ManufacturingJune 24, 2020

Simulation and Sustainability: Technology for a Healthier Planet

This article was originally published in July of 2019. June 5th marked…
Avatar Clare Scott

This article was originally published in July of 2019.

June 5th marked World Environment Day, and tied with it were a few key reports that made the news headlines. One finding was released by the Australian think tank the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. The report states that if climate change continues to happen at the rate it is happening now, the likelihood is high for the end of human life on Earth by 2050. On the other hand, another published in the New York Times spoke of the $1 trillion hit companies would have to account for to tackle climate change. Both reports are stark reminders of the challenges that are staring at present and future generations.

As dire as the situation seems, there are many efforts at community, corporate and societal levels. Regulation is playing an important role in addressing these challenges. Single-use plastic bags are already banned in many cities and towns and this number only keeps growing. New regulations such as Worldwide Light Vehicle Testing Protocols or WLTP are coming into effect in several parts of the globe, and car makers are proceeding to certify their configurations to meet the new higher efficiency standards.

More importantly, however, the spreading awareness of climate change is bringing about a shift in people’s consumption priorities, from convenience to sustainability. While consumer tax credits may have spurred the initial adoption of electric vehicles, car buyers are factoring in sustainability as a lifestyle choice in making these purchase decisions. A great example is Norway as it leads the march to become a nation where electric vehicle sales are set to surpass conventional ones.

The resale economy is also booming. Sustainability is becoming a top priority for customers in choosing which brands to buy. The growing interest in resale may be slightly alarming for manufacturers who depend on the sale of newly made goods, but changing the way they manufacture those goods can make them more attractive to sustainability-minded customers. Making a product more environmentally friendly can draw in a new crop of consumers, as well as appeasing those existing customers who may otherwise look elsewhere.

Depending on the product, this may not be as simple as it sounds, but the right technology can help a company to assess its products’ impact on the environment and determine how to lessen that impact. Look at an automotive manufacturer, for example. There are multiple ways they can make a vehicle more sustainable, from longer-lasting tires to better gas mileage and reduced emissions, and simulation can be used to help iterate vehicles with these more sustainable properties.

With simulation software, engineers can assess how fuel-efficient a vehicle will be while still in the early stages of design. If its efficiency is not satisfactory, changes can be made long before a physical prototype even exists, so that by the time it reaches the physical testing stage, the vehicle is as efficient as it possibly can be. Simulation can also predict the life cycle of tires, again allowing improvements to be made early on and in digital form so that precious resources and materials are not wasted.

As consumers begin to show preferences for more sustainable products, companies are finding that in order to stay ahead, they must work in the environment’s favor. Technology such as simulation can enable them to do so.

It may be an exaggeration to say that simulation can save the world, but it can certainly contribute to a more sustainable future, and as companies strive to meet the environmentally friendly requirements of their customers, simulation will play a large role in reducing waste.

Stay tuned for a look at the role simulation plays in the circular economy, and in turn the role that they both play in advancing sustainability.

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