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Autodesk Partners With Granta Design Around Sustainability

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 considered renewable.

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.

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