Design for disassembly [DfD], is a design strategy that looks at the future need to disassemble a product for repair, refurbish and recycle. This strategy asks essential questions that influence the whole design process. 1: Will the product need to be repaired? 2: Which parts will need replacing? 3: Who will repair it? 4: How can this be achieved simply and intuitively? 5: Can the product be reclaimed, refurbished and resold? 6: If the product is discarded, how do you facilitate disassembly into easily recyclable components? By responding to these questions the products effectiveness is increased during and after its life.
The 1950s saw, with the rise of consumerism, disposability become the norm. This was fuelled by mass production methods, cheap labour and design fashion. The period produced a design ethic that planned obsolescence to promote turnover and created a throw-away society. This led to a massive amount of waste. Over time the negative aspects of this approach to design and production were exposed and because of the levels of toxins found in product waste governments began to regulate.
Though slow in coming, the big shift was in 2004 when The European Union passed the landmark Waste Electrical and Electrical Equipment Directive [the WEEE!!]. This placed responsibility for disposing of electronic products with the manufacturer and drove interest in the DfD strategy.
The challenge in DfD is as much about product de-creation as it is about product creation and the strategies are to be applied throughout the whole design process.
DfD reduces labour costs as products that disassemble easily often assemble easily. This too is the case with products that require repair, Maintenance or refurbishment. The saving in time and effort means a saving all round and leads to a more satisfied customer.
The strategy’s solutions emphasise simplicity. Designers are able to find components that can be combined or dropped altogether, saving material and production costs and being less impactful on the environment.
DfD opens new markets. When companies make good choices people notice. The reputation of the manufacturer is enhanced creating a following for their products. The design process can also become a driving factor in the marketing.
This way of thinking builds stronger relations with business partners and brings new and environmentally sound solutions to the table. e.g. By working with manufacturers Honda developed a recyclable faux leather that can re-enter the resource stream and eliminates toxic chemicals used in leather production.
Because of the disassembly aspect of the DfD strategy there is less reliance on adhesives and harmful substances in the production process. The aim is environmentally conscious. Recyclability driven solutions are being found to eliminate or to limit the use of toxic substances as these substances and their safe disposal is a cost to be carried by the manufacturer.
Design practices evolve incrementally over time and hopefully impact the world we live in in positive ways. DfD is a fundamental practice in improving the quality of life on and our planet. It is a system of practice that with wider implementation will contribute to improve living standards and conserve our environment now and for years to come.