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What Are Mechanical Properties?

Materials must hold up to force and energy.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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One reason different materials are used to produce different items is because all materials are not the same. Their differences can often be defined by characteristics such as strength, hardness, and ductility. These traits are known as mechanical properties.

The types of mechanical properties that are assessed depend upon the material being considered. Wood, for example, is not commonly tested for its elasticity but it may be tested for hardness and strength. Mechanical properties are usually measured based on the amount of stress or force it takes to break or tear a material.

There are various types of stress and force. Strain is a type of stress that refers to how much an item can be pulled. It is often used to measure elongation. Compression is a force that refers to the amount of weight it takes to crush something. This may be used to determine a material’s compressional strength.

Strength generally considers the force required to deform a material. There are different types of this mechanical property. Tensile strength refers to a material’s ability to withstand a type of stress known as tension. This usually involves accessing how much a material can be stretched. There is also flexural strength, which refers to a material’s ability to remain intact when it is bent.

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Toughness and strength may sound like duplicate mechanical properties but they are not. Strength focuses on the force needed to break an item. Toughness focuses on the amount of energy a material can withstand. If an item can endure a high level of shock, it is considered tough.

Mechanical properties that measure how a material deforms when it is stretched are often referred to as elasticity or elongation. As with strength, there is more than one type of elasticity measurement. Ultimate elongation can refer to the extent which a material can be stretched before it breaks or tears. Elastic elongation measures the extent to which something can be stretched before it loses its original shape, even if it does not tear or break.

Ductility and elasticity are two other mechanical properties that can also be confused. Both can deal with stretching, but ductility also accesses other stresses, such as a material’s ability to be bent or twisted. Items with good ductility should not break or deform under these conditions. Another difference is that when stretching is regarded for ductility, there is usually no concern for the material returning to its original form.

Mechanical properties are often measured with machines and devices. This helps ensure accurate measurements to the slightest degree. It also helps to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the forces and stresses that are applied.

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