Glossary of Technology Terms


Advertising – bringing a uproduct (or service) to the attention of potential and current customers.  This is done using a range of media including signs, brochures, commercials, direct mailings or e-mail messages.  The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is an independent regulator for advertisements and promotions in the UK.

Aesthetics – in its widest interpretation this is involved with our senses: vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell and our emotional responses to objects and things.  Often associated with an appreciation of beauty.

Annealing – the process using heat to relieve the internal stresses set up in a metal caused by working that material.

Anodising – an electrochemical process used to create a hard surface finish on aluminium.

Anthropometrics – concerned with the measurement of the physical dimensions and shapes of humans.  There are two types of measurement: static (structural, for example head width, needed for the design of goggles) and dynamic (when the body is in motion, needed for the clearance heights of door frames).

Automation – a method of production that uses control systems to operate mechanical and/or electronic technologies to do the work of humans.

Batch production – involves the production of a specified quality of a product.  Batches can be repeated as many times as required.  This type of production is flexible and can be used to produce batches of similar products with only a small change to the tooling.

Bought-in components – some manufacturers purchase components or sub-assemblies from other companies to speed up production and keep costs low, for example most manufacturers of televisions would buy in loudspeakers.

Brand – the recognised identity of a company that provides a service or manufactures products.  The identity is created through the use of a name, slogan, colour scheme or logo.  Consumers may develop brand loyalty, where they will continue to purchase goods from a company that is perceived to produce good quality products, is reliable and offers good value for money.

Brittleness – the opposite of toughness; the likelihood of the material to fracture, crack or break when force is applied.

BSI – British Standards Institution; an independent, non-profit making organisation that provides services including:

Certification of management systems and productsProduct testingDevelopment of private, national and international standards

Standards are codes of best practice that will improve safety and efficiency and will reassure consumers and users ofm products/services

CAD/CAM – computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).  CAD drawing software issued to describe geometries, which are used by CAM software to define a tool path.  This direct the motion of a computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tool to create the exact shape that was drawn.

Cell production  – a manufacturing system that uses a number of production cells that are grouped together to manufacture a component or sub-assembly of a larger product.

Characteristics – see ‘sensory characteristics’ and ‘performance characteristics.

CIE – computer-integrated engineering; a system that involves the analysis and simulation of design ideas prior to production.

CIM – computer-integrated manufacture; a manufacturing system in which the whole process from product definition to product manufacture is organised using computers in an integrated and efficient way.

Commercial practice – the range of business processes carried out by a company including marketing, assessing consumer needs, product development, pricing, promotion and distribution.  It also includes advertising and legal issues such as design rights and patents.

Continuous flow production – (also called in-line production) a production system where components are processed and moved directly onto the next process one at a time.  The components undergo each stage of production sequentially.  Often involves uninterrupted, 24/7 production of a basic community such as steel, chemicals, oil or basic food products.  This type of production is continuous because it is expensive to shut down and then restart.

Copyright – a set of exclusive rights or protection given to creators of original ideas, information or other intellectual works.  It is often seen as ‘the right to copy’ an original creation.  Most copyrights are of a limited duration.  The symbol for copyright is ©.

COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Heath; many workplaces, including schools and colleges use chemicals or other hazardous substances. COSHH is a law that requires employers to control the exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health.  It includes:

Clearly identifying substancesCarrying out risk assessments on the use and handling of substances.Correct and secure storage of substancesCorrect disposal of substances.

Creativity – the generation and creation of new ideas and concepts.  It is associated with imagination and results in novel and appropriate proposals.

Critical path analysis – the identification and prioritisation of the key stages in a manufacturing process.

Cultural influences – an understanding of cultural influences is very important for a product designer, especially in a global market place.  Designers must consider social trends, diversity, race, ethnicity and religion and the social-historical context.

Design rights – involve the rights of the originator of a design or design, unless a third party commissions the work.  Unregistered design rights protect the configuration or shape of a marketable (or potentially marketable) product and are used to prevent copying of an original design without permission.  Design rights, as with copyright can be bought, sold or licensed.

Digital technology – a broad term covering a range of systems that employ digital technologies such as computing, electronics, audio and video through the use of cameras (still and movie), and the internet.  Seen as a wider and more accurate version of the term ICT (information and communication technology).

Ductility – the ability of a material to be drawn into a length of material with a certain cross section.

Economies of scale – the savings that are possible when large quantities of products are manufactured.  For example, materials may be purchased in bulk at discounted rates and the set-up costs of equipment and machinery is spread over many more products, lowering the unit cost.

Elasticity – the ability of a material to return to its original shape and length after a force is applied.  The elastic limit is the point beyond which permanent deformation takes place.

Electroplating – the use of electrolysis to apply a coating of surface finish to a metal.  For example bright zinc-plated screws and fasteners.

Electrostatic spraying – an industrial process where an electrostatic charge is used to ensure an evenly sprayed paint finish.  It is used when spraying complex items such as bicycle frames.

Ergonomics – Often referred to as human factors, ergonomics is concerned with the design of products systems and environments to suit people.  It uses scientific data from the fields of anthropometry, physiology and psychology to help designers produce efficient and east-to-use products and comfortable work environments.

Ethical influences – ethics is concerned with moral dilemmas and decision making.  Designers have to consider ethical influences and have to make important decisions in their work such as ‘will the product create a better world?’  Am I making best use of resources?’  Is I s sustainable?

Fashion – can be defined as the latest or current style.  Fashions, by definition, can change very quickly.  Although usually associated with clothing design, fashion is common to many fields such as hair styling, interior and landscape design and architecture.

Fusibility – the ability of a material to be welded or to join itself to another material.

Gantt charts – used in project planning where tasks are plotted in sequence against time.

Hardness – the ability of a material to resist scratching, wear or indentation by other materials.

Hardening – hardening of metal (usually high carbon steel) is the use of heat to increase the hardness of the material.  It is usually followed by tempering to reduce brittleness in the material produced during the hardening process.

Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) 1974 – the principal law covering the safety of people affected by work activities.  It defines the role of employers to ensure that the following are protected.

EmployeesSub-contractorsOthers including visitors, passers-by and members of the public.

The agency that enforces this law is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Heat treatment – the use of heat to alter the structure and properties of a metal (see hardening and tempering).

High-volume production – often referred to as ‘mass production’.  It involves the production of high-demand products such as plastic cups, bottles and pens, which require minimal assembly, in large quantities.  It requires expensive, often fully automated machinery.

Inclusive design – helps to ensure that goods, services and environments are accessible to a wider range of people.  The very young, very old and disabled members of society are often disadvantaged by non-inclusive design.  A good example of inclusive design is the ‘Good Grips’ range of kitchen products that can be used by a wider range of consumers.

Intellectual property – a broad term to describe the creative outcomes from the mind such as design ideas, written material, artistic and musical composition.  There are four main types of intellectual property that can be protected by law: copyright, designs, trademarks and patents.

Innovation – occurs when existing ideas, concepts or inventions are used in a new and different way.

Invention – the first occurrence of an idea or concept for a new process or product.  It can be based on a collaboration of existing ideas or concepts but involves a unique quality.

Job bag – a collection of research and resource materials required to help to carry out or solve a task.  It is commonly used by product designers working on specific commissions; several software packages are available that include tools and information to carry out specific tasks.  A job bag is required in Unit F521 Advanced Innovation Challenge.

Just-in-time (JIT) manufacture – the philosophy of JIT manufacturing is to meet consumer orders with a quality product with minimal delay and effective use of resources.  The JIT system is sometimes referred to as lean manufacturing as it focuses on giving customers value form money by reducing wastage and minimising stock of components and finished products.

LCA – life-cycle assessment (sometimes referred to a life-cycle analysis) is a method of assessing the entire environmental impact, energy and resource usage of a material or product.  It is sometimes known as a ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis and encompasses the entire lifetime of a product or material from extraction to end-of-life disposal.

Malleability – the ability of a material to be formed into shape by bending, pressing, rolling or hammering, without breaking or fracturing.

Marketing – carried out by companies to ensure that they meet consumer needs.  It involves carrying out market research to identify target markets (a specific cohort of consumers) and looking at what is available from competitors.  The pricing, promotion and placement of the product are considered to maximise sales.

Modelling – modelling is used to test and/or communicate design ideas.  Modelling can be carried out by hand using appropriate available materials or can be generated by computer.  Models can be 2D o0r 3D.

Modular production – (often referred to as cell production) a manufacturing system that uses a number of production modules that are grouped together to manufacture a component or sub-assembly of a larger product.

Obsolescence – products become out of date or are placed by new products.  This is when the product becomes obsolete.  ‘Built-in’ obsolescence is often used to give a product a specific life-span beyond which it may be unsafe to use.  For example, disposable syringes are designed to be used for one injection only.

One-off production – (often referred to as job production) a manufacturing system used when only one specialist item is required.  An example of this could be an individually made piece of jewellery, a specific building project or a unique wedding dress.  This type of production is very labour intensive, requires high skill levels and is therefore expensive.

Patent – a patent gives a designed protection against copying of the technical and functional aspects of their invention without permission.  It covers details such as how they work, how they are made and what they are made of.

Performance characteristics – relates to the features or characteristics of products, materials or systems and how they perform under certain conditions or as a result of tests.

Primary research – the personal collection of research and information.  It is carried out through methods such as visits and observations interviews, testing and surveys.

Product life cycle – a product passes through a sequence of stages from its introduction as a concept to its final decline and disposal.  The stages include conception and introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

Prototype – a working model built to test the function and feel of the new design before production commences.  Very often the construction of a full-scale working prototype is the final check for design faults and allows last minute changes to be made.

Purchasing logistics – the need for companies to be well organised and efficient when researching and negotiating deals with suppliers to ensure best quality, reliability and value for money.

Quality – the quality of a product refers to its collective properties such as: suitability for its stated purpose value for money, safety, reliability, ease of maintenance and disposal.

Quality assurance – involves looking at quality procedures in all aspects of a manufacturing company to give consumers confidence in their products and/or services offered.

Quality control – carried out by means of a series of checks, tests or inspections to ensure that components or products meet specified standard or tolerances.

Rapid prototyping – a process used to quickly create a solid scale model of a component using 3D CAD data.  Systems used include ster0-lithography (SLA), laminated object manufacturing (LOM), selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modelling (FDM) and 3D printing.

Risk assessment – a careful examination of a process or activity that could cause harm to people to identify hazards and the precautions required.  Ricks are assessed and control measures are proposed.

Sale of Goods Act 1979 – this Act has been amended three times since 1979, the most recent amendment being in 1995.  The Act is designed to protect the fundamental rights of purchasers by ensuring that goods must be:

Sold as describedOf satisfactory quality considering factors such as priceFit for intended purpose.

Scale of production – the numbers of products made; this will depend on the demand for the product.  The most common manufacturing systems are one-off or job production, batch production and high-volume production.

Secondary research – the collection, collation and editing of readily available information.  Such research would come from sources such as published details, company literature and existing test data.

Sensory characteristics – relates to human perception, through the use of the senses, of the characteristics of products or ingredients.  For example, when referring to food products, sensory characteristics such as the taste, aroma texture, appearance, temperature and sound are considered.

Smart and modern materials – smart materials respond to the environment, for example differences in temperature or light and change in some way.  They are referred to as smart because they sense prevailing conditions and respond.  Examples include thermo-chromic inks.  Some smart materials have a ‘memory’ as they revert back to their original state when conditions change, for example shape memory alloy.  Modern materials are developed through the invention of new or improved processes.  They are altered to perform a particular function, for example Kevlar®.

Standardised components – those components in regular demand that can be used in a range of products.  Examples include machine screws, zips and window frames.  Standardised components have guaranteed dimensions and will have passed appropriate quality control standards.

Stock control – careful planning and organisation to ensure that a business has sufficient stock of the right quality available at the right time.  It involves controlling.

The raw materials and supplies requiredCurrent work in progressCompleted products ready for despatch

Sustainable design – designs that comply with basic principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability.  These principles aim to reduce the use of non-renewable resources minimise the energy required to manufacture a product and ensure minimal environmental impact when disposing of products.

Target market – the identified market segment expected to purchase a particular product.  It is defined by factors such as gender, age and socio-economic grouping.

Tempering – a process using heat to reduce the brittleness produced in a metal during the hardening process.

Tolerance – an allowable variation from a given dimension.  The diameter of a shaft may be 20mm to fit into a 20mm hole.  To ensure that they fit, the shaft would have a tolerance of 20 minus 0.05mm and the hole would have a tolerance o 20 plus 0.05mm.

TQM – total quality management; systems employed throughout a company to enable an awareness of quality in every aspect of its operation.  Everyone involved in the company has responsibility for quality.

Toughness – the opposite of brittleness; the ability of a material to resist impact forces without breaking.

Trade Descriptions Act 1968 – this Act was introduced to prevent the misleading or false description of good including:

Selling goods incorrectly described by manufacturersFalse impressions given by incorrect imagesIncorrect details of sizes, method of manufacture and so on.

USP – unique selling proposition; the specific qualities and features of a product that give it an advantage in the marketplace over similar products.


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