The development of manufacturing technologies for new materials involves the generation of large and continually evolving volumes of data. The analysis, integration and management of these data, typically stored in multiple independently developed databases, creates significant challenges for practitioners. Strategies which allow open sharing of pre-competitive data pertaining to engineering design can play a powerful role in enabling innovation, but these strategies can work only if the data themselves can be presented in a way that is both consistent and understandable to both humans and computers.

We believe that ontology applied to engineering (OE) represents a viable strategy for the alignment, reconciliation and integration of diverse and disparate data. The scope of OE includes: consistent capture of knowledge pertaining to the types of entities involved; facilitation of cooperation among diverse groups of experts; effective and flexible ongoing curation and update of data; and collaborative design and knowledge reuse.

We propose as case study an ontology for the domain of composite materials focusing in particular on the class of ‘Functionally Graded Materials’ (FGM) with examples drawn from the field of biomedical applications. The goal of the ontology is to provide information about the components of such materials, the manufacturing processes involved in their creation, and their applications, ranging from additive manufacturing to restorative dentistry. The ontology is developed using Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) and parts of the Ontology for Biomedical Investigation (OBI) and follows the best practice principles for ontology development codified in the OBO (Open Biomedical Ontologies) Foundry.

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