Autodesk Inc. took a
huge step towards helping its engineering customers address the challenges
associated with sustainable design via its announcement this week of a
strategic partnership with Granta Design
Ltd., a company recognized for its materials information technology.
Granta's software is currently used by engineering
enterprises to manage materials information; to help select, substitute and
optimize costs around materials choices; and to help design in the context of
environmental objectives and regulations. Autodesk's vision is to partner with
Granta to leverage its materials information database and technology to empower
better materials selection when it comes to sustainable design, according to
Sarah Krasley, Autodesk's industry manager, sustainability.
"There are a lot of issues users are coming up against in
terms of making better decisions earlier on in the design process," Krasley
says. "What a part is made up of can drastically change the environmental
footprint of a product. We want to empower engineers with better choices."
As a result of their partnership, Granta and Autodesk plan
to co-develop software that will add new sustainable design capabilities to the
Autodesk solution. The companies will work to integrate Granta's eco design
methods and materials database information into the Autodesk digital
prototyping suite, with the goal being to help designers estimate the
environmental impact of their products and make more informed design decisions
around sustainability, Krasley explains.
For example, an engineer who has routinely chosen a specific
material has no visibility into what the environmental impact of that material
is, she says. "They know that it has to adhere to certain performance criteria
and that it needs to work with the machines in the factory that have to produce
it," she says. "They haven't fully explored the materials aspect because that
don't have visibility into what other materials could work that wouldn't end up
in a landfill or that would deliver a better carbon footprint."
Design issues around sustainability are increasing in
importance, Krasley says, pointing to dozens of initiatives, including
Walmart's Sustainability Index and the EPEAT regulations for consumer
electronics. There is also the FTC "Green Guide," a
directive would require manufacturers marketing their products as made with
renewable materials to answer specific questions such as how much of the
product is made with those materials, how they are sourced and why they are
There is no timeframe for delivery of a specific product
resulting from the Autodesk/Granta alliance. Rather, Krasley said the companies
will be collaborating and working with customers over the next few months to
explore possible options.
What if algae borne of fertilizer runoff that pollutes rivers and lakes could be harvested and used as biofuel feedstock? What if the leftovers could be recycled into farm soil nutrients, eliminating at least some of the need for artificial fertilizers in the first place? Western Michigan University researchers have a plan.
Manufacturers of plastic parts recognize the potential of conformal cooling to reduce molding cycle times. Problem is, conformal molds require additive manufacturing (AM), and technologies in that space are still evolving. Costs also can be high, and beyond that, many manufacturing organizations lack the knowledge and expertise needed to apply and incorporate additive technologies into their operations.
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