Human-centered environmentally conscious product redesign methods

William Z Bernstein, Purdue University


With future environmental regulations imminent in the United States, manufacturing companies are faced with the need to optimize existing product systems for environmental efficiency without compromising their performance, quality and deployment. To meet this need, computer-supported design tools must be extended to allow for identifying, indexing, and delivering lifecycle knowledge to users at various organizational levels and roles, e.g. managers, assemblers, and suppliers. The challenges associated with such an undertaking lie within the complex nature of lifecycle data, which carries with it spatial-temporal dependencies from multiple sources in an unstructured form. Just as lifecycle data resides in “silos” based on its individual domain, the existing tools and frameworks are fragmented and lack unified integration to be used for lifecycle decision making. This fragmentation has created significant barriers for designers for integrating sustainability-related considerations within lifecycle design. Based on the current best practices for informing environmentally conscious product redesign (ECPR), this thesis presents several contributed frameworks and methods that aim to enable stakeholders in overcoming decision scenarios in the context of product redesign. First, we explore designers' needs associated with ECPR using a user-driven case study of a redesign of an alarm clock. This user study allows us to understand the challenges associated even with a seemingly simple redesign scenario. Secondly, we then investigate more complex situations, where we focus on projecting complex, downstream data to a usable, redesign context from both the use-phase and end-of-life stage perspectives. Based on these findings, we present a novel visual-analytics-based framework, that uncovers environmentally efficient redesign opportunities while taking both the supply and product configuration structures into consideration. Herein, we demonstrate a usable data integration scheme for a holistic redesign process. The thesis culminates with an education-related effort towards the application of these ideas to students and novice users. Based on these efforts, we suggest a future research focus on the study of human perception related to sustainable design and tools that support it in order to elicit lasting behavioral changes in decision making.




Zhao, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering

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