When it comes to green engineering, there appears to be a clear trade-off between long-standing corporate strategies and environmental responsibility. But what if it was possible to overcome market pressures and see the benefits of both?
Every day we hear of polar caps melting, the destruction of forests and rising pollution levels. And every day we look to large corporate organisations and ask ‘how are you going to fix this?’ It is a double edged sword. Answer one way and it can destroy an organisation’s image, answer another way and it can change how the organisation operates as a business.
Large organisations have long battled with the environmental issue. Many fail to see the opportunities, while others are simply confused. And it is easy to understand why. There are numerous principles and guidelines that can differ for each industry and organisational department. For example, electronics engineers alone can influence the impact of their products by adhering to one of the following design principles: green engineering, sustainable design, green design or design-for-environment.
There are similarities between these disciplines and all share the same basic rules: make it smaller, more reliable and consume less power. The rules sound simple enough, but engineers must also consider product life cycle, reusability and how to eliminate toxic chemicals before they can start touting themselves as ‘green engineers’.
When done correctly, green engineering can yield incredible returns. Organisations can experience reduced costs, improved product performance and a better corporate repuation. Green engineering can also open up further market opportunities and offer engineers a new career path.
So how do you start being a green electronics designer? It’s simple. All you need is the right mind-set, the right skills and the right tools.
Bosch: designing for a greener future
Bosch is a Fortune 100 company and one of the world’s largest suppliers of technology and services. It is also an organization well aware of its social and environment responsibility. For more than thirty years, Bosch has been developing corporate policies that protect people and the environment and reinforce the importance of sustainability.
As part of its continued efforts, Bosch decided to design its latest Rexroth Frequency Converter Fe series to be more economical and environmentally friendly. The device, an industrial converter for open-loop-applications, was simple enough, but to realize the environmental objectives, the engineers needed to reduce parts, size and power consumption, while improving reliability and stability.
Bosch was a long-time user of Altium’s earlier design software, Protel99. While it was a familiar tool and it offered adequate features, it did not offer the advanced routing and manufacturing and assembly documentation features necessary to meet these new design objectives. The engineers knew it was time to upgrade their electronics design solution.
It’s all about having the right tools
Choosing to upgrade to Altium Designer saw immediate benefits for Bosch. Altium Designer provides a user-friendly interface and improved features for board design. For example, the engineers can exploit Altium’s intelligent pin and part swapping capabilities. This feature simplifies board layout and as a consequence, reduces the numbers of layers used and overall board size. Engineers are left with a more lean and green board design that requires fewer materials.
“Using Altium Designer’s pin and part swapping features lets us halve our development time. We can watch as the software reassign pins and nets automatically. This makes our boards more reliable and compact because our layout is much cleaner. To achieve this kind of result used to take days, this is now done in seconds,” comments Wang Jianyuan, Technical Director, Bosch Rexroth China.
The right skills
Dealing with reduced board real-estate can complicate otherwise simple routing and layout procedures. It is for this reason that the engineers at Bosch need to be aware of the affect of crosstalk and inflections. Taking advantage of Altium’s high-speed capabilities, Bosch is able to carefully control track clearances, track lengths and trace widths to safeguard against integrity issues. And with a combination of analysis tools and mixed-circuit simulations, Bosch can ensure it meets required performance targets for a longer and more sustainable product life-cycle.
The right mind-set
Reducing materials and waste is an integral part of green engineering. Using Altium Designer’s integrated database libraries, Bosch can link into its various ERP systems to Altium Designer. With all its databases tightly knitted together, Bosch can easily oversee suppliers, factory, reseller, and even customer information, monitor resources and manage waste with greater efficiency.
“With Altium Designer, we have been able to control and monitor our resources more effectively. This has two benefits: we reduce parts and waste and minimize our total production costs. Altium Designer has also reduced the design cycle of the sensor controls of our transducers from three weeks to two weeks. This is a 30% increase in efficiency. Without this tool, we would have never made our frequency converters to Bosch’s strict environmental and performance targets,” said Wang Jianyuan.