DETROIT - GKN Technology Ltd. claims about 30 percent of the world market in constant-velocity joint driveshafts. It makes about 60 million components each year, and consumes half a million metric tons of steel to do so.
'That means we're using a significant amount of the world's resources every year,' said Jeremy Bell, a GKN senior engineer based in the United Kingdom.
He told the SAE Total Life Cycle conference that GKN is using life-cycle analysis to 'shelf-engineer' new product for OEM clients.
By choosing features and processes that have as little impact on the environment as possible, GKN is improving the chances that its product will be easily recycled or remanufactured. And that will give its customers an advantage in meeting environmental standards.
By knowing how a component is likely to age, GKN is able to predict which components eventually can be remanufactured and which must be scrapped. In Europe, where legislated take-back programs will affect manufacturers who must accept the return of end-of-life components, GKN needs to know both what it costs to produce a new driveshaft and what it is likely to cost to remanufacture returning shafts with varying damage or wear patterns.
Bell said the key to using the life-cycle modeling is to take a pragmatic approach to a component, rather than focusing on one abstract set of numbers. Product engineers and designers within the company first prepare a 'design for environment' matrix. It highlights important issues and concerns for the company. Then, within that scope, component life-cycle studies are made in a targeted way as part of the design effort.
If models are kept simple and realistic, if study times are short, and if costs are kept low, the life-cycle analysis process becomes a living part of the design process, Bell said.
'This is a key element if the study results are to be of use to the engineering design team, especially as the overall engineering product development strategy is to shorter development times,' he said. In contrast, he noted, other life-cycle studies take over a year to complete. They also tend to be retrospective - they 'enforce a previous design change or concept.'