Images via SolidWorks
How can designers make products that they can be sure have a minimized environmental footprint? The software they use during the design phase can make all the difference. A new tool, called SolidWorks Sustainability software shows designers the air, water, carbon, energy and disposal impact of every decision they make on every part of a product. That way, they can come up with the most environmentally friendly version of their product, without having to go back to the drawing board dozens of times, or get lazy on the research. Check out a demo of the software in a video after the jump.
The environmental impact of materials choices and production method is easily visualized so that the footprint of the product can be shrunk as much as possible. For instance, if a designer wants to pick a material with certain properties, the program can outline the features of similar materials so they can choose the best material with the least impact.
It's a great way to see the impact of the product while it is still in the design phase and not after it is already in production.
There are of course areas of improvement. For example, the site notes, "Sustainable design looks at how your product's development, from cradle to grave, will affect four crucial environmental factors: air acidification; carbon footprint; total energy consumed; and water eutrophication." But there's one problem right there - we want cradle-to-cradle design. The information provided to the designer needs to include how recyclable the material is, including how many recycling facilities around the nation and world can process that type of material. And there are some aspects of the design process that a software program like this just can address, things that take critical thought such as whether or not the product is a good or necessary idea in the first place.
Ahhh - but programs CAN do that!
Do you Really Want To Make That Product At All?
Other companies are also on the ball with software like this. Adobe is coming up with a wide range of tools that will help designers optimize how a product is manufactured so there is less waste during production, eliminate toxic materials from their design, see the impact of their design as they create it and, yes, even ask them if they really want to create that product in the first place!
Must Do: Design Smart From The Start
SolidWorks Sustainability software is a great start for a program that has potential to constantly grow, adding in information about the carbon emissions or human rights issues behind materials sourcing, the footprint the product will make while in use by consumers depending on how it is designed, the efficiency of packaging the product and so much more. We definitely need software like this in the hands of every designer.
Products have a long, long, long impact. They therefore need to be designed smart from the start. We love companies like this that are making it easier - and excuse-free - for designers to do just that.
More on designing for a better world
New Frontiers: Sustainable Design Innovation Initiative Launches in the UK
Allan Chochinov's 10 Steps for Sustainable Design
Harry Wakefield On The Year Sustainable Design Became Simply Design