Product design team gets research grant

Researchers in Manchester are hoping to mould the future of product design with a 350 000 investigation into ways to “Green” the design industry.

Manchester Metropolitan University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering has just won a grant towards this three-year project from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.

“We’re trying to understand and improve the process of environmentally conscious design, then tell people the results of our research,” says team leader Dr Matthew Simon.

Simon is examining the design process behind vacuum cleaners, working closely with Electrolux. It will also work on computers in with ICL. “Vacuum cleaners could be repaired when they break, rather than just disposed of. We’re re-assessing the design process to incorporate ways of adapting them for repair,” Simon explains.

And computers could inform the user if a component is made from material which is not environmentally friendly. For example, a “red light could flash” if a component linking a new attachment has a “non-Green covering”, according to Simon. “The pendulum is beginning to swing away from the disposable product to the repairable item,” he adds.

Interim results of the research will be published in 18 months. Seminars and conferences will be held to publicise the final results.

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