Product design has traditionally meant “design for manufacturability” for manufacturers. The typical product model has always been to introduce products at their lowest possible cost and not worry about what happens at the end of the product’s lifespan.
Designing for circularity considers the entire life of parts—from design to production to service to the end of life, with a focus on reusability that helps to achieve a “value circle” that benefits all stakeholders.
With organizations focusing on circular economy and sustainability, PLM aligns better to reflect the needs of a globalized economy where resources are circulated and nature is regenerated. A PLM system can capture and carry information about how a component or a part can be repurposed for a second or even third life. Likewise, information on how the product can be disassembled and remanufactured, and what the recyclability options are for different materials, is valuable for the downstream economy.
As manufacturers transition from the traditional approach of selling their products toward offering their PaaS, the need for a digital backbone like PLM is even more critical.
Sustainable Product Designs With Dematerialization
Many commercial artists use thumbnail sketches, a quick rendering, or series that help the artist plan and visualize their final artwork. Similar in concept, a manufacturing engineer can input their idea along with design goals such as parameters, materials, performance needs, spatial requirements, or cost constraints into the generative design computer-aided design (CAD) software. In turn, the CAD software creates hundreds of alternative and intricate designs that offer lighter or stronger part(s) variations that can be transformed into a prototype.
Generative design offers engineers and designers multiple working variations instead of a single solution, allowing the engineer to choose a design that works best. From aerospace to consumer goods, engineers are using generative design to consolidate multipart assemblies into single-part products in addition to reducing the amount of material used. This helps reduce the number of materials and can simplify the overall manufacturing process by reducing downstream assembly.
Likewise, the automotive industry uses generative design to help consolidate multiple part assemblies into one, which means fewer components are warehoused in inventory and helps to streamline supply chains. With generative design, manufacturers can achieve faster prototyping to reduce waste and improve time to market.