Using Software to Design Sustainability into the Manufacturing Process

And running alongside a growth in demand for learning these types of tools is similarly rapid growth in the sophistication of methods for measuring and improving the impacts of manufacturing at almost any level.

Whether it's adding new coatings to individual tools on the assembly line, reorganizing the line itself for greater efficiency, or reimagining how the factory itself is laid out, Dornfeld said there are nearly limitless opportunities to make big improvements in the energy use of a manufacturing system.

The final presenter in yesterday's webcast is involved in helping to make some of those tools a reality. Sarah Krasley, a Product Manager for Sustainability at Autodesk, talked about how the software tools that Autodesk has been developing for years can shape design practices now as well as reengineer a greener future for products and processes.

Among the tools that Krasley discussed yesterday was Autodesk's Eco Materials Adviser, part of a design suite that lets companies take products from sketch to 3D modeling to mechanical engineering all in a virtual capacity.

The mechanical engineering aspect in particular offers sustainability benefits, Krasley said, because it lets engineers both see what the impacts of a given design for a product would be along its entire lifecycle, but also helps them make the business case for shifting to a more sustainable material.

Autodesk has also created tutorials to help mid-career design professionals embrace these same sustainability tools that engineering students are learning at college, and the company is also encouraging its software customers to create and upload videos for disassembly and end-of-life disposal to its Inventor Publisher software system, to help demanufacturers and others easily reuse or recycle products at the end of their useful lives.

At the closing of yesterday's webcast, moderator (and's executive editor) Joel Makower asked each panelist to give one piece of advice or closing thought on how to push sustainable design forward.

Sarah Krasley: "Start where they are."

David Dornfeld: "Instill young designers with the potential that this can be done, and be done cost-effectively."

Patrick Coulter: "Designers and engineers can achieve almost anything if they set their minds to it.... So we need tools that can insert sustainable design into the normal design process."

The archive of the free webcast will be available to the public to listen to for the next 12 months. You can find more details about it here.