Producing prototype material allows us to further develop our material design, further demonstrate material properties, test key properties or product application issues, and plan full-scale production efforts.
Producing prototype material forms an important feedback mechanism to our iterative Materials by Design® material design approach, helping us demonstrate that our newly-designed material can meet the design goals, further validate and refine our computational mechanistic models and design tools, and further optimize our design composition and processing paths.
Prototype materials are typically produced by well-regarded, niche, third-party specialty material producers who work from QuesTek’s detailed material specifications. We work with many leading producers, suppliers and processors, and can often recommend firms if our client has no prior relationships. Where feasible, we’ll strive to work with the best parts of our client’s supply chain, in order to further enhance speed-to-market. We also have some limited in-house capacity to produce prototype material at our facilities. In some cases prototypes of actual final-use products are produced and demonstrated during this stage (depending on the product size and cost).
Validate and Optimize Designs
We first review and confirm that prototype materials were produced and processed according to our design specifications. Then we’ll typically use our modeling tools (such as PrecipiCalc™ simulations and careful experimentation) to further optimize the process and our material specifications in order to achieve the best possible balance of microstructural features (including nanostructures) and properties. We specifically design materials to have robust production and processing paths that are designed to accommodate full-scale production variability, in order to reduce manufacturing costs and resource requirements. We’ll also use various characterization and analysis techniques to guide our optimization, confirm that predicted microstructural features are indeed present, and further validate the accuracy of design models.
When the optimal process conditions have been determined, we’ll test the material properties according to the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Roadmap. We’ll then develop a plan to demonstrate the property requirements using full-scale (or other representative) production and processing.