Optimizing Materials Cuisine

Every great chef knows: ingredients matter. It’s a little similar in the PLM world, only we’re talking about inedible objects like airplanes, clothes and mobile phones. Substitute taste for user experience, add the environment to the health bit, et voila! Now we’re warmed up to talk about the importance of material usage in product design.

As I mentioned in the introductory post of this Green PLM series, “The European Union estimates that more than 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined in the product conception phase.“ That’s a high rate and why companies are investing resources at the 3D product design phase– to ensure their products are lean and green.

A big part of this involves selecting the right material to maximize structural resistance while minimizing the amount of material used. The 3D design phase is the best time to consider the following questions:

• Can I use lighter yet resistant materials?
• Can I reduce the number of parts?
• Will the materials biodegrade easily?
• Are the materials harmful to humans/the environment?
• Does the product maintain its intended structural resistance despite material change?
• (your turn to continue the list . . .)

Maarit Cruz is one of our Green PLM experts, so I took my video camera to her office to learn/share more:

One of the many sectors impacted by this is the aerospace industry. Integrating a higher percentage of composites into new aircrafts helps them to fly lighter and use less fuel, reducing emissions, noise pollution, etc. Also, because composites are ultra-light, extremely resistant materials, they can be formed into any shape, allowing for more innovative and fuel-efficient designs. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a good example.

Designed right, airplanes and other products are (kind of) like haute cuisine:

• Less material used = small portions
• Great experience design = amazing taste
• Small environmental footprint = healthy eats
• High customer demand = need to reserve ahead

In addition to aerospace, what other industry examples of product materials optimization can you think of? I know of industrial machining company Sanyo Machine Works that used PLM solutions to reduce the number of product parts by 25 percent. What about you?



P.S. If you’d like to learn more about composites and 3D virtual design, you may be interested to read about CATIA Composites Design.