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Environmental Assessment Design Tool Specially Developed for Mechanical Engineering Students
Published: 17 November 2014 by MDPI in The 4th World Sustainability Forum session Sustainability Education and Approaches
Abstract: Over the last two decades, the environmental conscience has been steadily growing. Nowadays a wide range of companies have started to measure the environmental impact of their products performing Life Cycle Assessment in order to reduce it and contribute to sustainable growing. This environmental awareness has also influenced legislation, for example, the European Union has devoted several laws to introduce ecodesign measures in energy-using and energy-related products. However, although most industrial products (TVs, computers, cars...) are designed and developed by engineers, most of them have not received environmental training in their university studies. In order to teach environmental design concepts to mechanical engineering undergraduates, an environmental impact assessment tool has been created. In this paper the ECOCAD software is shown, as commercially LCA software is not prepared to be used by untrained users. ECOCAD allows students to easily analyze the influence of design decisions on the environmental impact of a component, allowing them to compare different materials (steel, aluminum, plastics... each one with different Young Modules and elastic admissible strains), calculating how the safety coefficient changes depending on the loading conditions. Also the environmental impact of manufacturing processes (stamping, plastic injection, thermoforming, die cast, extrusion....), transportation from suppliers, and to the final customers (truck, train, freight ship...), and end-of-life treatments (recycling, incineration, land-filling...) can be taken into account, allowing the students to fully understand how design decisions influence the environmental impact of a product and compare design alternatives.
Keywords: Mechanical engineering; sustainability; design tool; environmental impact