Consumer electronics surround us. Computers, portable music players, PDA's, home theatre, television.
Design of portable products is all about the batteries. The less power consumed the better. The customer will like it because she won't have to spend so much on batteries. The environment will like it because fewer batteries end up in the waste stream.
Design of plug-in products is all about minimizing hazardous materials and making it easy to separate the product into component materials at the end of its life. Electronic products contain lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. In 1998, 20.6 million PC's became obsolete. The lead in their monitors becomes a real problem if those 20.6 million computers are tossed out with the trash. In 1999, the state of Massachusetts banned the disposal of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from television and computer monitors at all Massachusetts landfills and combustion facilities. If you were the IT manager for a big company looking for a place to dump 200 old 15" monitors, what would you do? Product challenge: How do you design a computer monitor product system that makes it easy for customers to deal with the product when it becomes obsolete?
Batteries are a big deal. They are toxic to manufacture and toxic to dispose. Many states, including Minnesota, have laws that prohibit households and businesses from throwing away batteries in the municipal trash. Product challenge: How do you design a next-generation portable MPG player system so that teenagers don't throw the used batteries in the trash?