Green Design for a more sustainable world
Sustainability is one of the current megatrends. Unsurprisingly, as climate change affects us all. And just as we are all part of the problem to various degrees, we can also be part of the solution.
Indeed, increasing customer awareness is driving change, as is pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry-sponsored initiatives that advocate stricter guidelines for manufacturers.
The UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) also plays an immeasurable part. Many organizations support SDGs by taking responsibility and acting more proactively to make their business more sustainable.
Selecting sustainable materials is essential
“Selecting sustainable materials is one of the focus areas of green design,” says Ausra Reinap, Senior Environmental Engineer at Axis Communications. “We’re striving to use more recycled materials and aim to minimize the use of hazardous substances in our products.”
Ausra is a member of the Axis Green Design Group, which was formed back in 2012 to support the company’s move to more eco-friendly products. Bringing together different competencies from design, environment and quality, the group aims to increase environmental awareness and to motivate Axis’ mechanical designers during the development process.
Axis has identified four eco-innovation aspects:
- Material selection
- Optimize part design
- Optimize design for manufacturing
- Optimize disposal
Covering the entire product life cycle
“Green Design is a rather wide concept that focuses on how we can minimize our environmental impact,” says Ausra, “not
only throughout the value chain, but throughout the entire product life cycle.”
In 2015, Axis launched its Green Design Evaluation Scorecard to help designers integrate environmental considerations into the product development process. Ausra says that, “We know that selecting recycled materials can be a challenge, especially ones that comply with the strict UL standards which are crucial in the USA and Canada.”
Axis has a list of banned restricted substances, including both substances that are already regulated by law and substances that aren’t restricted or banned yet but will likely be so in the future. “They include plasticizers and brominated/chlorinated flame retardants (BFR/CFR), and it’s very important to us to not just wait for legislation, but rather be one step ahead,” Ausra says.
Going beyond materials
Weight is essential to optimize part design. Less material means using less resources but also reduced environmental impact from transports. Another way to optimize the part design is to reduce the number of screws, or even design without screws altogether, for instance, by using snap joints instead.
Equally important is how the product is produced. Optimizing design for manufacturing means specifying the appropriate surface finishing and tolerances, which will minimize waste. Ausra points out that this can be a balancing act: “We want to optimize our processes, but without jeopardizing the quality.”
Looking beyond the product usage phase, it is essential to design for optimal disposal. Making disassembly easier will simplify repair, reuse and recycling. “Optimally,” Ausra says, “we’d have a modular design that would enable a circular approach. We’re running and evaluating some initiatives, so this is something that we’re looking into.”
BFR/CFR-free product development
Senior engineer Christian Adielsson has hands-on experience of green design in a new product development project. He says, “We were starting a camera project based on a totally new platform and one requirement was that everything should be free from brominated and chlorinated flame retardants.”
At an early project stage – drawings ready – Christian collected lists of all specified components. These were sent to the environmental department for assessment. It turned out that some 10 percent of the components would need to be changed.
Crucial to take responsibility
“We started contacting suppliers in search of substitutes,” Christian says. “The biggest problem was that at the time we didn’t have the proper tools to automate the process, so we had to go through everything manually which was very time-consuming.”
Unable to find BFR/CFR-free alternatives for three components and running out of time, it was decided that the new products, AXIS P1375 and AXIS P1375-E Network Cameras, will be launched during spring. But, says Christian, “This was just the first step. We keep on developing, and I’m confident that we’ll launch an even more sustainable solution in the near future.”
As a manufacturer today, it´s crucial that you take responsibility for sustainability
Ausra concludes: “As a manufacturer today, it’s crucial that you take responsibility for sustainability, and green design is necessary to be a credible supplier. Axis has very high ambitions and if our ambition is to be the market leader, we must reduce our environmental impact throughout the entire product life cycle.”