Skip to content

Reducing Environmental Impact with SOLIDWORKS Sustainability Analysis

Article by Zack Carlan created/updated April 15, 2015

SOLIDWORKS Sustainability Analysis

SOLIDWORKS Sustainability Analysis

SOLIDWORKS Sustainability software allows product designers to easily complete a life cycle assessment on the environmental impacts of a product design. The tool includes capabilities to assess parts and assemblies and allows you to determine and optimize for the lowest environmental impact. Sustainability also allows you to quickly adapt to changing environment and market conditions. By using Sustainability and life cycle assessment information, time and money can be saved and environmentally friendly designs can be completed with comprehensive backup documentation.

Example: Holmatro 4240 Spreader Sustainability Analysis

To demonstrate how SOLIDWORKS Sustainability functions, we will examine the Holmatro 4240 Spreader. We will illustrate how SOLIDWORKS Sustainability can help you optimize materials and other factors which impact four key areas of the environmental impact of a product design: carbon footprint, air acidification, water eutrophication, and energy usage.

Holmatro 4240 Spreader

Holmatro 4240 Spreader

To start the Sustainability Analysis process we need to decide on :
  1. The materials for each part of the assembly and the projected life cycle of the product.
  2. The region of assembly and build
  3. The region of use and transportation, and the end of life components are updated.

All of these decisions and data assignments are very easy to complete inside Sustainability. Learn more in the video below:

Modifying the Life Cycle of the Assembly

As shown in the video, the region of assembly of the spreader was changed from Asia to North America and different results are calculated, and this causes the carbon footprint to be impacted. Specifically, instead of assembling in Asia, the product assembly is changed to North America. Now why would the carbon footprint grow if we assemble locally?

Each different aspect of the assembly would have to be shipped separately depending on its region of extraction. Due to more separate shipments via plane or boat, there is a higher amount of fuel being used by carriers and therefore more pollution being emitted into the atmosphere. This would contribute to carbon footprint, air acidification and water eutrophication in sustainability analysis.  Airplanes release large amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and cancer causing toxins into the atmosphere every time they fly. Ships that travel across the ocean also pollute by releasing exhaust gases as well as contaminated ballast water into the oceans. The more shipments needed to be made the higher the environmental impact becomes in Sustainability.

Following this, there is the ability to change the aspects of a certain part of the assembly, which may significantly impact the results. As shown in the video, you can change the manufacturing process for the specific part. The spreader part (arm) modified in this case will be sand casted instead of milled and additionally, is painted with powder coated paint. The manufacturing section indicates a higher environmental impact because using the sand casting process causes a higher amount of emissions. In addition, we are now painting the product with powder-coated paint, which can produce indoor air pollution. This also requires the manufacturing of paint, which can impact the environment through solvents, monomers and softening agents that produce ecological and toxicological issues.

Sustainability Analysis Results

SOLIDWORKS Sustainability software helps product designers validate how their design and manufacturing decisions can affect the environmental impact of their product. After modifying the Holmatro 4240 Spreader:

  • We confirmed that changing the region of assembly to North America is not beneficial to the environmental impact related to transportation.
  • Furthermore, the milling manufacturing process produces a lower environmental impact than sand casting.

These are just a few of the many optimizations that can be taken into consideration. These results can be seen when you generate a report in SOLIDWORKS Sustainability by clicking “Save As”.  The final results from this Sustainability example can be reviewed in the Sustainability Report.

Assessment Results

Sustainability Analysis Results

The Environmental Benefits

SOLIDWORKS Sustainability can initiate product stewardship and help your design become environmentally and socially responsible. Designing in a sustainable manner begins the process of sustainability in the products life. Other actors involved in the lifecycle of the product will follow suit if there is action to design for sustainability. Sustainable design is able to address preferences by employees to be working for responsible employers, saves money, avoids risks that include consumer perceptions and boycotts, and allows for green marketing opportunities.

Another thing we understand from this analysis project is just how important the early decisions are in design of a product. The job of a product designer and their extended team including suppliers is so completely connected to how a product will function and impact the environment for many years. In some cases decisions made during the design process will live on for 20 years or more. Ensuring that product design professionals have and use tools like SOLIDWORKS Sustainability help them make good decisions for their companies and customers to lessen the overall impact on our environment from the products that they design.

Get more information about SOLIDWORKS Sustainability

There are two versions of the software available; SOLIDWORKS SustainabilityXpress tool which is included in all versions of SOLIDWORKS and the more capable full SOLIDWORKS Sustainability add-in. Review the Version comparison checklist and a Guide to Sustainable Design which is very easy to read and understand.

SolidWorks users can also complete the Sustainable Design Certification (CSDA). It’s easy to do and the guide is a big help in preparing for the certification. Learn more about obtaining the certification from our related blog post.

Post co-authored by Zack Carlan and Jean-Pierre Chalhoub

Posts related to 'Reducing Environmental Impact with SOLIDWORKS Sustainability Analysis'

Zack Carlan

Want to learn SOLIDWORKS?

Take a training course from our team of Certified SOLIDWORKS Experts

Scroll To Top