Design for Disassembly

  • Design for Disassembly
  • dɪˈzaɪn ˈfɔɹ

Authors: Jakob Ecker, Jürgen Stampfl

Design for Disassembly describes a concept for developing products, multi-material-compounds, or composites which can be separated or recycled easily at their end of life. Additionally, design for disassembly should facilitate repair of damaged or broken products.

Components, which are built according to the “Design for Disassembly” (DfD) concept should contribute to saving energy and, more importantly, non-replenishable material resources (e.g. metals). Therefore, DfD is an important corner stone for establishing a circular economy.

This concept is already known in certain fields (like construction industry or architecture) (1,2) but should also be applied to other industries (e.g. electronics), since advanced devices like cell phones, electrical vehicles or computers rely on the use of scarce resources like lithium, rare earth elements, indium, tin, copper, gold or semiconductor materials, respectively.

There are certain ways to implement DfD in products and devices, yet to fully exploit the potential of this concept, the considerations already need to start with the design of the product. The less parts a device is made out of the easier it is to disassemble. Using detachable fasteners (screws, clips, debondable glues, etc.) and trying to use as less fasteners as possible makes disassembling more realizable. Some devices in electronics (e.g. Fairphone) try to implement these concepts already, allowing the costumer to change each part of the phone by him- or herself.

The debonding process is obviously an important aspect for the realization of DfD on an industrial scale. Innovative methods for digital manufacturing (e.g. Additive Manufacturing) in combination with advanced materials might offer new ways to fabricate complex assemblies which also incorporate easy routes for disassembly. Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) enables the fabrication of multi-material assemblies which can contain dedicated layers of materials which debond upon certain physical or chemical impulses (temperature, magnetic fields, solvents, ultrasonic waves, …).(3,4) Such “digital materials” can for instance be realized using thermally expandable particles (TEP) which are integrated into the main material and are easily triggered with a thermal impulse. (5) The particles expand and lead to a convenient separation of the assembled parts. By relying on a specific external stimulus, it is granted that the manufactured part works properly during the targeted service life, and only separates during the recycling process. Such debonding on demand (DoD) concepts are already systematically screened for dental applications, and similar approaches could be of large benefit for the implementation of DfD.

1. Akinade, O. O.; Oyedele, L. O.; Ajayi, S. O.; Bilal, M.; Alaka, H. A.; Owolabi, H. A.; Bello, S. A.; Jaiyeoba, B. E.; Kadiri, K. O., Design for Deconstruction (DfD): Critical success factors for diverting end-of-life waste from landfills. Waste Manag 2017, 60, 3-13.

2. O'Grady, T.; Minunno, R.; Chong, H.-Y.; Morrison, G. M., Design for disassembly, deconstruction and resilience: A circular economy index for the built environment. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 2021, 175.

3. Ligon, S. C.; Liska, R.; Stampfl, J.; Gurr, M.; Mulhaupt, R., Polymers for 3D Printing and Customized Additive Manufacturing. Chem Rev 2017, 117 (15), 10212-10290.

4. Mulcahy, K. R.; Kilpatrick, A. F. R.; Harper, G. D. J.; Walton, A.; Abbott, A. P., Debondable adhesives and their use in recycling. Green Chemistry 2022, 24 (1), 36-61.

5. Banea, M. D.; da Silva, L. F. M.; Carbas, R. J. C.; de Barros, S., Debonding on command of multi-material adhesive joints. The Journal of Adhesion 2016, 93 (10), 756-770.

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