Materials in Modern Product Design

The Role of Specialty Materials in Modern Product Design


We live in an age of rapid product innovation. From smartphones to electric cars, designers keep finding ways to add exciting new features. But coming up with groundbreaking products takes more than just creativity. It often requires new specialty materials engineered specifically for each application. Advanced materials help make today’s amazing products possible.

Lighter and Stronger

One way material specialists spur innovation is by developing ultra lightweight yet strong substances. Take carbon fiber, for example. Made from thin strands of carbon atoms bonded together, carbon fiber started being used in racing bikes and exotic sports cars. It allowed these vehicles to be far lighter than normal while still being very sturdy. Now carbon fiber is showing up in everything from airplane wings to laptops to tennis rackets. The combination of featherlight weight and immense strength expands what engineers can achieve in cutting-edge product design using carbon fiber.

Unique Properties

Specialty materials also give designers all-new properties to work with. Some seem to defy physics or chemistry as we know it. Researchers created aerogel, for instance, by replacing the liquid component of a gel with a gas while keeping its solid structure intact. This produces a nearly weightless solid that is 99.8% air yet strong enough to support a brick. Bizarre substances like aerogel, now used in spacecraft insulation, cosmetics, and outdoor apparel, open up radical new possibilities for industrial designers. Major advances in solar cells, semiconductors, biomaterials, and nanotechnology offer an exponential expansion of the materials palette for creating revolutionary products.

Bespoke Materials

Large chemical companies offer an array of plastics, composites, foams, rubbers, and metal alloys developed for specific applications. But often the exact combination of properties needed doesn’t yet exist. That is when firms collaborate directly with specialty designers on custom materials. Athletic shoe companies, for example, work with polymer experts to develop foams with the precise cushioning and responsiveness they want. Electrical product engineers may partner with a specialty insulation manufacturer to design a material preventing electromagnetic interference in their devices.

Sustainable Solutions

There is also growing demand from consumers for environmentally friendly products made from recycled, nontoxic materials. This poses an interesting challenge for product developers aiming to design exceptional items people want while minimizing ecological impact. In response, chemical suppliers are formulating more sustainable specialty alternatives. Solar cell makers use silane gas derived from rice husks to lower electricity needs. Packaging designers choose expandable polystyrene foam made from recycled plastic by responsible expandable polystyrene suppliers like Epsilyte to cushion electronics in recyclable boxes.

Materials scientists put significant effort into developing alternative substances that are kinder to the planet across their full life cycle. Bioplastics derived from plant materials provide functionality comparable to conventional plastics, while remaining compostable at the end of use. Manufacturers utilize recycled metals, paper products, glass, and plastics to produce new goods, reducing waste and energy consumption versus virgin materials extraction and processing. These and similar solutions allow responsible companies to pioneer innovative products displaying both technical and environmental innovation.


Turning an inspiring product vision into reality often comes down to finding or making just the right materials. Today’s ambitious designers dream up devices packed with amazing capabilities that enhance our productivity and enjoyment. Harnessing incredible new substances from aerogels to expandable polystyrene, these dreams steadily become everyday items, improving how we live, work, and play. The unsung materials wizards honing such materials perform their magic out of public view, yet they enable spectacular innovation in the products we love. So while you are oohing and ahhing at the latest tech gadgets, spare a thought for the incredible materials making it all feasible.

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