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Solid Edge Plugs into LCA with EcoDesigner

The interface of EcoDesigner for Solid Edge, a plug-in for performing environmental impact assessment.

Measurement creteria for lifecycle assessment, as revealed in EcoDesigner for Solid Edge.

With EcoDesigner plug-in from Trayak, Solid Edge joins the growing number of CAD packages that give you the option to perform lifecycle assessment (LCA) of your design. Like Sustainability Xpress for SolidWorks and Eco Materials Adviser for Autodesk Inventor, EcoDesigner for Solid Edge adds a slim column to the CAD program’s window, allowing you to tally up the environmental impact of your design. But there are significant differences between EcoDesigner and its rivals, according to Prashant Jagtap, Trayak’s president and CEO.

“You don’t have to be a treehugger to want to do sustainability,” said Jagtap. “It just makes economic sense” Jagtap sees sustainability as much more than complying with local and regional regulations — an area product lifecycle management (PLM) software vendors have been focusing on. He wanted people to use EcoDesigner to “proactively start designing [sustainable products].”

Through a dropdown menu, the EcoDesigner plug-in gives you the option to select the type of analysis you’d like to conduct: TRACI 2, ReCipe Endpoint, IPCC 2007 GWP 100a, CML 2 Baseline 2000, or Eco-Indicator 99. Each analysis standard is associated a specific set of measurements. So if you select to run TRACI 2, for example, your assessment criteria will be Acidification, Eutrophication, and Global Warming. But if you pick another analysis standard, your criteria will change accordingly. No matter what standard you choose to run, Energy Use will be part of the output you get.

Other input fields are Manufacturing Method, Transportation, Use Phase, and End of Life. For Transportation, EcoDesigner’s interface lets you specify the distance covered, the weight transported, and the means of travel (air, train, truck, bus). The module is aimed at assembly-level LCA, but if you choose to be granular, you can specify input for each part then get a rollup for the entire assembly. (Currently, the transportation field can only be used for assembly, not parts.) Product use phase is currently limited to calculating energy consumption only, but Jagtap may add other types of calculations in the future.

Like other LCA solutions, EcoDesigner lets you select one design configuration as the baseline, then try to improve your LCA score (that is, by reducing the environmental impact). No matter which standard you choose you run, EcoDesigner has a way to reduce the measured output into a single numeric score, making it possible for you to compare one design against another. The plug-in facilitates LCA by adding sustainability information (based on publicly available databases) to Solid Edge material library.

Jagtap, who previously held the director of strategic marketing post at Siemens PLM Software, saw value in merging LCA to PLM. Accordingly, his company offers an enterprise version of EcoDesigner, which works like a client app that communicates with PLM databases. The enterprise version can also be integrated with more sophisticated LCA systems, like SimaPro. You may use EcoDesigner to publish LCA reports of your design in HTML.

Some LCA programs like Sustainable Minds work independently as web-hosted software, without incorporating CAD models. CAD-integrated LCA solutions like EcoDesigner offers an easy way to reuse the volume, mass, and material information available in a CAD model. Without tight integration with a CAD package, LCA exercises may be limited to swapping out materials (that is, picking materials that do less harm), manufacturing methods, and juggling transportation options. The integration with a flexible CAD modeler like Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology allows you to also experiment with the geometry of your design (for instance, reducing the wall thickness of a housing unit, thereby reducing its carbon output) and witness the immediate effect on your LCA score.

Price for EcoDesigner for Solid Edge starts at $3,000. Trayak doesn’t publish enterprise version’s price.


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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

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