Design for Manufacturing

Lightweighting Overview 270

Lightweighting Overview describes the various methods of lightweighting or reducing the weight of a part without reducing its strength or other key properties. The two primary lightweighting methods are material substitution and material reduction. Material substitution involves replacing traditional materials with lighter weight materials, while material reduction involves redesigning parts to use less material while maintaining strength. Additive manufacturing has made material reduction a viable lightweighting method.

Lightweighting can make products easier to transport and more fuel efficient, which helps manufacturers meet environmental sustainability goals while reducing costs. Since lightweighting is becoming more common in various industries, it is key for many manufacturing personnel to understand. After taking Lightweighting Overview, users will have a basic understanding of lightweighting and the methods used to achieve it.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 10

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Introduction to Lightweighting
  • Key Lightweighting Applications
  • Strength and Safety
  • Lightweighting Methods
  • Material Substitution
  • lightweighting Basics Review
  • Material Reduction Methods
  • Topology Optimization and Generative Design
  • Lightweighting Challenges
  • Final Review
  • Define lightweighting.
  • Describe common industry applications for lightweighting.
  • Describe the strength and performance requirements of lightweighted parts.
  • Contrast material reduction and material substitution.
  • Describe the use of material substitution for lightweighting.
  • Describe material reduction methods used in lightweighting.
  • Describe topology optimization and generative design.
  • Describe common challenges posed by lightweighting.
Vocabulary Term

additive manufacturing

AM. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.


A substance used to join two or more materials. Adhesives include glues and epoxies.

Advanced High Strength Steel

AHSS. A category of steels with increased strength, which allows them to handle the same amount of stress as traditional steel with less material. Advanced High Strength Steel weighs roughly the same as traditional steel.


The industry concerned with the research, design, manufacture, and operation of air and space craft. Aerospace products include airplanes, helicopters, rockets, missiles, satellites, space capsules, space planes, and related systems.


A uniform mixture of two or more materials, one of which must be a metal. Alloys include stainless steel, bronze, and various superalloys.


Additive manufacturing. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.

artificial intelligence

AI. The ability of a machine or computer to imitate intelligent human behavior. Artificial intelligence can be used to apply logic to information and adapt based on data.


The layer of air surrounding the earth. The atmosphere of the earth is held in place by gravity.


An attraction between two surfaces using glues, epoxies, or other adhesive agents. Bonds form when adhesive substances are exposed to heat or light.

carbon fiber

A material made from slender, thread-like strands of carbon, a strong nonmetallic element. Carbon fiber is a rigid material with good tensile strength, chemical resistance, and temperature tolerance.

carbon fiber-reinforced plastics

CFRPs. An advanced composite material made with a polymer matrix and a carbon fiber reinforcement. Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics are popular because their properties include high strength, stiffness, and light weight.

ceramic-metal composite

CMCs. A stiff, lightweight composite material that can withstand extremely high temperatures. Ceramic-matrix composites are highly specialized advanced composites and are often used for aerospace applications.


A material made by mixing together two or more of the following groups: metals, plastics, and ceramics. Composites have the properties of the materials they are made from.

conformal ribbing

A method of material reduction where a hollow part is created with ribs on the outside. Conformal Ribbing ensures that areas that bear stress are reinforced.

continuous improvement

The belief that a part or product must constantly be redesigned to be the strongest, most efficient design possible. Continuous improvement is a guiding principle in lightweighting.

corrosion resistance

A material's ability to resist deterioration and chemical breakdown due to surface exposure in a particular environment. Corrosion resistance is an important physical property.


Solidly compressed. Dense materials tend to be harder and heavier than less dense materials.

environmental sustainability

The aim of conserving environmental resources and reducing pollution. Environmental sustainability is one goal of lightweighting.


A device that holds objects together or locates them in relation to one another. Common fasteners include bolts, screws, and rivets.


A material composed of glass fibers suspended in a plastic matrix. Fiberglass is used widely for its strength, light weight, and low cost.

generative design

An advanced type of computer-aided design (CAD) that uses cloud computing and artificial intelligence to design products. Generative design allows engineers to innovate designs and produce alternative designs much faster than traditional CAD software.

heat resistance

A material's ability to remain unchanged due to exposure to extremely high or low temperatures. Thermal resistance allows materials to maintain their properties and integrity even at extreme temperatures.


A type of built structure in which empty cells are separated from each other by a solid wall. Honeycomb structures can be square or hexagonal.


hp. A unit of power used to describe machine strength. Increased horsepower in a machine results in a greater exertion of force.

impact resistance

A material's ability to withstand sudden shock or impact without deforming or breaking. Impact resistance is higher in metal bonded abrasive tools than abrasive tools with vitrified or organic bonds.


Repeating actions and steps in processes. Iteration is an important aspect of generative design because it allows for constant and quick re-designs during initial stages.

lattice structure

A repeating, symmetrical pattern of crossing strips of material that leave diamond- or square-shaped gaps between them. Lattice structures provide excellent strength to a part.

Life Cycle Assessment

LCA. An analysis of the environmental impact of a part or product from its creation to its disposal. Life Cycle Assessments determine if a part or product is actually environmentally sustainable.


Replacing one part or object with a lighter version for identical use. Lightweighting is a manufacturing concept that lighter parts will lead to greater efficiency.


A strong, extremely lightweight metal that also has poor wear resistance and can be very reactive. Magnesium is often used as an alloying element.

material reduction

Using less material to build a part or product. In manufacturing, material reduction often uses additive manufacturing to build parts with shapes that use less material without losing strength.

material substitution

Replacing one material for another material. In manufacturing, material substitution is the oldest method of lightweighting.


A material that binds together the reinforcing fibers of a composite and hardens to give the part shape and protect the fibers from damage. Matrices are usually viscous materials that can be a variety of polymers, metals, or ceramics.


A materials scientist who studies metallic elements. Metallurgists study the structure, properties, and behavior of metals.


The lack of transparency in a material or the degree to which it absorbs light. Opacity is an optical property present in many polymers.


A material made of long chains of molecules. Polymers include plastic, rubber, and other natural or synthetic materials.


Creating an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. Early additive manufacturing was primarily used for prototyping.

return on investment

ROI. The profitability of an investment. Return on Investment is a calculation on how much profit can be made from a part, product, or process, compared to the cost to create or implement it.


A structural component that provides shape and support. Ribs are used to reinforce a thin section of a part, such as a wall.


A computerized re-creation of a physical space and activity. Simulation is used to duplicate real-world situations in order to evaluate how a part will behave under real-world conditions.


A general measure of how well a material withstands various mechanical forces. Types of strength include tensile, yield, and impact.


A force that occurs when an object is accelerated in one linear direction. Thrust depends on the object's mass and rate of acceleration.


A metal that has a high strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance. Titanium is often used in aerospace and biomechanical applications.

topology optimization

TO. A mathematical method that optimizes material layout within a given design space for a given set of loads, boundary conditions, and constraints with the goal of maximizing the performance of the system. Topology optimization is a potent tool for lightweighting.

total cost of ownership

TCO. The purchase price of an asset plus the costs of operation. Total cost of ownership helps assess the value of an investment over time.


The ability of a material to withstand forces or sudden impacts that attempt to break it. Tough materials can withstand sudden stress.


A mixture of fused metal that forms a joint between separate components. Welds consist of many layers of metal and are often raised above the surface of the components.