When you design a product, it’s important to think about how it can be disassembled. This is what is known as design for disassembly, and it has a number of benefits. In this post, we’ll discuss what design for disassembly is, how to do it, and the benefits of doing so. We’ll also look at some examples of products that have been designed for disassembly and the future of this type of design.
What is design for disassembly and why is it important?
Design for disassembly is the process of ensuring that a product can be taken apart and its parts reused or recycled at the end of its life. If your goal is to create sustainable products, then designing for disassembly is one way you can do this. It also saves costs down the line as it means less waste goes to landfills. That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that designing a product for disassembly doesn’t mean it has to be taken apart.
The point is just that it can be if necessary.
Design for disassembly has a number of other benefits. It can reduce manufacturing times, costs and energy usage, while also helping to improve the quality of the product itself. In addition to this, when a large number of consumers want a product in future, design for disassembly means they don’t have to buy a brand new one. Instead, they can just purchase the components and recycling them is easier.
Design for disassembly isn’t the only way to design sustainable products, but it’s an important part of it and you should always bear in mind that designing something that is recyclable or reusable at the end of its life is important.
Designing for disassembly involves some straightforward tactics, for example:
- The fewer parts you use, the fewer parts there are to take apart.
- As with parts, the fewer fasteners (e.g. glue, screws, etc.) used, the better.
- Common and similar fasteners that require only a few standard tools will help to simplify and speed disassembly.
- Screws are faster to unfasten than nuts and bolts.
- Glues should be avoided.
- Building disassembly instructions into the product will help users understand how to take it apart.
How to design for disassembly
The process of designing a product for disassembly begins at the manufacturing phase. You need to consider how much it will cost to make, which parts are needed and whether there are any clever shortcuts that can be made.
While it will ultimately depend on the product you are designing, there are some basic steps to follow:
- Materials. It is important to use materials that can be easily separated. For example, you will need to consider whether the screws, nuts and bolts are made of dissimilar metals or plastics which could become glued together over time.
- Tools and fasteners. Standard tools are necessary. You want to ensure that the right tool is needed for each fastener, otherwise, it defeats the purpose of designing for disassembly in the first place. It is important not to use overly specialized tools in your design because they can be costly and difficult to replace in an emergency situation; this is why standard tools make better design choices in this case.
- Assembly and disassembly. When the product is designed, it is important to consider how easy assembly and disassembly is going to be. If something is particularly difficult for a person to take apart or put together, you will likely encounter issues with reusability and recyclability in the future after it has reached the end of its service life.
- Number of components. Using fewer parts is a better design choice. While this may not always be possible in every situation, you should consider which parts are necessary and which can be excluded from your design. There will likely be additional costs associated with using more parts, so it pays to think hard about the design before finalizing it.
- Labelled components. It is the best practice to label each component in a product with an alphanumeric code, number or letter that will be referenced on your disassembly instructions. You can also mark tools in your design and keep them in separate parts of the instruction manual so they do not get misplaced and lost.
- Clear assembly instructions. Providing clear instructions for assembling your product will help users know how to put it together, but also make the disassembly process easier if your product is reused or recycled. Consider providing photographs, diagrams and/or tools to use in each step of the design so users can understand how it should be done.
Examples of products that have been designed for disassembly
You only need to think of IKEA furniture to understand why designing a product for disassembly is important. The Swedish company has been doing it from the beginning, and it's an integral part of their business model.
In 1968, IKEA began using flat-pack designs with clear instructions for consumers on how to assemble their furniture. This not only helped make shipping more efficient but made it easier for consumers to put together their furniture, which made them more likely to keep it for longer.
What is the future of design for disassembly?
The future for designing products for disassembly will involve companies and individuals learning more about taking apart existing products to reuse components and recycle the materials. This will also likely lead to better quality control, reduced costs and improved efficiencies in manufacturing.
As of yet, there is no real standardization that has been established in the design of products for disassembly. While many designers have been using these principles for decades, it is only now that people are starting to realize their importance and why they should be considered from the very beginning stages of a product's development.
By paying close attention to how products can be taken apart instead of being put together, you will likely find yourself with a better design in the end. In the meantime, you should consider designing your products with ease of disassembly in mind to help make them as reusable and recyclable as possible.