Kermit the Frog had a valid point back in the day. From a design and engineering standpoint, it wasn't always easy being green. It was hard (if not virtually impossible) to truly understand what material selection meant for the long term viability of your products. Things like carbon footprint, end-of-life, energy usage, etc. and how changes in material selection will impact these areas. These where almost 'black art' types of processes from a design standpoint...if not a plain old WAG.
Enter the partnership between Autodesk and Granta. With Autodesk Inventor 2012 designers and engineers can start taking advantage of the Autodesk Eco Materials Adviser in their upfront design workflows. Here is a nice (professional) overview.
What does this really mean? It means as you create a new design in Inventor, you have a new found visibility to the impact your material choices from a design sustainability and compliancy standpoint. Let's take a look at a straight forward example of how helpful this tool is from a design standpoint. Here is a quick snapshot of the functionality out of the box...and what is possible through an upgrade [note: as of this post, the upgrade is not yet available].
In my example, I took an assembly file right out of the Autodesk Inventor samples. Once you initiate the Eco Materials Adviser (henceforth, EMA) you have access to a variety of dashboards designed to help you quickly see the impact of the materials in your model.
All of the components that have materials assigned to them in your Inventor model will automatically be brought into the EMA tool. From there, any additional materials can be assigned to components. The process of assigning the materials can be pulled from the Granta library (the EMA has a nice Material Search capability as well). In addition to materials, EMA allows for the assignment of manufacturing processes per material as well. Once they are assign in the EMA utility, they are automatically assigned to the relevant part iProperties.
Once this initial information has been defined, a Baseline can be established in the EMA Dashboard. This Baseline is for all the material impacts on: Energy Usage, CO2 Footprint, Water Usage, Cost, RoHS Compliance, Food Compatibility, End-of-Life Information. The Dashboard provides immediate feedback as materials are changed. And the results are all in reference to the Baseline that was established.
Side note: my favorite description for what Food Compatibility means is: "can you lick it?"
Here I simply changed four of the parts from Polycarbonate to Nylon and I immediately see I reduce my energy consumption and carbon footprint (how funny is that CO2 Footprint icon).
Once all your materials have been selected, EMA gives you the ability to run some reports (I mean, what good is any analysis if you can't pump out a document at the end...that, typically, few people actually want to read).
Here are some images from the report to give you a good idea of what kind of information the Eco Material Adviser report provides.
Remember how I said that EMA updates your Inventor part iProperties?? Well, that is great news for all kinds of downstream consumption in tools like Vault and Inventor Publisher.
Wouldn't it be great if in addition to saying what the End-of-Life process was for a particular part within an assembly you could actually document the process? Yes, yes it would. Using Autodesk Inventor Publisher, you can create technical documentation utilizing that same Inventor assembly we ran through the EMA...and leverage the iProperties that were created.
Good stuff, right? Being a green designer is a whole lot easier when you have the right tools available to you. If Kermit used Inventor, he would have to sing a new tune these days.