Up to this point in your design & technology careers, materials has meant either wood, metal or plastics. You will, no doubt, recall that these materials were further sub-divided; hardwood, softwood, ferrous, non-ferrous, thermosetting and thermoplastic. Furthermore you will have familiarised yourself with examples of some of these materials ~ shaped MDF, cut steel sections, bent aluminium, heated and formed acrylic.

Clearly, for A-level we will need to consider this area in greater depth so that you are able to make critical comparisons between a wide range of materials. Specifically, we will need to consider the use of materials in terms of:

common forms of material, their sources and availability, together with factors that might affect availability;

selection of materials for designed products taking into account economic, processing and service requirements;

characteristics and working properties appropriate to the materials studied;

modification of properties;

causes of deterioration;

testing: the use of comparative tests;

shaping and joining techniques;

finishing: the different finishes available and their suitability for different materials and conditions of service;

safety: it is important that you are aware of the potential dangers that might exist while working with materials, tools and machinery.

This topic does not lend itself to being learnt through theoretical knowledge alone and you will be expected to learn by doing. The intention is that this experience plus these notes will constitute a body of knowledge to assist you throughout this course.

One of the main problems that faces both pupils and teachers alike is that your terminal exam will test you on a range of materials and processes that occur exclusively within industry whilst you are restricted to hand-crafting objects using a limited range of materials and one-off processes within the workshop.

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