5 Tech trends accelerating advanced materials design
Historically, designing advanced materials has required a significant amount of patience. Professionals in some creative and scientific fields can see the results of their work right before their eyes, but material engineers have always needed to wait for their designs to be manufactured and then tested to see if a new material’s performance would meet expectations.
Recently, however, several emerging technologies are letting material engineers more freely tinker and iterate to see results from their work much more rapidly. As a result, designers and engineering teams developing advanced materials can test out more ideas, discovering more solutions to pressing problems, faster than ever.
Here are five of those emerging game-changing tech trends for advanced materials designers.
1. Machine learning and artificial intelligence. The rise of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) is probably the single most significant development in the field of advanced materials design over the past decade. ML algorithms simply make materials design much more intuitive than before. They let material engineers make a design change and get immediate feedback about how that new material performs.
2. Cloud computing. Advanced materials design requires some serious computational power, the type of computing power that until recently was largely only accessible in research labs. Today, the public cloud lets researchers spin up vast resources on a temporary basis, paying only for what they use.
3. Nanoengineering. The advent of nanoengineering, in which engineering is done on the nanoscale, has let engineers improve the internal structure of materials. Through this process, they can more accurately mimic properties of extremely strong natural materials, such as spider’s silk. Nanoengineering works on a scale so small it is hard to fathom.
4. Augmented reality. Usually, augmented reality (AR) refers to overlaying digital information onto the real, physical world. For example, by downloading an app from a furniture company, consumers might be able to point a smartphone at parts strewn around the living room floor and receive assembly instructions.
5. 3D printing. Finally, the growth of high-fidelity, micro-level 3D printing puts the “materials” in “materials design.” Rather than waiting weeks to see designs brought to life via manufacturers’ prototypes, engineers can use 3D printers from their labs (or, depending on their budget, even from their basements) and see real-world results of their efforts in nearly real time. And for people without ready access to a 3D printer, companies like Amazon are now offering 3D printing as an on-demand, “as-a-service” option.