University reengineers consumer appliances

The engineering design team at Sheffield Hallam University has joined forces with multinational domestic appliance manufacturers to improve the design of consumer products.

The School of Engineering will help research engineers track hundreds of domestic products across Europe in this 36-month project, which begins at the start of this month. The manufacturers involved, which include Sony and Hotpoint, want information to help improve the performance of their products and reduce their environmental impact. The project will also address recent EC directives regarding the environmental impact of products.

“It will have two main benefits for designers,” according to a Sheffield Hallam University spokesman. “One is in terms of looking at how they can design components better and, second, in terms of how consumers use products rather than how they are perceived to use them.”

Hotpoint technical director Brian Cornelius says the research should help to create better products. “To design tomorrow’s products we need information about today’s,” he says. “Using data like this we can improve our service to consumers, making products better and cheaper to run.”

Sony’s environmental centre in Stuttgart, Germany, will use smart radio tags to track its video game products through manufacture, distribution, retailing, usage and refurbishment.

There are four countries involved in the project – Austria, France, Germany and the UK. The other companies involved are French company Cybernetix, which will provide technology for data collection, and Motorola, which will be working with De Montfort University to create software to handle the data.

More than 23m household app-liances are discarded each year in the UK. Linked research being carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sustainable Consumption will focus on how new product developments affect consumers.

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