Developing cleaner, greener, and safer products through education

As companies around the world turn their attention and efforts to reducing the effect their products have on the environment, recycled components and eco-design have taken centre stage in sustainability education. Engineers and designers are having to quickly pivot and adapt to the urgent realities of eco-design, balancing the requirements of aesthetic, quality, and of course, environmental performance of products. With companies in the UK and further afield setting public, tangible goals to reduce emissions, considering the environmental impacts of a product as part of the design process are becoming primary business drivers.

Simulation is a critical tool to reinforce the delivery of material intelligence to assist the development of greener products; and educating the next generation of students and engineers to learn in real-time project-based courses. Collaborative research and the development of sustainable topics has seen an uptick in respondents with 74% of students interested in sustainable materials, and 53% in product life cycle assessments, according to an Ansys user focus group. Students can share visions of the circular economy, eco-design, and sustainable assessments to better understand tricky concepts related to environmental and product trade-offs in material selection.

The benefits and business drivers of eco-design are wide and far-reaching: aligning with ever-changing legalisation on energy and substances, corporate social responsibility teamed with investor relations and the clear cost benefits. Companies can also discover opportunities for product innovation when re-considering design, delivering not only environmental benefits, but functionality efficiencies. However, there are several challenges in implementing eco-design. The goals are clear, but why is eco design not already integral in every organisation?

Time is certainly a critical barrier to success. Designer engineers are already strapped for time, with other project requirements such as functional performance, cost, lead time, and aesthetics. One way to overcome this challenge is to implement eco-design as early as possible to ensure quicker processes. Therefore, engaging the next generation of students in materials topics and learning to emphasise the importance of eco-design and data driven life cycle thinking alongside materials selection. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’ option to incorporate eco-design in an organisation’s product processes, but a critical component that should always be considered, and particularly early in the process. Ansys Granta technology can provide expertise in materials and process selection to provide auditing tools, product risks and reports on established targets.

Simulation courses, which offer highly realistic and industrially relevant educational materials for students, help prepare forward-thinking and inspired engineers and designers, who can implement their learnings in their future careers. The green skills crisis is evident in the UK, squandering net-zero plans in industries that most urgently need to de-carbonise. Changes must begin in schools and higher education to encourage more young people to begin their path to STEM subjects and sustainable careers.

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