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All manmade items, from paper clips to the aluminium alloys in a jet engine, are made by a series of events that convert natural and synthetic raw materials into the products we use. The conversion of these raw materials to useful components and products requires a variety of chemical, thermal, mechanical and metallurgical processes, that are broadly categorised as material processing methods.
These processes include mixing, synthesis, powder processing (including powder metallurgy), moulding and extrusion and deformation processes. The final shaped part often has to be modified by further process steps, inspection testing and/or calibration to optimise performance or meet specific requirements.
Mixing and blending are used to prepare polymeric materials for further shaping, while melting and casting are commonly used on metals. Extrusion is a bulk deformation process that uses pressure to force the material through a die or mould into a new shape. Casting is the process of pouring molten metal into a mould. Rolling is a process that reduces the cross-sectional area of metals by passing it between rollers. This severe deformation reorients the crystallographic axes of the grains, producing a texture called fibrous or deformation texture.
Laser material processing involves the interaction of laser energy with a range of materials including non-metals such as ceramics and composites and plastics/polymers and also metals. The effects produced by this form of energy are very dependent on the wavelength and power level used and on the absorption characteristics of the material.