The Best Designs for Your Product Lifetime

Community,Technology December 20, 2012 3:43 am

Electronic waste is a problem we’ve broken down and proposed solutions to in our infographics. And it’s a big one: 20-50 tonnes each year enter the waste stream, posing hazards to the environment and people who recycle them.  That’s why we worked with AutodeskCore77, and iFixit to create the Design for (Your) Product Lifetime competition, challenging students to envision a product of the future: durable, repairable, and easily broken down into components for recycling when its useful life was over.

After a semester of hard work and more than 200 entries, the judges have completed the unenviable task of choosing their favorites. For first place, the judges selected two winners: the Infigo microwave oven and the Easy Access LCD monitor.

The Infigo is a modular, repairable microwave oven: a logical but overlooked appliance to overhaul. As judge Kyle Wiens of iFixit commented, “This is so obvious, why has no one done this?” Microwaves are made up of relatively few components but require frequent cleaning, making modularity a sensible choice.  By allowing easy cleaning and a less hazardous repair process, the Infigo will provide a long lifetime of service popping corn and reheating takeout.

The Easy Access LCD monitor addresses monitors waste stream by allowing simple, tool-free repair.  Monitors often suffer from simple but lethal burnt-out back-lights or broken LCD screens, but repairing them usually involves purchasing fragile components from eBay and a daunting disassembly process.  Judge Dan Lockton remarked that the Easy Access LCD could transform the warranty process and give users confidence in fixing their own devices.

The judges awarded second place to Smarter Phone, a smartphone upgrade.  No other device is as vulnerable to the hazards of daily life: cracked screens, broken buttons, water damage, and upgrade envy spell the end of the road for modern phones.  Smarter Phone is a throwback to desktop PCs of yore (read: the 1990s), users can pop open the case and repair or upgrade parts.

Third place went to Able Headphones, which applied a similar approach to headphones.  The small, delicate wires and electronics that make up even the most expensive headphones are prone to failure–and scrapping a USD 300 set of Beats phones hurts both wallet and landfill.

Honorable mentions went out to a few more entries: a more durable coffee maker, a water-efficient lawn sprinkler, and an upgraded electrosurgery pen.

This coffee maker addresses the main point of failure in traditional drip coffee machines: a small valve that gets caked with sediment.  The part’s inaccessibility means clogged machines get trashed.  The new alternative may take up more counter space, but its transparent and simplified design more than make up for it.

Part of keeping up appearances in suburban neighborhoods is maintaining a green, healthy lawn–but the act of watering is guesswork at best, and sprinkler timers can still over- or under-water grass.  Simple Stream pairs moisture sensors with a smartphone application to only water the lawn when needed, conserving water.

We’ve all seen hospitals toss plastic parts and tubes; sterilization is critical to safe medical operations. But with the rise of electrosurgery, electrical components now get trashed with them. Taking on this problem, the Clean Cut team designed a new surgical pen with a quick-change, sterilizable electrode that’s easy to separate from its housing.