Design for Manufacturing

Materials for Lightweighting 275

Material replacement is a lightweighting method that replaces one raw material for another to create a part. When a manufacturer replaces a material for another one, the new part must be able to withstand the same stresses as the original despite being lighter. The materials used in lightweighting include high-strength steels, nonferrous alloys, and composites. While each of these materials has its strengths, there are also drawbacks that must be considered.

Lightweighting has become an important aspect of manufacturing as new environmental policies demand less fuel consumption. Lightweighting can be an environmentally friendly, money-saving endeavor if done right. Choosing the right material is vitally important in ensuring that lightweighting is done safely and economically. After taking Lightweighting Materials, users will have some familiarity of the various lightweight materials that are used in manufacturing, including their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 10

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Lightweighting Methods
  • Strength and Material Substitution
  • Applications of Material Substitution
  • Lightweight Materials Review
  • Common Lightweight Nonferrous Metals
  • Less Common Lightweight Nonferrous Metals
  • Composites
  • Carbon Fiber and Glass Fiber
  • Lightweighting Packaging Materials
  • Final Review
  • Describe the basic purpose and methods of lightweighting.
  • Describe the challenges of maintaining strength in material substitution.
  • Describe how different industries use material substitution.
  • Describe how common nonferrous metals are used in lightweighting.
  • Describe how magnesium and beryllium are used in lightweighting.
  • Describe how composites are used in lightweighting.
  • Describe how carbon fiber and glass fiber are used in lightweighting.
  • Describe lightweight packaging materials.
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.


The industry that covers machines or vehicles of flight. Aerospace manufacturers generally require workpiece materials with very specific properties.


A material created by intentionally mixing two or more substances, one of which must be metal. Alloys combine the desirable properties of the base materials.


A nonferrous metal that is silvery white in color and lightweight. Aluminum resists corrosion and is a good conductor of electrical and thermal energy.


The industry that manufactures cars and other motor vehicles. The automotive industry utilizes steel and many other more specialized materials.


A hard gray metal with high toxicity. Work involving beryllium should be done with local exhaust ventilation and air-supplied respirators.


An angle that cuts diagonally across the grain or fiber of a material. Bias-cut materials can be cut at different angles to change the rigidness or flexibility in certain directions.


A polymer that comes from a living source, such as plants. Biopolymers are often biodegradable.


A semi-metallic chemical element used in advanced composite reinforcements. Boron fibers are much stronger than carbon or glass fibers.


A material made from two or more unlike materials, usually a binding matrix material and a reinforcing material. Composites exhibit the properties of all the materials that they are made from.

compression strength

The ability of a material to resist forces that attempt to squeeze or crush it. Compression strength indicates the amount of compressive stress a material can withstand before fracturing.

continuous improvement

An ongoing effort to make products, services, or processes better. Continuous improvement involves identifying opportunities for improvement, taking action to achieve improvements, analyzing the results, and implementing these improvements and then looking for more opportunities for improvement.


A reddish nonferrous metal that is very ductile. Copper is thermally and electrically conductive as well as corrosion resistant.

corrosion resistance

The ability of a material to resist deterioration and chemical breakdown due to surface exposure in a particular environment. Copper and titanium have high corrosion resistance.


To break down over time due to exposure to various environmental conditions. A plastic part degrades over time due to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure from the sun.


The ability of a material to be drawn, stretched, or formed without fracturing. High ductility levels indicates that a material can bend easily but resists fracture.

electrical conductivity

The ability of a material to act as a medium for conveying electricity. Copper and aluminum are two nonferrous metals with high electrical conductivity.


Any chemical released into the air during the use or production of a substance. Emissions are created during the manufacturing of plastics.


A metal that contains iron. The most common ferrous metal is steel.

fiber composites

A composite made from fibers of a material suspended within another material. Fiber composites are often used in the automotive, marine, and aerospace industries.


A lightweight and strong material composed of fine glass fibers. Fiberglass, also known as glass-fiber reinforced plastic, is used as a reinforcement in many composites.

glass fiber

A material made from slender, thread-like strands of glass. Glass fiber is stronger but heavier than carbon fiber.

glass-fiber reinforced plastic

GFRP. A fiber-reinforced composite made from extremely fine strands of glass. Glass-fiber reinforced plastic, sometimes called fiberglass, has many different applications, including those in the aerospace, automotive, marine, and construction industries.


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

hybrid manufacturing

A manufacturing approach that produces parts by combining multiple manufacturing processes in a single workflow or on a single machine. Hybrid manufacturing may describe a variety of manufacturing processes combinations but is most often associated with combining additive and subtractive processes.

impact resistance

The ability of a material to withstand sudden shock or impact without deforming or breaking. Impact resistance indicates the amount of impact a material can withstand without deforming or breaking.


A malleable, silver-gray metal that is highly magnetic. Iron is alloyed with carbon to make steel.

laminar composite

A composite made from layers of different materials that are bonded together. Laminar composites, such as plywood, are sometimes used in the construction industry.


In manufacturing, reducing the weight of a part or product without altering its function. Lightweighting results in parts and products that are less heavy than previous iterations.


A nonferrous metal that is extremely lightweight. Magnesium is brittle at lower temperatures and has poor wear resistance.


Able to be formed or shaped through impacts or pressure. Malleable materials do not break or fracture easily.

material reduction

A lightweighting method that involves redesigning a part to remove non-essential material. Material reduction can be used on its own or in combination with material substitution.

material substitution

A lightweighting method that involves swapping one substance for another in the manufacture of a product. Material substitution replaces a heavier substance with a lighter one.


The viscous material that binds together the reinforcements fibers in a composite and hardens to give the part shape and protect the reinforcements from damage. Matrix materials include a variety of polymers, metals, and ceramics.


A material that does not contain a significant amount of iron. Common nonferrous metals include aluminum and copper.

particulate composite

A composite made from particles of a material suspended within another material. Particulate composites are often used in the automotive and fabrication industries.

physiologically inert

Having no effect on the human body. Physiologically inert materials can be used in medical devices, including bone and joint replacements.


A laminar composite made from layers of wooden board that have been pressed together with the grain in alternating directions. Plywood is used in the construction and furniture industries.

polystyrene foam

A very light, sturdy thermoplastic material that is transparent and easily shaped. Polystyrene foam is used in packaging.


A series of automotive components that generate and deliver power. Powertrains include an engine, transmission, and other components.


A physical or mechanical characteristics of a material that distinguishes it from other materials. Properties determine the behavior and performance of a material, including how a material will react under a heavy load or to extreme temperature changes.


A raw polymer, usually in the form of liquid, beads, or pellets, that is not yet molded into its final shape. Polymer resins can be used in composite materials.


An artificial object launched into space to orbit the earth. Satellites are used for research, communication, surveillance, navigation, weather monitoring, and many other applications.

shear strength

The ability of a material to resist forces that attempt to cause the internal structure to slide against itself and separate. Shear strength indicates the amount of shear stress a material can withstand before fracturing.


A metal consisting of iron and carbon. Steel is the most common manufacturing metal.


The ability of a material to resist forces that would otherwise break or deform it. There are different types of strength, including tensile, compression, and shear strength.

strength-to-weight ratio

The relationship between a material's strength and its weight. Materials with a high strength-to-weight ratio are light but also very strong.


A force that attempts to deform an object. Common forms of stress include compression, shear, and tensile.


The ability to be used or produced repeatedly without causing pollution or using up environmental resources. Sustainability is important both to protect the environment and to meet governmental regulations.

tensile strength

A material's ability to resist forces that attempt to pull it apart or stretch it. Materials with high tensile strength tend to deform, bend, or stretch before breaking.

thermal conductivity

A physical property that indicates how well heat energy transfers through a material. High thermal conductivity is a property of steel alloys, copper, and aluminum.


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


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


Poisonous or harmful. Toxic substances can cause a range of illnesses and must be handled carefully.


Able to dissolve in water. Water-soluble packaging materials are more environmentally friendly than plastic materials.

wear resistance

The ability of a material to resist the gradual wearing away caused by abrasion and friction. Wear resistance is important in determining how long a material or part can safely perform a function.