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What Types of Materials Are Used in Manufacturing?

The types of materials used in manufacturing are virtually endless. While the creator may have an initial design in mind when they think of their products, sometimes, the material choice isn’t as evident as it should be. The wrong material can result in a project that isn’t cost-effective or create production delays that cut into sales. Material choice is going to be a crucial factor in any project, so making an informed decision is essential. 

Design for manufacturing is a good strategy for picking out materials. During it, the product developer considers the impact of production as they create the first product. They may test out several materials, or create entirely new ones―in a quest to find the best possible base. Through this, they can make the design easier to produce so the creator can scale up manufacturing with demand. 

Standard Types of Materials Used in Manufacturing

Types of materials used in manufacturing

The list of possible manufacturing materials could go on for infinity when one considers all the possible combinations. However, regardless of the type, it can be categorized into one of five primary subtypes, each of which has its own pros and cons. 

Manufacturing Material Types

Subcategories

Pros

Cons

Polymers

At the molecular level, polymers are comprised of a large number of similar units and can be either synthetic or natural.

  • Polyethylene
  • Nylon
  • Teflon
  • Cellulose
  • Rubber
  • Easy to source
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple to work with
  • Lower-quality results
  • Less durability
  • Limited heat capacity

Metals

This material is typically shiny and lustrous. It is malleable and an excellent electrical conductor.

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Steel
  • Bronze
  • Durable
  • High-quality results
  • Heat and cold resistant
  • Can be challenging to work with
  • Higher cost
  • Difficult to source

Ceramics

These are nonmetallic materials―typically clay, but not always―formed using high heat.

  • Glass
  • Cement
  • Clay
  • Porcelain
  • Stoneware
  • Lightweight
  • Robust electrical insulation
  • Inexpensive
  • Dimensional tolerances can be inconsistent
  • Cracking is possible
  • Processing can be challenging

Composites

This involves combining two or more disparate materials to create a new, unique material.

  • Concrete
  • Plywood
  • Fiberglass
  • Paper
  • Reinforced plastics
  • High durability
  • Customizability
  • Affordability
  • Can be bad for the environment
  • Repair is challenging
  • May require special handling

It’s important to note that most products use several different types of materials, whether it’s for small parts like screws and nails or sidewalls and cases made of plastic. As a result, it’s wise for the creator to defer to the expertise of a partner when they’re considering material options. 

Choosing the Right Material for a Manufacturing Project 

An experienced partner is the best path to discover the right materials to be used in manufacturing. However, there are a lot of different companies out there offering such services. To nail down the right one, it’s vital to locate a company that provides:

  • A wide variety of creation options: Certain machines can only produce products in specific types of materials. 3D printing is typically a good example, as most modern machines are limited to plastics and resins. Meanwhile, casting and molding are processes that require both metal and plastic components for products―either for the tooling or for the product itself. The more technology a company uses, the more capable they are of providing diverse materials. 
  • A diverse portfolio: A company with a wide array of projects from various industries is going to have more experience in developing and using different materials. The creator should specifically review examples of products in the industry they hope to target to see all the possible options out there. 
  • A lean process: Lean manufacturing methods center on reducing waste and establishing circular supply chains. Material choice is a big part of that. A lean company is one that’s going to seek out the best possible materials to maximize efficiency and simplify production. 
  • Customizable options:  In some cases, the material is a major part of the function. The ability to create the right base to ensure that function is vital. The best possible partner isn’t limited by the materials that actually exist. They can create customized options for specific projects.  
  • Small run manufacturing: Not all companies that offer product development services are capable of providing manufacturing as well. This becomes a problem, as the development of the product may not lend itself well to the production process. A company that offers all-in-one services will be better prepared to source the materials needed, whether they’re for simple product design or the first manufacturing run.  

Types of materials used in manufacturing run the gamut from natural options like wood and stone, to more complicated, man-made composites. It’s wiser for the creator to defer to the expertise of their production partner when choosing their potential material. This way, they can ensure a production path that’s both cost-effective and sustainable.

Pacific Research Laboratories can walk you through all the materials used in manufacturing to find the right choice for your project. Check out our contact page or call  (206) 408-7603 today!