Vince and Daniel are mechanical engineering PhD students at the University of California, Berkeley. They designed an environmentally friendly refrigerator as part of a product design class. Learn how they incorporated sustainable design principles and used the Sustainability Workshop resources to create a commercially viable product using Autodesk® Inventor® and Eco Material Advisor software.
Describe your project. Why did you create this? What do you want other students to know about the project?
We developed a new concept for an environmentally friendly refrigerator as part of an interdisciplinary product design class. Our team of engineers, designers, and business students focused our efforts on creating a commercially viable design without sacrificing environmental responsibility.
True product sustainability requires assessing the impact of the product at every phase of its lifetime—from material selection and manufacturing, through the use phase where the customer interacts with the product on a potentially daily basis, to the product’s end-of-life recycling or disposal.
Only when you understand which phase has the largest environmental impact can you begin to develop a legitimately sustainable design. This key concept combined with a deep understanding of how users will interact with your product is essential toward creating a truly successful design—both environmentally and commercially.
When analyzing a refrigerator, it became clear that our design must focus on reducing the energy used during operation without significantly changing the users’ accustomed interactions. We developed a thermal battery for the refrigerator that enables the vapor compression cycle to only run at night for maximum efficiency. We estimate this can save up to 40 percent of the use phase energy consumption. More time-efficient user interactions and energy-insulating access doors enable the user to naturally contribute to reducing total energy consumption as well. The end result is a cost-effective design that improves upon the traditional refrigerator user experience while also increasing the refrigerator’s environmental sustainability.
How did the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop help you create this project?
The Sustainability Workshop enforces whole-process thinking and clearly outlines the important design parameters that are relevant to sustainability. It summarizes and collects relevant engineering design information into one location, creating a great resource for engineers and designers looking to make sustainability an important part of their design.
What are your future career goals?
Vince: I plan to go into a research position immediately after graduation in a renewable energy‒related field. But before the end of my career, I think I will find myself in a teaching position. I have been inspired and motivated by so many great educators throughout my career that I want to spend part of my career returning the favor to the next generation of engineers.
Daniel: Help put a man on Mars and hopefully inspire other engineers in the process.
Finish this sentence: “I never stop…”
We never stop learning and exploring new ideas. The best engineers not only have a deep understanding of their specific field, but also a wide breadth of knowledge from which to draw both inspiration and perspective.
Where can we learn more about you?