By Larry Boulden
Larry Boulden is the Staff Editor, Design World
Autodesk customer, BigToys Inc., used Inventor and Digital Prototyping capabilities to simulate,
optimize and improve their designs early in the design process – reducing materials waste and valuable resources.
Is Sustainable Design on your new list of corporate priorities? How about Green Engineering? If not today, they soon will be. They will be right up there with terms like Environmentalism and Carbon Footprint.
Today, CAD vendors are exploring a variety of ways to support sustainable design. Approaches range from sponsorship of sustainable design conferences and contests to significant changes to make CAD software more responsive to the task. Muted rumors talk of system upgrades to come — such as a carbon footprint calculator that will advance with each change in material or configuration selected — but CAD suppliers prefer to talk about what they offer today.
What is Sustainable Design?
Sustainable design (also referred to as “green design,” “eco-design,” or “design for environment”) is the art of designing physical objects to comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. It ranges from designing small objects for everyday use, to designing buildings, cities, and the earth’s physical surface.
According to Wikipedia definitions, machinery can be designed for repair and disassembly (for recycling), and constructed from recyclable materials such as steel, aluminum, glass, and renewable materials. Careful selection of materials and manufacturing processes can often create products comparable in price and performance to non-sustainable products. Even mild design efforts can greatly increase the sustainable content of manufactured items.
Detergents, newspapers and other disposable items can be designed to decompose in the presence of air, water, and common soil organisms. The current challenge in this area is to design such items in attractive colors, at costs as low as competing items. Since most such items end up in landfills, protected from air and water, the utility of such disposable products is debated.
By one definition, “tools like CAD can be used to measure changes, monitor them and provide an indication as to the rates of change for ongoing processes, but we are not quite sure, yet, how to apply these tools to sustainable systems. This will require research and education. While the processes need to be understood better, the integration of technologies like GIS and CAD will cause whole new ways for interpreting and coupling processes together that were previously not possible.”
Another definition comes from Kishore Boyalakuntla, National Technical Manager, Analysis Products at SolidWorks Corp. He notes that sustainable design is a comprehensive, holistic approach to create products and systems that are environmentally benign, socially equitable, and economically viable.
* Environmentally, such that the design offers obvious or measurable environmental benefits;
* Socially, so that it fills the needs of everyone involved in its production, use, and disposal or reuse;
* Economically, so that the design is competitive in the marketplace.
Fuel-efficient cars, solar-heated buildings, clean-burning power plants, recyclable packaging and low-voltage lighting are dramatic examples of products that help balance consumer needs with good environmental stewardship. Yet realistically, all products have the potential to be designed with sustainability in mind if engineers really think about making products better while using materials that positively affect the environment.
Implementing the practical aspects of sustainable design involves the following considerations, Boyalakuntla explains:
* Minimal material use. Can you change the wall thickness of a part from half an inch to three-eighths of an inch without compromising its function? (example: housing for a wide-screen TV)
* Improved material choices. Is there a plastic that wasn’t available ten years ago that would make this part easier to produce, recycle, or transport for the same cost?
* Design for ease of disassembly. Can the product be designed to be taken apart, either for repair or selective recycling? (example: use tabs to connect parts, rather than glue).
* Product reuse or recycling at end of life. Can the product be designed in a modular fashion, so that one part can be replaced to upgrade its function (example: rethink throwaway cell phones by selling a consumer-replaceable slide-in memory/function board)
* Minimal energy consumption. Is there a different method or machine for building or operating the system that uses less energy to run? (example: redesign oxygen-flow mask so it uses lower-pressure, less expensive pump-system at the consumer end).
* Manufacture without producing hazardous waste. (example: the successful elimination of lead-based solder).
* Use of clean technologies as a fundamental mindset. (example: hybrid automotive engines).
But why is a new way of thinking so economically important? The answer is that demand for natural resources is growing faster than the available supply, driving up their costs, at the same time that new environmental directives must also be met. Fortunately, small design changes – based on optimal amounts of carefully chosen modern materials, manufactured with minimal energy/resource usage – generate large ripple-effects in the overall sustainable life-cycle, and offer the extra benefit of an improved competitive edge in the global market.
SolidWorks demonstrated a commitment to sustainable design by focusing its 2007 SolidWorld conference on that theme.
How CAD contributes to Sustainable Design — the SolidWorks view
CAD tools must be able to show design alternatives, Boyalakuntla continues. This would include alternate materials and alternate forms of assembly so the most appropriate one can be chosen to allow for updating, disassembly, and recycling.
Basically, CAD tools — in combination with analysis tools – let you carefully analyze a design for successful operation. Tools like FEA, for example, allow different alternatives to be analyzed before a physical prototype is built. The outcome: a more sustainable design with less waste is likely to result.
If the testing process is speeded up, Boyalakuntla explains, so you can test 20 different alternatives rather than just two or three, then you are likely to come up with a better product. A more sustainable product that will function better.
Thus, the major advantage of CAD is that it lets you test the prototype, test the concept, test it in various forms with different materials so that the form that you finally settle on is more likely to be sustainable.
“Aquaduct,” winner of the 2008 Innovate or Die design contest, was designed by students who wanted to help the 1.1 billion people without access to clean drinking water. The pedal-powered
machine successfully transports and filters water without burning fossil fuels or wood, which contributes to a reduction in CO2 emissions. All 102 winners are posted on YouTube at http://youtube.com/group/innovateordie
Most CAD systems do not look at materials from a standpoint of strength or performance characteristics. Instead, they look only at the density of the materials, Boyalakuntla explains. But SolidWorks goes further, he says, and provides the materials properties that are necessary. To do analysis, you don’t have to reapply all of the material data, because it’s there for analysis.
Many CAD users are not familiar with analysis, or they don’t have access to analysis tools. Boyalakuntla’s point is that the analysis tools should be easy enough to use and the price point should be low enough that everyone can afford to use these tools to achieve more sustainable design. Perhaps 30% of companies have tools like that. The rest do not. “So when we set out to design sustainable products, we’ve got to make these tools available to that 70% of the engineers in the world who do not have access to them.”
Meyer Burger sawed 40% off development time with CoCreate 3D CAD Modeling and introduced this sawing machine to market in only nine months. Designed to slice solar panels for the solar energy industry, the DS 264/4 wire saw employs extremely thin wires to minimize cutting costs while maximizing yield.
In summary, Boyalakuntla concludes, CAD and analysis tools must be easy to use and they must be affordable. And, they must be generally available. That way, engineers can use the tools to test more ideas and come up with optimum designs.
The Autodesk view
Autodesk offers a unique approach to Digital Prototyping, explains Buzz Kross, Senior VP of Autodesk Manufacturing Solutions. That approach gives manufacturers a competitive advantage with a single digital model that brings together design data from all phases of the product-development process. This allows manufacturers to validate both the economic and ecological viability of a design. The Autodesk Digital Prototyping offering helps engineers visualize, optimize, and manage their design to support the sustainable goals they seek. Additionally, Autodesk is working to raise awareness of sustainable design through efforts like sponsorship of the PBS e_ Energy design series.
Ultimately Digital Prototyping lets you reduce the number of physical prototypes used in the design process that limits the amount of materials used and reduces waste and energy costs.
“We are seeing customers in all industries become interested and begin to design for sustainability,” Kross explains. For instance, the Palumbo Motors hybrid sports car is being designed for performance and fuel economy using Inventor. Another example is how Agricon Pelleting Machines used Inventor to lower the cost of producing animal food pellet machines and discovered a new business: turning waste coal dust into a cleaner-burning fuel.
What are the measurable benefits to designing for sustainability? Kross sees:
— Reduced material waste and associated costs
— Improved energy efficiency
— Lower operating costs
— Ability to meet environmental regulatory compliance
Elaborating on this point, Kross notes that a real customer problem is how to design for minimum material usage to reduce waste and cost. To develop sustainable products with minimum materials requires analysis and optimization of designs early in the design process. “Our design systems offer integrated analysis tools that enable low-weight, high-strength components to be designed before a physical prototype is built. Our tools integrate 3D modeling and stress analysis to enable design teams to evaluate options early and thus optimize material usage, which reduces both material waste and cost.”
Tango – an all-electric two-seater that sprints from zero to 60 in 4 sec – offers a sustainable design while tackling traffic congestion. Commuter Cars of Spokane, Wash, outsourced the initial Tango
design to an engineering firm that used a hodgepodge of CAD software. “A sheet metal contractor told us to get SolidWorks 3D CAD software and straighten out our files, and we did,” says Rick Woodbury, President of Commuter Cars.
The CATIA contest
Dassault Systems sponsored an eco-design contest, “Light Objects,” launched to encourage manufacturers to design environmentally friendly products. Virtual prototypes of the winning entries were created with CATIA V5.
Participants had to promote the notion of lightness in every way, from material selection, energy usage, security and ergonomics to final recycling.
* The winning contestant designed an energy-saver, “Pulse,” for streamlining energy use. Daniel Sutherland, the UK creator explains, “Millions of pounds (sterling) are lost every year by leaving a product on standby. Pulse is designed to identify products that should be switched off to save energy.”
* The first runner-up, Andres Roppa from Uruguay, designed a biodegradable toothbrush. Manufactured from corn or potato starch, the product has a closed lifecycle and disintegrates upon over-usage. Waste is minimal as all graphics and instructions are embossed on the brush itself.
* The second runner-up designed a solar-powered parasol, which charges its batteries with solar energy during the day, and uses this energy at night to light a built-in lamp. UK-based Ana Maia created the parasol to be used at an outdoor café.
All of these winners were designed using Dassault’s CATIA, ENOVIA and PLM solutions. Philippe Forestier, Executive VP explains, “Because 80% of a product’s environmental impacts are determined during the design phase, the ability to anticipate is essential. Using 100% digital prototypes, designers can test options and identify solutions that optimize the product’s environmental, technical and cost criteria early on in the creation phase, getting it right the first time.”
Dassault Systems Inc.
Building information modeling for sustainable design
Over the past 20 years, information technology has revolutionized the design and production of manufactured products, from airplanes and toasters to machines. The design of manufactured items has benefited from software that enables the engineering and analysis of an assembly from physical and operating characteristics to thermal behavior and fabrication requirements. The adoption of digital prototypes in manufacturing has made products more efficient and suitable to their purpose, and less costly.
According to Autodesk, architects and engineers are now applying similar tools to building design. The most sophisticated of these tools deliver continuous and immediate feedback on a far greater range of characteristics than conventional design tools. Material quantities and properties, engineering performance, lighting quality, site disturbance, and what-if comparisons between new construction and renovation are typical types of information that are easily available from these tools. This approach to building design is so different from using conventional CAD software that the industry has a new name for it: Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM facilitates complex processes and analyses that were previously too laborious or expensive to perform.
This building growth intersects with environmental concerns and the rising cost of energy. A growing field within building design has energized sustainable design, the practice of design in constructing and operating buildings in a manner that minimizes their environmental impact.
The environmental impact of buildings is startling. In the US, commercial and residential buildings consume about 40% of our total energy, 70% of our electricity, 40% of our raw materials and 12% of freshwater. Each year buildings account for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and generate 136,000,000 tons of construction and demolition waste.
Sustainable design seeks to mitigate this impact through the use of environmentally sensitive design and construction practices. The goal of sustainable design is to produce green buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work.
Conservation efforts and sustainable design gained momentum during the 80s and 90s as focus shifted from point strategies like solar heating to a holistic approach of green design. A national sustainable design organization, the US Green Building Council, was created in 1993 — formed by a group of leaders from the North American building industry. Today they are the guiding force behind the voluntary LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, widely accepted as the national standard for sustainable design. The LEED rating system awards points for satisfying specified green-building criteria in five major categories: site design, indoor environmental quality and efficient use of energy, materials and water.
Sustainable materials for lightweight auto
The Automotive X Prize (AXP) competition is designed to inspire and speed the development of a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles. Bayer Material Science (BMS) and Velozzi teamed up to design this hybrid auto shown at the 2008 North American International Auto Show. It’s a lightweight, plug-in, multi-fuel hybrid electric vehicle using materials and application technologies from BMS.
BMS and Velozzi are working to select:
* Materials and application technologies to reduce the mass of vehicles, which is critical for improved fuel economy and can lead to lower CO2 emissions.
* Materials that are more eco-friendly, which is critical to the environment.
* Materials and application technologies that require lower initial capital investment, which is critical to start-up companies and OEMs producing lower-volume vehicles.
“Because of our long-term commitment to sustainable development, as well as our successful track record in the automotive market, BMS is positioned to support the goal of producing low-weight, high-efficiency” vehicles, said David Loren, BMS project leader.
:: Design World ::
Filed Under: 3D CAD, Automotive, Green engineering, Software