Electronics Design for Green Manufacture?

Electronics Design for Green Manufacture

This is not as straight forward a topic as it might at first seem to be. And this is because there isn’t yet a unified agreement on exactly what Green Manufacture means. And like most Design Issues, you cannot do Electronics Design without clear requirements. So what are the requirements?

 

Here are some Green Manufacture requirements or targets:

  • reduce product Power Consumption
  • reduce manufacturing Power Consumption
  • add Renewable Energy options to the product
  • add Renewable Energy options to the manufacture process
  • reduce pollution or waste in the manufacture process
  • reduce energy involved in upstream or downstream processes
  • reduce pollution or waste in the upstream or downstream processes
  • increase product life
  • increase product utility
  • increase manufacturing plant utilisation

I guess you can see the dilemma. It can be hard to know which target to aim for. Am I doing the Electronics Design with the product, process, life cycle or ecosystem issues as the primary concern? And how do I balance these concerns?

 

Here is one excellent article that also discusses this topic Green Supply Line.

 

Electronics Design can be Green

One major thing we can do is reduce the product Power Consumption. We are coming out of a phase where a mains plug pack power supply was considered an ideal way to avoid compliance costs when designing new products. This has led to a proliferation of low efficiency always on powered devices. A recent look under my desk reveals the problem we have as Product Developers where every device I use is either USB Powered or mains plug pack powered.

 

So a first step is to review this whole approach to supplying power to devices. We have made steady gains in the area of Power Consumption reduction for the devices themselves. Now it is time to do a similar thing on the Power Supply side.

 

Energy Harvesting

This is a new area that hasn’t yet reached mainstream development. The idea is that you can utilise the ambient environment to get power for free. Or at least you aren’t directly requiring extra Power Generation. Hence the name, Energy Harvesting.

 

How you do it and the Electronics Design and Electronics Technology required to make it work are still being defined but there has been some interesting new progress. Some key players are:

 

Linear Technology – new Energy Harvesting Integrated Circuit

 

Enocean – are front runners in bringing Self Powered Wireless devices to the market

 

What is Energy Harvesting?

This is where we use Electronics Design and Electronics Devices to generate power from the Ambient Environment. The result is a product that doesn’t need to be plugged in and recharges itself automatically. Some of the Energy Sources that are used are:

  • Light
  • Thermal differentials
  • Vibration
  • Chemistry
  • Pressure differentials
  • Air Flow

One example of a product that does this is the Enocean Light Switch where you can just put it where you want it. And if you change your mind, just move it. Now wiring required.

 

Right now the technology is still more expensive and so take up is slow. But as it develops and the price comes down that will change.

 

We are in for some interesting times.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.