Manufacturing Processes

Manufacturing is a series of interactions between materials, machines, energy and people in the process of making goods and articles. There are manufacturing processes available for the four main groups of materials: metals, ceramics, plastics and composites. Only those processes for metals and polymers will be covered here.


Alloys composed of two or more elements, at least one of which is metallic, are the predominant type of metals used in manufacturing. Metal are either iron based ferrous metals or nonferrous metals, a group that contains all other metals and their alloys.


Plastics are formed from repeating structural units called mers whose atoms share electrons to form large molecules. There are three categories of plastics: thermoplastics, which can be subjected to multiple heating and cooling cycles without a large change in their molecular structure; thermosets, which chemically transform (cure) into stiff structures when they cool from a heated plastic condition and elastomers, which exhibit significant elastic behavior.


Ceramics contain metallic or semimetallic and nonmetallic elements. For processing purposes ceramics can be divided into crystalline ceramics, which are formed from powders and then sintered, and glass ceramics that can be melted and cast and then formed in processes such as glass blowing.


Composites are materials that usually consist of two phases, both homogeneous masses of material, that are bonded together to achieve properties superior to those of its constituents. Usually the structure of a composite consists of particles or fibers of one phase mixed into a second phase, which is called the matrix.

Environmental Concerns

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0633602. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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Pennsylvania State University
Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics
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