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Science, Maths & Technology

What is Manupedia and how do I use it?

Updated Friday, 28th September 2018

Find out more about Manupedia and how you can best make use of it. 

Welcome to the Manupedia, a collection of information about some of the processes used to convert materials into useful objects.

The Manupedia began life in the 1980s as part of the Open University course Manufacture materials design. The designers of the course were convinced that learning about manufacturing shouldn’t involve reading a lot of facts about how different processes were operated. Instead, they grouped that information together into a set of ‘datacards’ for the students to use as a resource while they learnt about the principles of materials processing.

And it is those self-same datacards that we have translated into this web resource. Naturally we have added some new processes. There is a new section on additive manufacturing processes, which didn’t exist in the 1980s. Meanwhile some of the processes included have become entirely obsolete.

We don’t claim that the Manupedia is an encyclopedia. It covers over 100 processes, including all the mainstream techniques and a selection of more specialised ones. And any data provided are indicative rather than definitive. But if you have an interest in materials processing you are sure to find the Manupedia fascinating and informative.

How the Manupedia is organised

The processes included in the Manupedia are grouped into several categories. Most of the categories are based on common scientific principles governing the way that material is transformed by the process into a recognisable object.

Those categories and the related principles are:

  • casting – material is shaped in a liquid form and then solidifies
  • cutting – material is selectively removed to reveal the shape
  • forming – material is manipulated to shape while remaining solid
  • joining – separate objects are brought together and attached to each other
  • powder – material in powder form is shaped and then consolidated into a solid

There are two additional categories.

  • Additive manufacturing (which you might recognise as 3D printing) is a collection of processes that convert digital descriptions of an object into a solid version of it by selectively depositing or consolidating material into the shape of the object.
  • Surface engineering is a vital part of manufacturing. Its purpose is to take manufactured objects and alter the properties of their surfaces to enhance their performance.

Each entry in the Manupedia is organised in the same way.

After the name of the process, you will find a brief description. This is followed by one or more annotated illustrations and a lengthier guide to how the process works. Often this is presented as a list of steps to the process.

Different variants of the process are outlined in separate illustrations and explanations.

Every entry then includes three separate sections titled, not surprisingly, manufacture, materials and design.

Each section then analyses the process from its particular perspective, often including information presented graphically.

  • Manufacture looks in far more detail than earlier at how the process operates, with comments on issues such as the length of time taken to produce parts and factors affecting the quality of the output.
  • Materials covers the suitability of the process for different types and grades of material.
  • Design examines what kinds of products are suited to manufacture using the process with considerable, often quantitative information about size, shape and detailed design features.

Many entries also include a list of links to related processes headed ‘See Also:…

How to use the Manupedia

The best way to use the Manupedia is to select a process category and browse through the entries. You can include more than one category in your selection.

If you know the name of a process you are interested in, you can enter it in the OpenLearn search box. The results, of course, will include anything from the entire OpenLearn collection.

Once you have found one process, you can explore related processes using the list that follows the ‘Design’ section in most cases.


The mammoth task of compiling the original Manupedia was undertaken by Keith McGraw under the supervision of Adrian Demaid. The superb illustrations were almost all drawn by Baz East. Conversion of the original copy to a digital format involved many individuals including Jennifer Seabrook, Susan Storer and Adrian Singh.




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