We all likely can agree that design specifications are vital and should be appropriately tracked and managed. And by now most everyone knows that design simulation and analysis—with its virtual prototyping capabilities–cuts product development costs considerably.

So what about material specifications? Though they’re just as needed as their design counterparts, materials lifecycle management hasn’t been as highly regarded. That’s starting to change, though, as companies realize the importance of material selection.

As flexible electronics show, the materials of which products are made, rather than the products themselves, are likely to drive next-generation product innovation. In fact, says Yan Wang, a member of Georgia Tech’s Multiscale Systems Engineering Research Group, the time has come for designers to customize the material to the piece they’re designing. He’s working on that. Also, 3D printing could allow for that same type of up-close materials specification capability.

Now MSC Software has entered the material simulation field with MaterialCenter, which simulates and analyzes material properties for virtual material testing and also tracks and manages specs. Materials simulation and analysis is a boon to users, as the technology can cut product develop costs considerably. It offers other substantial benefits as well.

Let’s take a closer look what MaterialCenter can bring to product development.

Capabilities Provided by MaterialCenter

Note that this is a whole new field of simulation that has been recently explored by many different technology providers. Simulation has advanced to the point where analyses can be conducted on material mechanics. Just as you would want to simulate the performance of a product before you prototype it, because building and testing can be expensive, the same applies to materials. You want to be able to simulate a material’s performance before you line up a materials test.

Remember, materials have requirements against it, just like products. You need to make sure you verify that a new material meets its requirements before it is used in a simulation or eventually in a new product.

The lifecycle of materials have processes. Those processes require tasks and approvals, much like any other. The advantages of automating a change process apply here as well. You don’t lose emails asking for reviews. Hard copy paper forms don’t get lost on someone’s desk. The materials lifecycle has a lot to gain in this area.

Commentary and analysis

Commentary and analysis by Chad Jackson

Is MaterialCenter and solutions like it important? Yes. Here’s why.

Material Properties are Increasingly Heterogeneous

For quite some time, it has been fairly safe to assume that material properties would be homogeneous, or uniform. But that’s increasingly not the case. Many companies are using more and more plastics with varying material properties in their products. Composites are also being used at an increasing rate, and their material properties can vary dramatically depending on how you lay them down.

Most importantly though, the advent of 3D printing is going to change everything. They are starting to develop materials for which you can specify the properties as they go through the printing process. Wrap your head around that one for a minute.

In each of these cases, it becomes more and more important to be able to consistently predict the behavior of materials. This solution lets you do that.

Poor Tracking, Poor Performance

Per The Simulation Driven Design study, only 56% of all respondents correlate simulations to test. Furthermore, 52% are tracking simulation configurations in spreadsheets and documents today, compared to only 8% in Simulation Data Management solutions. Additionally, 42% are managing simulation data on desktops compared to only 11% in Simulation Data Management solutions. Not such a great track record. But so what?

Well, unfortunately, many organizational productivity metrics are quite bad as well. Per The PLM study, 25% of all projects experience at least 3 system level prototype failures. Sixty percent (60%) of those responding The Simulation Driven Design study stated they missed project deadlines because of prototype failures. And, wouldn’t you know it, per that same PLM Study, 87% of all projects are cancelled, missed their launch date or required a 10%+ increase in staffing to stay on time.

Overall, it’s not a pretty picture.

Centralized management of material data, along with many other types of product and simulation data can directly improve these metrics.


  • Companies are now realizing the importance of materials; technology makers have followed suit with the introduction of materials lifecycle management technology.
  • MaterialCenter models, simulates, and tests material level properties to ensure the material will perform as needed. This speeds product development and cuts costs.
  • The lifecycle of materials has processes, just like the lifecycle of designs. MaterialsCenter provides workflow capabilities to track those processes.
  • Materials testing and management will be increasingly important as companies turn to composites and plastics and as customized materials play a greater role in product development.
  • Companies do a poor job tracking and using simulation configurations.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think MaterialCenter or materials lifecycle management tools in general have a role to play in product development?  Let me know. And thanks for reading.