Examination of an Artefact

Length: 2 weeks (introductory lecture, lab work and presentations)

Aims: To consider the materials and processing routes used in manufacture of several designs of a common domestic product.

Key Skills: Group work, written and oral presentation, and independent study

Student Output: Group report, presentation and peer assessment


The selection of materials and processes for manufacture of a specific component entails the complex interplay of a number of factors, such as materials properties, legislation, cost and market size. The principles for this are covered in the Materials and Process Selection course and this case study is designed to reinforce these.

The class are split up into groups to investigate one design of a small domestic artefact. Within each of these artefacts there are a number of components, which represent a variety of material/process combinations. You should consider the overall artefact design and application as a group and then individually analyse one of the components within that artefact. In identifying the materials and process, you can use any of the equipment within the undergraduate teaching laboratory and metallography laboratory with appropriate supervision. In determining the appropriateness of materials for a given function then supporting data are needed which can be sourced from the Internet or the main library.

Each group should consider the artefact assembly in its entirety before disassembling for each group member to deal with their own components. When determining material and its manufacture, you should consider carefully what tests will reveal the information required, e.g. what section needs to be mounted for optical examination in order to determine whether a material was rolled or extruded.

Each group report should have a group introduction, followed by the individual reports, which should include a description off the component, procedures used to identify it, results, e.g. micrographs, densities, hardness values, property data and an interpretation of those results leading to an identification, an assessment of the likely reasons for selection of material and process and an assessment of suitability. There should then be a group summary of each finding which should indicate the likely target market for the artefact and any improvements thought practical.

At the end of this case study, you should be able to:

  • Determine the manufacturing route for common metallic components using optical metallography.
  • Identify common commodity polymeric materials and determine their manufacturing route. 
  • Relate material choice with required service properties.
  • Relate processing route to material choice and application.