Today, for every three computers purchased,
two become obsolete. By 2005, the ratio will be one to one, at which
point we will be disposing of computers as quickly as we make them.
Planning for ease of disassembly and calculating the economics of
reusing recycled electronic materials as against simply throwing
them away is rapidly becoming the only intelligent option. Consumer
demand for recyclable products has also become a factor in many
EU countries, and further regulations will soon require European
manufactures to take back old appliances at the end of their lifetime.
Recyclability of computers and electrical appliances has become
a prime consideration which starts with the design phase.
A comprehensive software tool
Traditionally, any consideration of product
recyclability has been rather intuitive and unsystematic and has
not taken into account all the relevant technical and economic factors.
Although some software tools have been implemented, generally speaking
they have not been up to the task.
This project was the first step in the development of a comprehensive
software tool for recyclability assessment and optimisation. Designed
for a Windows-based PC environment and targeted at manufacturers
of electrical appliances and companies providing recycling services,
the DEMROP software system consists of three main components. First,
a recycling knowledge base includes databases on materials, components,
disassembly and process issues as well as market groups. Second,
a product-modelling component comprises lists of parts and materials,
enabling the creation of disassembly diagrams. Finally, a product
evaluation component allows determination of recycling costs, disassembly
strategies and recycling quotas.
The DEMROP system
The DEMROP evaluation is based on a product
description including the parts list, details on the material contents
of parts, and information about assembly and disassembly methods
Once the user has supplied the parts list, the system can identify
target components based on materials compatibility analysis. Only
those parts which are relevant for recycling are considered for
disassembly. Thus, DEMROP sorts the listed parts into two categories:
economically valuable parts to be recovered, and obstructive parts
which have to be disposed of.
From there, a graphic editor allows the user to indicate diagrammatically
possible disassembly access paths to the target components. It is
only necessary to model those operations required for accessing
such target components. Labour times and costs for disassembly are
then automatically assigned based on the number and types of operations
to be carried out. For each target component, the system determines
the optimal disassembly model by comparing obtainable recycling
benefits against the costs of their disassembly. DEMROP calculates
the potential recycling benefits and determines the most economical
recycling or disposal model.
DEMROP is an easy-to-use, highly flexible and adaptable tool offering
both economic and environmental benefits. Users can introduce variations
in product or assembly data, thus generating and comparing different
design alternatives before a product actually goes into production,
ultimately reducing recycling costs, improving recycling efficiency,
increasing material recovery and reducing waste.
Through interfaces with CAD or PDM systems, the effort required
to enter product data can be substantially reduced. Evaluations
and recycling reports can be integrated into the company's documentation
and further processed if needed. Customer-specific interfaces, e.g.
for suppliers or recyclers, can also be developed on demand. Finally,
the DEMROP recycling database, also called the DEMROP infoware,
can be obtained from external providers and updated and accessed
via the internet. This is essential in that it allows the system
to maintain the most accurate and up-to-date market prices for comparing
different recycling models.
An assured market
Siemens Business Services are now poised
to strike in the run-up to new recycling legislation, offering their
industrial clients a broad range of consulting and technical support
services. Much will depend on what happens once the new European
and, for that matter, North American legislation is passed. Market
surveys show potential sales in the millions of euro within just
few years of the expected regulatory changes.