Define Engineering Requirements
The Find Similar Materials tool begins with an Input Screen dialog that asks you to specify the engineering parameters for your part design:
- The part’s material and engineering characteristics are listed here. This part, using ABS plastic, has an Elastic Modulus of 2x109 N/m2.
- This shows the part’s environmental impact using ABS plastic. It has a carbon footprint of 0.323 kg CO2-equivalent, uses 5.4 MJ of energy, emits 1.9x10-3 kg SO2-equivalent air impacts, and emits 1.4x10-4 kg PO4-equivalent water impacts.
- The pie charts show how much of the part’s environmental impacts are related to the material (in blue). When the “blue” pie slice is large, as it is in several of these illustrations, the material choice will significantly affect environmental impacts.
- Specify the manufacturing process that you will use to more accurately estimate the environmental impacts, especially if the manufacturing pie slice (yellow) is high.
- These drop-down boxes enable you to specify the engineering characteristics that are required for this part. Narrow the material class to just plastics, steels, aluminums, etc. Specify minimum, maximum, or approximate values for all of these engineering characteristics. In this case, we query the database for all materials that have a lower thermal conductivity and a higher tensile strength than the current ABS plastic.
- After setting the search criteria, click “Find Similar” to search the entire SolidWorks material database for similar materials.
Search for Environmentally Friendly Alternatives
Once you lock in engineering parameters, use the Find Similar Materials tool to find all the potential materials that fit your requirements. Assess the relative environmental impacts of each of these alternative materials to select the best option.
- Within a second, the Find Similar Material tool searches the SolidWorks material database of hundreds of materials and returns all of the materials that match your engineering criteria. In this case, the guiding parameters are thermal conductivity < 0.2256 and tensile strength > 3 x 107.
- If too many or too few materials appear in your results, edit your search criteria to be more or less restrictive.
- As you click on each material, see how the environmental impacts compare to the current material. For example, in this case, we learned that making this part in PVC rigid plastic would result in a lower carbon footprint of 0.286 kg CO2, and decreased energy and water impacts, but a higher air impact. This is an example of the environmental tradeoffs that must sometimes be considered when choosing materials.
- The pie charts show that if the part were made in PVC rigid plastic, the manufacturing process (represented in yellow) would contribute a higher percentage of the environmental impacts than when using ABS plastic. This suggests that you can probably reduce all four environmental indicators further by changing some of the manufacturing parameters for injection-molded PVC.