Design for the Environment

Design for the Environment 
Edward Surette, M/A-COM, Inc. (SSA Journal Volume 10 Number 3 – Fall 1996 pp. 31 – 37 )

There is and has been a growing interest at M/A-COM as well as in the entire electronics industry to make products environmentally more compatible. While there is a need to make products and processes less toxic, while increasing recyclability and reducing wastes, we must achieve environmental excellence without compromising product quality and reliability. The goal is to identify, develop, and utilize new technologies that can bolster productivity, without compromising the environment. Design for the Environment (DfE), interjects concerns about environmental issues, along with concurrent engineering, into the design process; where the assessment of environmental concern is based on a life-cycle assessment of the product. This assessment includes the entire life-cycle of the product, process, or activity, encompassing extracting and processing raw materials; manufacturing, transportation, and distribution; use/re-use/maintenance; recycling; and final disposal. M/A-COM’s approach to DfE is based on three separate but interrelated components:

  1. Life-Cycle Inventory – An objective, data-based process of quantifying energy and raw material requirements, air emissions, waterborne effluent, solid waste, and other environmental releases incurred throughout the life cycle of a product, process, or activity.
  2. Process/Product Impact Analysis – A technical, quantitative, and/or qualitative process to characterize and assess the effects of the environmental loadings identified in the inventory component. The assessment should address both ecological and human health considerations, as well as other effects such as habitat modification and noise pollution.
  3. Product Improvement Analysis – A systematic evaluation of the needs and opportunities to reduce the environmental burden associated with energy and raw materials use and waste emissions throughout the whole lifecycle of a product, process, or activity. This analysis may include both quantitative and qualitative measures of improvements, such as changes in product design, raw material use, industrial processing, end use, and waste disposal.

These three components comprise an integrated approach that, when combined with other appropriate information, can provide the information needed to maximize the product’s environmental compatibility while aiding the designer in assessing, comparing and making final design decisions.



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