3 - Implications of Wider Issues

Table of Contents

1 Factors to consider whilst investigating design possibilities??

Superficially, a manufacturer would like to be unencumbered at the design stage, with free reign to devise new products without limitation. Engineers have a wider social and environmental responsibility to take a broader and longer-term view, however.

3.1a Understand how social, ethical and environmental issues have influenced and been impacted by past and present developments in design practice and thinking, including:

i. Consideration of lifecycle assessment (LCA) at all stages of a product’s life from raw material to disposal.

ii. The source and origin of materials; and the ecological and social footprint of materials.

LCA is an analysis of the overall impact of a new product throughout its life. This starts with compiling an inventory of relevant inputs and outputs, then evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with those inputs and outputs and interpreting the results of the inventory and impact phases in relation to the objectives of the study.

A product starts life as raw materials. Will these be taken from the ground (e.g. an iron ore mine) or take from recycled sources (e.g. recycled aluminium cans)? To dig new material from the ground will require considerable energy to drive plant machinery, to be refined into pure material and then will need shipping to the factory for production.

Once built, products tend to consume additional resources. A car, for instance will need a constant stream of petrol or diesel – how much will depend on the engine capacity and how efficient it is. The car will also need new tyres, exhaust pipes and other predictable spare parts during its lifetime.

At ‘end of life’, a product should be designed to be as recyclable as possible. A dishwasher can be dismantled into a set of mild and stainless steel parts which can be recycled; plastic parts can be sorted by plastic type and recycled and so on. By using materials which are known to be readily recyclable, the amount which goes to landfill can be minimised.

Further reading: http://www.gdrc.org/uem/lca/lca-define.html

iii. The depletion and effects of using natural sources of energy and raw materials.

As you will have been taught in science lessons, any finite resource which needs to be dug from the ground is classed as non-renewable. Products should be designed to use the minimum necessary amount of material and, as discussed above, should come from recycled sources as far as possible to make the most efficient use possible of available resource.

By using renewable energy sources (E.g. Wind/solar/geothermal/tidal) wherever possible, the rate of drain of non-renewable sources can be limited. Unfortunately, renewable sources tend to be dependent on variables such as whether its windy, meaning that it is difficult to rely solely on these as the primary source of energy for the plant.

iv. Planned obsolescence.

This is the process of designing a product with an artificially limited useful life. This forces consumers to shorten the replacement cycle of their product and encourage future purchases of a new model. This can be achieved by ceasing production of spare parts for a specific vacuum cleaner, making a product difficult/impossible to repair, having clothes which go out of fashion, etc.
Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

v. Buying trends.

Trends among the public can heavily influence engineers as the rush to create products to satisfy those looking for the ‘next big thing’. The appetite for electric vehicles demonstrated by Toyota with their Prius along with the launch of Tesla motors high-performance cars has led to all the main car manufacturers developing and launching their own EVs in order to bring about the next major revolution in the car industry – a sector which has now moving away from a century-old technology to embrace a more environmentally friendly approach to transport.
vi. environmental incentives and directives.
Most World governments believe that global warming is a man-made problem, and that it is wise to lower carbon footprints. Governments can help modify the behaviour of the public by creating incentives to be more green.

vi. Environmental incentives and directives.

Environmental tax incentives encourage businesses to operate in a more environmentally friendly way. There are taxes and schemes for different types and size of business.

Examples of these incentives are:

- you use a lot of energy because of the nature of your business, you could get tax relief for using more renewable energy sources.
- you’re a small business that doesn’t use much energy.
- you buy energy-efficient technology for your business.

Environmental directives

Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as computers, TV-sets, fridges and cell phones is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, with some 9 million tonnes generated in 2005, and expected to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by 2020.

WEEE is a complex mixture of materials and components that because of their hazardous content, and if not properly managed, can cause major environmental and health problems.

Moreover, the production of modern electronics requires the use of scarce and expensive resources (e.g. around 10% of total gold worldwide is used for their production). To improve the environmental management of WEEE and to contribute to a circular economy and enhance resource efficiency the improvement of collection, treatment and recycling of electronics at the end of their life is essential.

The RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in such equipment aims to reduce the amount of harmful substances at source. This should ensure that they are not leached into the environment by equipment, some of which will, inevitably, not be recycled.

2 Factors to consider when developing design solutions for manufacture?

There are three different scales of production: one-off, batch and mass/continuous flow. Products will be engineered differently depending on how the product is to be made.

3.2a Awareness of the responsibilities and principles of designing for manufacture (DFM), including:

i. Planning for accuracy and efficiency through testing and prototyping.

Prior to production, a large number of prototypes will be produced and experimented with. Each time a new sub-system is created, it can then be examined for ways to further improve it. Can the parts be made smaller? Are there empty spaces inside the housing (voids) which parts/wiring can be moved into? Can the internal parts be made thinner/lighter without affecting performance or durability? Thorough repeated testing can help answer these questions.

ii. Being aware of issues in relation to different scales of production.

In a one-off product, only a single item is to be produced. Products made like this include catwalk clothes, wedding cakes, bespoke jewellery and prototypes for new products. Products made in this way are commonly made using hand-tools (e.g. drills, saws, screwdrivers, sheets of sandpaper), to allow a high quality finish. Items made this way will be inconsistent in their accuracy, given human margins of error.

In a batch-production system, a specific number of items is made. In a bakery, a batch of 50 buns might be made, or a run of 1000 plastic buckets might be produced by injection moulding. Whether large or small, the defining characteristic is the finite number. In order to make batches which are consistent, jigs and formers are often used. Methods such as vacuum forming or laser-cutting may be deployed in order to facilitate the rapid production of parts. This may be coupled with some hand techniques in order to fabricate the finished product. An advantage of batch production setups is that they typically allow the flexibility to change the setup (e.g. re-design a part, change the product to be made) quickly.

In mass (or continuous flow) production, the product in question is made all day, every day, non-stop (aside from scheduled breaks for maintenance). In order to achieve this and to maximise both output speed, accuracy and quality of the finished product, the majority of processes will be automated to the highest possible extent.

iii. Designing for repair and maintenance.
In commercial products (and many domestic ones), it is imperative that the designer recognises that their product will fail from time to time, necessitating parts being replaced in order to bring the device back online. In order to minimise the amount of time it takes to repair, designers can take several steps: Add removable access panels to the product, use generic parts (e.g. stepper motors) and ensuring that internal components can be easily removed (e.g. with bolts).

iv. Designing with consideration of product life.
Some products are designed to be ‘single-shot’, such as a promotional novelty light-up toy. Items such as this can be glued together with batteries sealed inside, as they only need to last a few hours. Other products such as cars will potentially run for several decades, and as such will need to be designed so that every component can be removed and replaced within a few hours.

3.2b Awareness of product lifecycles that extend useful product life through planning for and consideration of maintenance, repair, upgrades, remanufacture and recycling systems.

As discussed above, products’ lifespans will be considered as part of the design process. Maintenance and repair are discussed above. Creating upgrade options for products allows their useful life to be extended; this can be seen with the introduction of the VR headset for the PS4 console or upgrades to pre-existing London underground carriages in order to make them more attractive and comfortable.

Remanufacturing is where an end-of-life product returns to the manufacturer. The product is then stripped down and re-build using new parts where necessary until the product is restored to an ‘as-new’ condition. These are then sold as remanufactured, often more cheaply than purchasing a new item. Examples include clutches for cars and Macbook Pro laptops from Apple. There is an environmental advantage to this too, as fewer new parts need to be manufactured to produce the ‘new’ part.

3.2c Demonstrate an understanding of how environmental factors impact on:

i. Sourcing and processing raw materials into a workable form.

ii. The disposal of waste, surplus materials and components, by-products of production.
including pollution related to energy

iii. Cost implications related to materials and process.

Discussed above. Taking materials from the ground involves high cost at every turn: expensive plant machinery, manpower to operate it, the purchasing of the land to be mined, refinery costs to process ore into pure materials, the purchase/hire of lorries and people to drive them and then the cost of a factory (and workers) to manufacture the finished product. Once made, lorries/ships/planes are needed again to transport the good to shops for consumers.

At an energy consumption level, digging ore from a quarry consumes large amounts of electricity and diesel/gas for machinery. Once extracted, ore needs transporting to a refinery. Heating ore to a molten state to separate pure metals requires further energy and then transporting the resulting material across the Planet to a factory for machining represents a further use of fossil fuels. Wherever possible, sourcing recycled materials that have already been obtained can limit further carbon emissions, although this also requires some processing and consumes energy.

At end-of-life, the objective of the engineering team will be to make their products as close to 100% recyclable as possible. When manufacturers built products (especially in a mass production environment) in the past, production teams would ensure that sufficient component parts would be kept in stock to avoid running out and having to cease production. Unfortunately, this meant that when a product came to the end of its run, large numbers of bespoke component parts would be left which would be unusable for any future purpose, often needing to either go to landfill or to be recycled.

3.2d Demonstrate an understanding of sustainability issues relating to industrial manufacture, including:

i. Fair trade and the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI).

Read about the ETI here: https://www.ethicaltrade.org/about-eti

ii. Economic issues and globalisation.

BBC bitesize covers this well here, spread over several short pages: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/geography/globalisation/globalisation_rev1.shtml

iii. Material sustainability and optimisation, availability, recycling and conservation schemes, such as:

- exploring the impact and use of eco-materials
Pages 2-3 of this document give a definition and examples: http://www.d4s-sbs.org/MH.pdf

- exploring how materials can be up-cycled.

Up-cycling is the process of taking a product which would ordinarily be thrown away, and re-working it to create a new (wanted) product. Doing this extends the life of the product and prevents that item from going to landfill. Examples of this can be seen all over the web, and range in their complexity. Cutting the top off an old water bottle allows the bottom half to be used as a plant-pot or for storing pencils in, for instance. Others have taken old lego-bricks, drilled holes through them and threaded them to create jewellery, or cutting oil drums in half then adding steel legs to create barbeques.


3 Factors to consider when manufacturing products?

3.3a. Demonstrate an understanding of how to achieve an optimum use of materials and components, including:

i. The cost of materials and/or components.

When designing new products, it is desirable to use the least amount of material possible to achieve the task at hand.

Some materials are more costly than others – but why? Let’s consider woods and man-made boards (e.g. plywood, cardboard, MDF). MDF and chipboard are two of the cheapest man-made boards to purchase. These are made from roughly broken up chips of scrap wood (chipboard) or waste sawdust from working with wood products which are mixed up with glue and pressed into sheets. As they can be made from any scrap wood, they are very low-cost to manufacture.

Pine (a softwood, popular for making furniture) is also cheap, and provides an attractive grain in its finished product. Pine grows very quickly and therefore new stocks of pine can be readily produced, reducing its cost. Oak (a hardwood), on the other hand grows very slowly, but produces a denser, stronger wood with an attractive colour. Because of this, it is more expensive to farm and this affects its price.

ii. Stock sizes and forms available

Although materials are often chosen first, sometimes it is the shape and process which is the limiting factor. The availability and stock forms of materials also affect price, as commonly available forms are more cost effective than special sizes.

They are made in quantity, so bulk purchasing can mean less transportation socts and this can also benefit the environment.

iii. Sustainable production.

When selecting machine screws to bolt two pieces of 5mm Acrylic together, the engineer might select an M3x12 machine screw (3mm diameter, 12mm long). This would give 2mm protruding from the back of the last piece of acrylic which an M3 nut can be threaded onto to hold the pieces together. If a longer machine screw were selected, the extra protruding material is effectively waste.

When designing a light-weight box to store nails on a shelf in a workshop, the designer might elect to use MDF sheet (very low cost material; made from sawdust and urea formaldehyde). This is available in a number of industry-standard thicknesses: 3mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 18mm and 25mm. Any of these could be used, but the designer would probably select 3mm for this specific application – the box won’t have to carry a large amount of weight. If they were designing the shelf (and so needed more strength), 18mm or 25mm would be more appropriate.

There are lots of different materials; you don’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of these, but you should be able to identify a few hardwoods, softwoods, man-made boards, ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics. www.BourneToInvent.com has plenty on this in its theory section on resistant materials.


4 Factors to consider when distributing products to markets?

3.4a. Understand the issues related to the effective and responsible distribution of products, including:

i. Cost effective distribution.

ii. Environmental issues and energy requirements.

iii. Social media and mobile technology.

iv. Global production and delivery.

When a business finds themselves shipping large amounts of a product, a strategy is needed to ensure that costs are kept down to ensure that profit is maximised. A number of approaches could be taken:

A single, large distribution centre located in the middle of the region/country that the business most commonly serves. The business will only have a single set of heating, lighting, water, broadband, etc to pay for and a single set of employees to organise and care for. Stock all arrives at a single point, and logistics are straightforward. Unfortunately, if more customers start to appear further afield, transport costs start to increase. Additionally, if there is a problem at the centre (e.g. IT failure), the entire shipping operation ceases to function.

Several smaller centres are another option (there’s an Ikea distribution centre in Peterborough, for instance). These provide some redundancy in the event of a system failure, but for a smaller business, each centre many not be able to hold as much stock as a larger one.

Things become more complex if/when a company chooses to start shipping internationally. If a company is producing bulky items (e.g. a car), sending to another country means putting products into steel shipping containers and having them travel on a boat to their destination. To get an item to/from China takes around 40-50 days; customers may not be willing to wait that long, and so additional distribution centres may be needed. Alternatively, businesses may elect to set up additional factories around the World to make the product(s) in the country they’ll be sold in (e.g. Coke).

Nice article on this at: http://ibisinc.com/blog/10-critical-factors-to-a-cost-effective-distribution-strategy/

3.4b. Demonstrate an understanding of the implications of intellectual property (IP), registered designs, registered trademarks, copyright, design rights and patents, in relation to ethics in design practice and consumer rights.

Intellectual Property is something unique that someone physically creates (not merely an idea). A book isn’t IP, but the words within it are, for instance.
Registered designs allow designers to protect the look of a product to stop others from copying/stealing it. This gives the designer protection for 25 years. https://www.gov.uk/register-a-design

Trademarks allow a company to prevent others from using their brand (e.g. Coke®, Apple®). It’s designed to protect consumers from counterfeiters, allowing the owner to take legal action against anyone using it. A registered trademark lasts 10 years.

Copyright protects business’ work for 50 years, to prevent others from using it without permission. It is automatic (you don’t need to apply) when you create literary/dramatic work, software, web content and broadcasts. Unless they have your permission to do so, others can’t copy, sell your work or put it online.

Design rights automatically protect designs for 10 years after they are created, to stop people copying your designs. While one does not need to register, doing to provides better protection. https://www.gov.uk/design-right

Patents are expensive and difficult to obtain, but they provide a way to protect an invention. To obtain a patent, the invention must be something that can be made, new and inventive. A patent-holder can take legal action against anyone who makes, uses or sells your invention without your permission. Large corporations like Adobe hold many patents for different parts of their products to ensure they have a competitive advantage.

5 Energy factors need to be considered when developing design solutions

3.5a. Understand wider issues relating to the selection of energy sources, storage, transmission and utilisation in order to select them appropriately for use.

Energy sources:

- Solar Energy.
- Wind Energy. …
- Geothermal Energy. …
- Hydrogen Energy. …
- Tidal Energy. …
- Wave Energy. …
- Hydroelectric Energy. …
- Biomass Energy.

Click here to read more about these sources.

Energy storage:

Energy storage. Energy storage systems, also known as batteries or thermal stores, allow you to capture heat or electricity when it is readily available, typically from a renewables system, and save it until a time when it is useful to you.

Energy transmission:

Electric power transmission is the bulk movement of electrical energy from a generating site, such as a power plant, to an electrical substation. The interconnected lines which facilitate this movement are known as a transmission network.

Energy utilisation:

Energy Utilization. Energy utilization focuses on technologies that can lead to new and potentially more efficient ways of using electricity in residential, commercial and industrial settings—as well as in the transportation sector.

6 How can skills and knowledge from other subjects areas, including mathematics and science, inform decisions in product design.

3.6a. Demonstrate an understanding of the need to incorporate knowledge from other experts and subjects to inform design and manufacturing decisions, including the areas of science and mathematics.

When creating ambitious new products, teams of engineers, computer scientists, physicists and mathematicians will be required to work together. Each brings a unique perspective to help develop the design to be optimal – the computer scientist might advise on a better smartphone user-interface or way to make the product work more intuitively. The physicist may be able to suggest a design modification to make an engine part more lightweight and stronger at the same time. The mathematician may be able to identify a way to make a 3D printer operate more rapidly by suggesting an improved algorithm.

3.6b. Understand how undertaking primary and secondary research and being able to interpret technical data and information from specialist websites and publications supports design development.

Primary research is that which the engineering team conduct themselves, such as an interview with users of an existing system or watching users of said system using their current system. This has the advantage of providing a ‘feel’ for the problem to be solved.

Secondary research is the process of gathering data that has already been produced: Company reports, web searches or datasheets for electronics parts. This allows users to learn about new design approaches, technological developments or the release of new parts which may be useful in designing a new system.