Author: Jason Sebastian, President
Over the past two decades in materials science, I’ve witnessed a dramatic shift and a digital transformation of the field. What was once a completely hands-on, experiment-based practice, is becoming increasingly digital, and outcomes are rapidly advancing as a result.
Through my work with ASM and other programs, I get to interact with engineering students at local universities on a fairly regular basis (as well as high school students interested in our field). Every university student in a major materials science program is trained on digital tools these days. Though there will always be an experimental component as well, digital tools make those experiments more successful and precise.
As QuesTek® advances the digital transformation of materials engineering this year with the launch of our new ICMD® software platform, I had the chance to do a detailed interview that was published on Medium and Authority Magazine. I was asked to recommend five ways digital transformation “can take your company to the next level.” Naturally, my answers focused specifically on materials engineering.
Include materials science in your digital transformation
If you make physical products and materials engineering isn’t part of your digital transformation, you haven’t fully transformed. ICMD is designed to speed up the materials science process dramatically, using decades of acquired knowledge to identify or develop materials more efficiently.
Over the years at QuesTek, our clients will often say things like, “We would love to be able to do what you do with materials engineering,” or “It would be amazing if our team knew what QuesTek knows about materials science.” In part, creating a digital transformation tool for materials engineering sprang out of these comments.
Focus on sustainability
Taking your materials engineering processes digital makes it much more feasible to prioritize sustainability in the materials you use. ICMD enables engineers to optimize for multiple properties simultaneously. While strength or corrosion resistance may be the highest priority, you can find corners in the design space using ICMD that will improve other attributes as well without compromising the core requirements.
Eliminating or reducing rare earth minerals in your products is a great way to lower your environmental impact. For example, QuesTek’s patented Ferrium® S53 steel was developed to be so corrosion resistant that it doesn’t need the cadmium plating traditionally used in landing gear steels, dramatically decreasing its environmental impact.
Digital transformation of materials engineering also enables organizations to eliminate or reduce strategic elements that may be expensive or sourced from areas with human rights concerns such as cobalt and scandium.
Accelerate qualification of new materials
After the painstaking process of designing a new material is complete, qualifying that material to make sure it performs as expected and receives approval from governing bodies can take years. Digitally modeling a project can help reduce qualification timelines by cutting down on the number of unsuccessful experiments and trials.
Using ICMD, materials engineers can provide reliable information to financial backers and clients that allows them to get the buy-in they need to pursue multiple aspects of qualification simultaneously instead of waiting for each stage of the process to be completed. When there is a 99 percent likelihood that the material will be approved, it speeds up the qualification process considerably and can even allow manufacturing to begin before qualification is fully completed.
Make small tweaks with a huge impact
Using digital modeling can often result in discovering that developing a new material isn’t needed, avoiding the qualification process altogether. A lesser-known, pre-existing material may be the right fit, or small changes to the composition or manufacturing process could produce the desired result.
Each material has an accepted range of variance in the composition. For example, a certain steel may contain 1.1–1.6 percent manganese. With ICMD, materials engineers can model very small incremental changes in that range to see how it affects performance.
Democratize materials design
As digital tools become more widely used, it will lower the bar to entry into this field which currently is dominated by engineers with PhDs in materials science. This will increase the amount of innovation and new ideas in materials design.
Read my full interview with Medium/Authority Magazine.