Many electronics aren’t designed for recycling or repair—I’m writing this on an old MacBook Pro with proprietary screws that make it hard to open up, and inside, the battery is glued to the example and blocking more screws needed to access other parts. But manufacturers are beginning to rethink their designs to make information technology possible to extend the longevity of their products instead of but throwing them out when one part breaks. In a new proof-of-concept, Dell shows how a laptop tin be optimized for the circular economy.
“We’re already looking at how nosotros repair and refurbish our products,” says Drew Tosh, design evolution manager at Dell, which aims to redesign all of its products for circularity by the end of the decade. “But really, as nosotros started bringing up this concept of ‘design for harvest,’ where we can, in essence, easily disassemble and merits back [parts] . . . the second life of products was kind of the key tenet.”
The image design, called Concept Luna, starts by reducing the size and number of components that are needed. The display has fewer layers. The motherboard, one of the parts of a computer that takes the most energy to manufacture, is 75% smaller, with fewer parts. As the designers brainstormed how to improve the computer’s fan, they realized that they could eliminate the need for information technology completely: By moving the small motherboard from the base of the laptop to the brandish, it’s exposed to more air, and tin stay absurd without a fan. The more than efficient design besides means that it requires a smaller battery, and should last twice equally long, so it can after be reused. All of the changes help cut the product’south carbon footprint roughly in half.
When an internal role needs a repair or the computer eventually needs to be recycled, everything can hands be taken apart. Accessing the inside requires removing but four screws, 10 times fewer than a comparable product. Just two screws hold up the brandish. Tosh compares the design to the keystones used in architecture, stones at the top of an arch that concord the rest together. The main assemblies of the brandish and the keyboard “lock everything into identify,” he says. “And so with just 2 screws, we go all the fixing that we demand, instead of adding l or then many screws to agree everything together in a robust manner.” The keyboard hands pops out, if only the keyboard requires fixing (an consequence that has plagued some recent Apple laptops).
For the companies that Dell partners with to refurbish computers, it could mean saving an hour and a one-half on disassembly fourth dimension, and saving money. It as well means that if ane part breaks and the rest of the product has more life, customers could more easily make repairs themselves. “We try to incentivize that,” Tosh says. “We’re making information technology then easy. We’re going to send you parts—it volition take 10 minutes to accept the screws out, remove the keystone, and put back your keyboard. . . . Then they will be much more than likely to keep using that product instead of looking for a new one.” (Apple recently reversed a long-standing position against repairability, assuasive iPhone owners to make some repairs themselves without voiding their warranties.)
The design includes other innovations, such equally a printed circuit board that’s made with institute-based cobweb instead of plastic and uses water-soluble glue. When recyclers place the lath in water, it can dissolve so they can easily access the valuable metals on the lath.
Dell isn’t likely to bring this detail product to market. Merely as it tests the prototypes that it made, the team will decide which features can movement forward on new models. The cutting-border motherboard, Tosh says, volition have more fourth dimension, but the “keystone” design with fewer screws could exist implemented speedily. Other design teams, working under tight time and upkeep constraints, can’t explore the same possibilities as the conceptual project.
“Luna is only a way of taking kind of all the most avant-garde things and trying to show you what the power of the possible is,” says Page Motes, global head of sustainability at Dell. “And then those will spin off to future products.”