Green is the colour

A partnership between Boothroyd Dewhurst and the Dutch Institute of Industrial Technology (TNO) has resulted in software that addresses both the economics and ecology of product recycling. Both companies believe it could accelerate progress in areas such as material selection and automated disassembly.

The intention of the developers is to target design engineers who are genuinely concerned with finding trade offs between the benefits and costs of environmentally-friendly designs.

At the moment, most environmental analysis is focused on broad materials and manufacturing guidelines. The new Design for the Environment (DFE) software analyses and helps to optimise the disassembly sequence of products for end-of-life recovery. It gives engineers an indication of the associated cost benefits for various options, such as material recycling, part re-manufacture or reuse and disposal.

Designers can find out where in the disassembly sequence economic and ecological benefits end and further disassembly is of no benefit, either financially or environmentally. This will enable manufacturers to plan for some of the potential product `take-back’ regulations likely to be introduced. Running concurrently with the disassembly cost analysis is an assessment of environmental impact.

TNO has developed a value assessment which it calls MET Points: Materials, Energy, Toxicity. The MET points are applied to the initial manufacturing stage and the later disposal, reuse or recycling of a product. Material assessment considers the product’s impact on the exhaustion of earth resources. The energy portion examines energy-related effects, like smog. The toxicity factor measures toxic effects in terms of humans and ecotoxicity, such as the reduction of CO2.

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