Scientists within the materials engineering community produce a wide variety of data, with datasets differing in size and complexity. Examples include large 3D volume densitometry files (voxel) generated by microfocus computer tomography (µCT) and simple text files containing results from a tensile test. Increasingly, there is a need to share this data as part of international collaborations. The design of a suitable database schema and the architecture of a system that can cope with the varying information is a continuing problem in the management of heterogeneous data. We present a model flexible enough to meet users’ diverse requirements. Metadata is held using a database and its design allows users to control their own data structures. Data is held in a file store which, in combination with the metadata, gives huge flexibility. Using examples from materials engineering we illustrate how the model can be applied.