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Improving Product Lifetime

An important factor in designing for sustainability is getting the most use out of the materials and energy that your product uses throughout its lifecycle. A product’s lifecycle includes extraction of raw materials, manufacture, use and eventual disposal. 

If you are designing for sustainability, the ideal lifecycle is entirely closed-loop. This would mean that your product does not create any waste at the end of its life that can’t be easily used by other natural or industrial processes. 

When deciding how long to make something last, you should consider your product’s intended use. For example, products intended for short lifespans, such as food packaging, should be designed to be easily biodegradable or recyclable. Other products, such as a nice watch, should be designed to last a lifetime.  Extending a product’s useful life is often a good sustainability strategy.

Strategies for Extending Your Product’s Use Phase

To extend your product’s use phase you can either make it more durable so that it's harder to break, or you can give the product new life by enabling repair or upgrades. Upgrades are especially beneficial for products like electronics that have short useful lives but are made of durable, even valuable, materials.  

You can select the right strategies by keeping the whole system in mind, and by considering the needs and behaviors of the people involved. Manufacturers, users and recyclers will all have a role to play. 

Our one page quick reference guides on Design for Product Lifetime, downloadable below, will give you a useful list of things to consider.

Autodesk software tools for Digital Prototyping can help you analyze and improve your product’s lifetime.

  • Stress analysis in FEA can help ensure your designs are durable and won’t break prematurely.
  • Documenting your design well can ensure that it can be properly repaired, upgraded, and disposed of.
  • Material selection tools like the Eco Materials Adviser in Autodesk Inventor can help provide data on the end-of-life impacts of the materials. It also contains data on a material’s resistance to UV light and water, to help ensure your designs will last.
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Designing a Sustainable Future

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