Sustainability and Circular Design Part 2

With 2030 right around the corner, many organizations, including companies in the design and engineering industry, are working to reduce their carbon footprint to meet the 2030 climate change initiatives worldwide.

At Dassault Systèmes® we are on a mission to drive sustainable innovation and have a robust set of offerings including design, simulation and lifecycle assessment tools to help organizations achieve their sustainable design goals.

In part one of this article “Is Your Design Sustainable? Sustainability and Circular Design Part 1,” I introduced the concepts of linear economy, circular economy and circular design. To recap, circular design aims to shift the take-make-waste approach of a linear economy to a circular economy that focuses on reducing material use, using materials that are less resource intensive and are reusable and recyclable. Circular design is the practice of applying circular economy principles at the design stage, working to eliminate waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use as long as possible, and regenerating natural systems.

In this blog, I’d like to touch on how design and simulation solutions can help you optimize your designs for the circular economy and how lifecycle assessment can help you measure the environmental impact of your designs.

I’ve brought in a couple of colleagues to add to the discussion. One colleague who assisted me with the research for this article is Peter Rucinski, a Senior Director at Dassault Systèmes, who specializes in plastics materials, part design and injection molding simulation. In addition, as an authority on the plastics circular economy. Peter had some great pointers for meeting circular economy objectives in the design phase.

 It All Starts in the Design Phase

It’s critical to consider the circular economy in the early stages of design. It is estimated that over 80 percent of all product-related environmental impacts are determined during the design phase of a product, including material choices and manufacturing methods.

In a presentation at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021, Peter shared a few examples of what you can do in the design phase to design for the circular economy.

For example, when designing plastic parts, it’s in the design phase where you can most easily minimize part wall thickness while still meeting application requirements, thereby decreasing raw material usage, lowering manufacturing energy requirements and designing out waste and pollution.

You can also optimize your part design for the manufacturing process to improve part quality, eliminate manufacturing defects, decrease production scrap rates and extend the useful service life of your product.

“And it’s also in the design phase where you can let your creativity and innovative imagination run wild,” said Peter. “You can develop products that will have multiple and very useful service lives that contribute to use/reuse cycles that may be non-existent today but can extend for years or even decades until the time comes to recycle the starting material.”

 Exploring Sustainability with Simulation

Simulation can lend a hand in not only testing and validating for fit, form and function, but can help designers and engineers make more informed decisions about their products and creating more efficient products overall.

Simulation tools enable you to examine things like energy consumption, explore material selections and test out “greener” options, which leads to better designs with fewer physical prototypes, further reducing their overall environmental impact.

Here are some of the areas where simulation can influence the conceptual design stage:

–       Understanding materials inside products and their full sustainability impact including reduce, re-use and recycle impacts

–       Minimizing material usage which impacts power requirements for mechanisms

–       Meeting legislative environmental compliance requirements

–       Replacing physical prototyping with virtual prototyping which means less waste and energy consumption

–       Minimizing product waste in the beginning conceptual phase and in the manufacturing process enabled by virtual prototyping

After doing market research with my colleague Peter on the circular economy for the last two years we’ve learned and heard from you, our customers, are using simulation solutions, such as injection molding to help achieve your circular design goals.

We have a whole plethora of simulation tools for SOLIDWORKS® users including SOLIDWORKS Simulation; and our new simulation roles in the 3DEXPERIENCE® Works portfolio, such as Structural Mechanics Engineer and Durability Performance Engineer connected to our 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

 Sustainable Innovation Intelligence

To help users join the circular economy, Dassault Systèmes recently announced a new set of solutions for lifecycle assessment called Sustainable Innovation Intelligence. This includes two new roles Eco-Design Engineer and Sustainable Innovation Manager, which enable organizations of all sizes to assess and minimize the environmental impacts of the products, materials and processes they create.

For instance, users can bring their SOLIDWORKS data into Eco-Design Engineer to set up sustainability requirements early on and measure the sustainability of decisions before implementing them into their designs.

Furthermore, it enables users to create circular lifecycles by setting up sustainability requirements early on and collaboratively driving them throughout the design, product development and manufacturing engineering phases. It integrates materials supply, design, manufacturing, operations, logistics, and end-of-life management. It provides real-time insights that allow teams to identify problems or improvements virtually before acting on them and ensure traceability and reliability.

I briefly talked to my colleague Muriel Moreau, the Sustainable Innovation Intelligence Director at Dassault Systèmes, to get insight on the offering.

Muriel explained that the Sustainable Innovation Intelligence solutions are a catalyst of the circular economy and of the sustainability transformations we need to achieve in the next 10 to 15 years. “We want to empower our customers with a new offer that will enable them to challenge the status quo and innovate. Setting environmental targets in advance, when starting a new project, will help drive designers along their sustainability journey. Moreover, performing lifecycle assessment studies at any time during the design process will give them the beforehand view of the future environmental footprint, enabling them to choose their best design alternative.”

“Sometimes you have to make compromises when making design decisions, but at least with lifecycle assessment studies, you are aware of the potential environmental consequences of the choices that you are making. And of course, we believe organizations will be able to reduce their environmental footprints with this tool.”

As my colleague Muriel said, we’re here to enable and help you innovate so you can make the best products possible.

In closing I’d like to challenge you to do your part in addressing global challenges by reducing the environmental impact of your product designs and processes. We must move from the take-make-waste approach of linear economy and must move towards a circular economy.

It’s clear we can no longer continue this wasteful approach.

Stephen Endersby is a Director of Product Portfolio Management at Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS. A passionate believer in the benefits of design analysis Stephen is confident that every designer can make use structural, motion, fluid and plastics simulation tools to improve their product designs and performance. With over 15 years of experience Stephen has worked with companies of all sizes to help them overcome the many design to manufacture challenges they face. Well versed in the application of technology to deliver end user value and improve productivity, for Stephen technology changes but his desire to deliver solutions and value remains the same.