Altair Engineering: Re-evaluating the Product Design Process for a Sustainable Future

According to the World Bank Group, the world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste per year, a number expected to reach 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. Unfortunately, only 13.5% of the world’s waste is recycled. As the pressure increases for more sustainable practices, product designers and manufacturers must adjust their thinking to create a cleaner, greener future.

The classic model of product lifecycle management (PLM) favors a cradle-to-grave approach, which considers the product from conceptual development through to manufacture, operation in service, maintenance and finally, product development. end of its useful life. The life cycle ends with the disposal of the product, which contributes to the problems of waste management and reducing pollution of the planet.

Rather than looking at a product’s lifespan in a linear fashion, global sustainability efforts are leading manufacturers to view PLM as a circle, where product materials can be recycled or reused at the end of their lifespan. useful life to fuel the next iteration of the product. This is an interesting prospect, both for the environment and for companies, which save on the costs of acquisition and development of materials by giving new life to old materials.

Circular management of the product lifecycle

But the circular sustainability approach introduces new challenges for product designers. Already in the design phase, engineers must now consider the ramifications of design decisions throughout the initial life of the product and how material and manufacturing choices will influence their ability to harvest and reuse materials for use. future.

The goal of circularity is to use a product, its materials and components at their highest value for as long as possible – essentially, the goal is to give materials a second life. To do this, manufacturers create regenerative closed-loop systems that minimize resource input and waste creation.

We often think of recycling as an example of circular design, but as it has become clear, recycling alone will not solve our biggest environmental sustainability issues. Circularity goes beyond recycling, incorporating other models like reuse, remanufacturing and remanufacturing. For example, large retailer Target has pledged to design all of its products for circularity by 2040. For Target, that doesn’t necessarily mean “circularity” in the most rigorous sense – where every product has a second life as a product. that new product you can buy. Their goal is to create products that are more durable, easy to repair or recyclable, and to use regenerative, recycled or sustainably sourced materials.

For this reason, manufacturers in all industries are looking at the materials they use in products and how they are made and assembled to allow for greater product circularity. For example, automotive suppliers have started to use environmentally friendly adhesives to enable the joining of plastics, aluminum and thin steels where traditional welding is not possible. These adhesives are biodegradable and facilitate the dismantling of vehicles in order to recycle their components.

Harnessing material knowledge to drive circular design

Traditional recycling processes, that is, aluminum cans recycled into new cans, have diminishing returns as the material wears out and becomes less functional over several life cycles. Circularity also takes into account how the product is made, the business model in which the product is built, and the infrastructure that supports the product lifecycle to explore new, innovative ways of incorporating the material and maximize its utility. For example, the Dutch company PlasticRoad recycles plastic waste to build modular road building blocks. This example of upcycling benefits the builder with abundant and inexpensive raw materials, but it also benefits society as a whole as it creates road surfaces that are durable and easier to maintain than traditional concrete or asphalt roads. . Taking into account the circular economy of design, the implementation of recycled materials can really improve the quality of products in their second life.

Circularity begins with the design, but often designers do not have enough information about which materials can and cannot be recycled or reused. Consistent and comprehensive material information and a shared database infrastructure accelerates and improves collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. Altair® Material Data Center ™ enables product managers, designers, engineers and scientists to identify and compare materials in their web browser or through the interfaces of their simulation and optimization tools. Equipped with high-quality material data that is easily accessible and shareable across the enterprise, designers and engineers can plan, design and validate product performance using durable materials. Additionally, Altair’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) software helps materials scientists understand how to best fill gaps in their materials databases, even when this is not possible. to test all possible variants. These advanced tools also optimize test programs, improve efficiency, and reduce the time required to perform material testing. You can read more about automating the testing of AI-supported materials here.

Reduce beating recycling

World-renowned architecture, town planning and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) have used Altair’s simulation tools to achieve their sustainability goals in building design. In designing the new United States courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, he used Altair optimization tools, which took into account the properties of building materials and load constraints to minimize usage. materials and reduce costs and environmental impact. These optimized structural designs were virtually validated to ensure they were compliant with building regulations and structurally sound, without compromising the designer’s artistic vision. Read their customer story.


Altair Engineering Inc. published this content on November 30, 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on November 30, 2021 07:10:13 AM UTC.

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Abdul J. Gaspar