For only $4.99, you can buy an app for your Android phone that finds lighter materials for your design and even tells you how much each will save (or cost) you. The database for the Weight Reduction Material Selector (WeRMS) contains more than 600 separate materials.
First you enter the material your part or structure is made of and the structural properties you want to keep constant; for example, bending strength. Then you enter one of three types of replacement materials you'll consider: metals, ceramics, or organics; that is, plastics and composites. The WeRMS tool generates a list of materials that can reduce weight in your design, and gives both the percentage of weight reduction and the price per pound for how much each choice will save or cost.
Based on one of several available textbook structural translations, the WeRMS app identifies which replacement materials provide the best choices for saving weight. It calculates the relationship between cost increase and ultimate savings in percentages. You can use sliders to figure out which materials give minimum weight saving at a minimum cost penalty or a maximum cost savings, and which will give the most weight saving at the biggest cost penalties.
MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Materials Get Tough & Light at MD&M West
The app has an applications filter, which lets you narrow the field of possible materials by only giving results for a household, hospital, automotive, or military environment. The filter allows you to evaluate temperature, chemical, opacity, and impact performance characteristics appropriate for each environment's specific requirements. This lets you quickly identify a hierarchy of materials that can give your part or structure a weight benefit at a minimum cost penalty or at a maximized cost savings.
Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 25 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, machine vision, and all kinds of communications.