For every product, material choices must be made on the basis of usage requirements as well as cost. Often the different material options are characterized before an item is taken into production. Checks are done to see whether all parameters are within specification to determine if everything behaves as expected. However, it is impossible to predict everything and there are many types of material-specific (metals, polymers, ceramics) failures which have caused unexpected problems in the past.
By Arjan Mank, Principal Scientist, Philips Innovation Labs