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Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Materials Engineers




Materials engineers are involved in the extraction, development, processing, and testing of the materials used to create a diversity of products, from computer chips and television screens to golf clubs and snow skis. They work with metals, ceramics, plastics, semiconductors, and combinations of materials called composites to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements. They also are involved in selecting materials for new applications.

There are numerous new developments within materials engineering that make it possible to manipulate and use materials in various ways. For example, materials engineers have developed the ability to create and then study materials at an atomic level using advanced processes to replicate the characteristics of materials and their components with computers.

Most metallurgical engineers work in 1 of the 3 main branches of metallurgy—extractive or chemical, physical, and process. Extractive metallurgists are concerned with removing metals from ores and refining and alloying them to produce suitable inputs for a number of industrial processes. Physical metallurgists study the nature, structure, and physical properties of metals and their alloys to find the best methods of processing basic materials into final products. Process metallurgists develop and improve metalworking processes such as casting, forging, rolling, and drawing. Most materials engineers specialize in a particular material. For example, metallurgical engineers specialize in metals, while ceramic engineers develop ceramic materials and the processes for making ceramic materials into useful products. Ceramics include all nonmetallic, inorganic materials that generally require high temperatures in their processing. Ceramic engineers work on products as diverse as glassware, automobile and aircraft engine components, fiberoptic communication lines, tile, and electric insulators.