulus divided
by density
, will determine the best material. But because a plate's bending stiffness
scales as its thickness cubed, the best material for a stiff and light plate is determined by the
cube root of stiffness divided by density
index is

## Plot of Young modulus vs density. The colors represent families of materials.

Ashby plot, named for Michael Ashby of Cambridge University, is a scatter plot which
displays two or more properties of many materials or classes of materials.[2] These plots are
useful to compare the ratio between different properties. For the example of the stiff/light part
discussed above would have Young's modulus on one axis and density on the other axis, with
one data point on the graph for each candidate material. On such a plot, it is easy to find not
only the material with the highest stiffness, or that with the lowest density, but that with the
best ratio

. Using a log scale on both axes facilitates selection of the material with the

## best plate stiffness

Plot of Young modulus vs density with log-log scaling. The colors represent families of
materials.
The first plot on the right shows density and Young's modulus, in a linear scale. The second
plot shows the same materials attributes in a log-log scale. Materials families (polymers,
foams, metals, etc.) are identified by colors.[3]
Thus as energy prices have increased and technology has improved, automobiles have
substituted increasing amounts of light weight magnesium and aluminium alloys for steel,
aircraft are substituting carbon fiber reinforced plastic and titanium alloys for aluminium, and
satellites have long been made out of exotic composite materials.
Of course, cost per kg is not the only important factor in material selection. An important
concept is 'cost per unit of function'. For example, if the key design objective was the
stiffness of a plate of the material, as described in the introductory paragraph above, then the
designer would need a material with the optimal combination of density, Young's modulus,
and price. Optimizing complex combinations of technical and price properties is a hard
process to achieve manually, so rational material selection software is an important tool.

Example
A common method for choosing an appropriate material is an Ashby chart. By plotting a
performance index for a specific case of loading on the Ashby chart, a material with
maximum performance can be selected. The performance index takes into consideration the
dimensional constraints, material constraints, and free variable constraints of a specific
application. The following example will show the how to come up with the performance
index and how to plot and interpret the Ashby chart.

This example will take into consideration a beam that will undergo two different loads with
the goal of minimizing weight. The first load is a beam in tension. Figure 1 illustrates this

The parameters for the beam can be organized into categories. These categories are material
variables, which include density, modulus, and yield stress, free variables which are variables
that can change during the loading cycle, for example applied force. The final category is
design variables which usually are a limit of how thick the beam can be, how much it can
deflect, or any other limiting factor for the specific application.
For this loading cycle, the stress in the beam is measured as
, where is the load and
is the cross sectional area. The weight is measure as
, where is the density,
and is the length. By looking at the equation, we see that for a fixed length of , the
material variables are and . There is one free variable, , and a variable that needs to be
minimized, .
In order to find the performance index, an equation for w in terms of fixed and material
variables needs to be found. This means that the variable A has to somehow be replaced. By
rearranging the axial stress equation,
into the weight equation,
and material variables.

can be represented as

. Substituting this

## , gives an equation for weight that has only fixed

The next step is to separate the material variables from all other variables and constants. The
equation becomes

equation,

## has to be maximized. We call the equation that needs to be maximized our

performance index.
. It is important to note that the performance index is
always an equation that needs to be maximized, so inverting an equation that needs to be
minimized is necessary.
The performance index can then be plotted on the Ashby chart by converting the equation to a
log scale. This is done by taking the log of both sides, and plotting it similar to a line with
being the y-axis intercept. This means that the higher the intercept, the higher the
performance of the material. By moving the line up the Ashby chart, the performance index
gets higher. Each materials the line passes through, has the performance index listed on the yaxis. So, moving to the top of the chart while still touching a region of material is where the
highest performance will be.

The next loading cycle will have a different performance index with a different equation. For
example, if you also want to maximize this beam for bending, using the max tensile stress
equation of bending
, where
is the bending moment, is the distance
from the neutral axis, and is the moment of inertia. This is shown in Figure 2. Using the
weight equation above and solving for the free variables, you arrive at
, where
the material performance index into

.

## Figure 2. Beam under bending stress. Trying to minimize weight

By plotting the two performance indices on the same Ashby chart, the maximum performance
index of both loading types together will be at the intercept of the two lines. This is shown in
figure 3

Figure 3. Ashby chart with performance indices plotted for maximum result
As seen from figure 3 the two lines intercept near the top of the graph at Technical ceramics
and Composites. This will give a performance index of 120 for tensile loading and 15 for
bending. When taking into consideration the cost of the engineering ceramics, especially
because the intercept is around the Boron carbide, this would not be the optimal case. A better
case with lower performance index but more cost effective solutions is around the
Engineering Composites near CFRP.