The selective integration of 'new' materials with traditional materials to produce structural materials with enhanced performance, offers unique opportunities for innovative product design and development. This hybrid material principle has been successfully exploited in sandwich panel technology and the concept of integrated multi-materials is now being extended to a wider variety of structures, component configurations and applications. These include bridge decks, lightweight car details, packaging laminates and off-shore platforms; further opportunities have been identified in high speed machinery, freight and passenger transport, fast marine vessels and plant engineering. The potential benefits of these applications are improved product performance, increased serviceability of structures, reduction of structural volume and cost savings in materials. Innovative design concepts should also offer radical new manufacturing routes which would provide a competitive advantage to a number of industry sectors.
The user industries and supply chain have a strong need for usable design tools, guidelines and prediction methods for performance of multi-material components and structures. The aim of this exploratory phase is to develop a network consisting of materials suppliers and processors, end-users, design consultants, research organisations and/or academic establishments which will draw together complementary resources in a focused research effort for the provision of design methodologies for multi-material applications. This should lead to a co-ordinated programme proposal for the implementation phase which will address the following areas. Design criteria, failure mechanisms, size and scale effects, end-user specification, design optimisation. Theoretical modelling, structural performance, dynamic response, impact damage prediction. Joining techniques, adhesive bonding, material compatibility, durability, material recovery and recyclability, environmental issues. The synergistic collaboration and co-ordination provided by the thematic network will stimulate more widespread adoption of multi material technology.