Engineering Optimization

The physical and mechanical properties of plastics, including reinforced plastics (RPs) have some significant difference from those of familiar metallic materials. Consequently in the past those not familiar with designing plastic products may have had less confidence in plastics and in their own ability to design with them. Thus, plastic material selection and optimization was confined to the familiar steel materials approach resulting in overdesign, or failures that may have occurred in service.

Engineering-wise for plastics there are the basic approaches of theory of elasticity and strength of materials with the value of one approach over the other depending on the particular application. In most engineering problems, both methods assume homogeneous, isotropic solid, linearly elastic material. A very important requirement for both approaches is that equilibrium of loads/forces be satisfied. These conditions being met to a reasonable degree, one would expect the elasticity solution to be superior to the strength of materials. Theories exist that provide a unifying principle that explains a body of facts and the laws that is based on those facts.

Strength of material refers to the structural engineering analysis of a part to determine its strength properties. There is also the important empirical approach that is based on experience and observations rather than theory. The basic optimization design theory can be related to the systematic activity necessary, from the identification of the market/ user need, to the selling of the successful product to satisfy that need. It is an activity that encompasses product, process, people and organization.

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