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How to choose the right material when working on lightweight solutions?

Workshop: the pro’s and con’s of Granta Design’s material selection tool

Last Tuesday, Flanders Make organized a workshop to present the CES material selection tool by Granta Design. The aim of the tool is to address companies’ challenges in reducing the weight of products without impacting cost and performance. The tool does not only assist in the choice of the right material for a certain application, given the load and environmental conditions, it also helps with estimating the total part cost, combining both the selected material and consequent process cost. 

A room full of engineers discussing lightweight-solutions for the automotive market were present at the workshop. Tenneco and Bosal, two of the partners of the Conceval project[1] presented through a real case some of the challenges they are facing.  Victor Arnoux, from Granta Design, guided the participants through the different steps of the selection process.

The search of the optimal material for a certain application is not always straightforward and can depend on a number of factors. On top of that, these companies are faced with stringent regulations concerning REACH[2], RoHS[3] or end-of-life recyclability.  The CES Selector can assist in this search, early in the development phase, avoiding unnecessary prototyping costs later on. 

Valuable insights were gained during the workshop, not at least about the influence of batch size on the total part cost, especially when thermoplastics are selected.  For example, a stainless steel alloy was chosen as a worthy alternative for a PA-based composite, for a given set of conditions such as strength, cyclic loading and temperature resistance. In addition, stainless steel costs per kilogram less  than the original composite material: isn’t that a win-win?  However, when looking at the part cost estimation, taking into account the processing cost and the batch size, it turns out the stainless steel solution would only be cheaper at low volumes.  At higher volumes, the current PA-composite was still the right choice. 

At the end of the workshop, the participants got a clear view on what is possible with this tool, but also on the restrictions.  The CES Selector tool is especially useful early in the design phase, to rapidly filter out suitable materials.  Nevertheless, you would also need good knowledge of the final application and its requirements, combined with materials engineering insights, in order to obtain an optimal solution. 


[1] The Conceval project (multi-attribute concept evaluation of lightweight structures aims at developing and validating a model-based design platform to support the efficient design and development of components and systems with significant weight reduction achievements.

[2] REACH aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the bette rand early identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances (EC 1907/2006).

[3] ROH is an EU directive on the restriction of hazardous substances (2011/65/EU).