Worker disposing of a product

Design Insights: Environmental Electronics; Human Factors Design

June 1, 2021
A review of the day’s top trending stories from Machine Design editors.

Environmental Electronics

When business leaders talk about the virtues of a more environmentally-friendly approach to manufacturing, going green and saving green are not always connected. That’s both short-sighted and untrue, as there are numerous examples of how an earth-friendly approach to such things as packaging and recycling within a facility can benefit the bottom line.

One key area, as a new Machine Design story notes, is electronics. The article notes that electronic parts and components used to assemble computer products account for nearly 60% of the computer products’ carbon footprint. According to a study, a further 40% is generated by carbon from various chemical, gases, metals and other semiconductor materials.

As the article notes, “sustainability is not only about carbon emissions, but also the use of rare earth metals in electronics. Some of these materials are scarce, so overproduction of electronics reduces the availability of these critical raw materials. At the end of a product’s life, it is disposed of, which creates more waste and increases carbon levels.

The article cites a study that says an estimated $55 billion in e-waste material is thrown away annually in the U.S., while just 20% of all e-waste is collected and recycled, despite the presence of materials such as gold and copper.

Improving these numbers can begin at the design process but have to expand to all corners of the business.

Human Factors Design

Another area where design plays a key role is in considering intuition as well as functionality in the way machines are designed. A recent Machine Design article discusses the idea of Human Factors Engineering, which helps shape the way a given part or control might relate in a different way to an operator.

For example, a landing gear control on an aircraft was changed from a basic lever to look like a wheel, while the landing flap was adapted from the same lever style to a flap-shaped paddle on the panel. Instead of training to pilots to always remember which lever was which, the Human Factor Engineering made the process visual.

“The key was to address the pilot, controls, task and environment as a complete system,” the article notes. “Complete systems work more safely and effectively when all components are evaluated together and designed around the user.”

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