Eco-design: Sustainable from the start

Today, a large number of demands and requirements are placed on product development. Products must not only function reliably in the customer´s application in accordance with HARTING´s quality standards but must also be manufactured safely and cost-efficiently at the specific production site and comply with applicable standards and laws.

The legal requirements currently focus strongly on the avoidance of substances that are hazardous to the environment and health. The ban on lead has already been in place for some time, while a ban on PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is also being prepared currently.

Consequently, on the development side it is vital to monitor these bans closely and switch to alternative materials and processes in good time. Information on these substance bans must be available in good time in the global development department and suitable alternative materials and their properties must be fully outlined and explained. In order to achieve this goal, we have provided extensive information on alternative materials in our knowledge management system, while also ensuring procedurally that every material selection is reviewed by experts at the right time in order to correct a faulty selection in good time.

But the focus is not only on legal requirements, the important demand for greater sustainability also influences product development. Here, the eco-design principles as shown in Table X play a significant role.

Some product features have a direct positive influence on several eco-design factors. For example, product weight will not only influence material efficiency, but will also reduce energy consumption in a mobile application. Examples of recent product developments that particularly reduce product weight are the SPE interface, which significantly reduces the weight of the wiring harness due to the lower number of cores. In the development of high-current contacts, we were also able to significantly increase the current-carrying capacity with the same contact diameter and thereby achieve significant weight savings in customer applications.

Reductions of the contact resistance also has several positive effects. The current carrying capacity increases, and at the same time the emitted heat and the energy losses are reduced. This lowers cooling requirements and lifts the energy efficiency of the connected system.

Not all eco-design principles can be reconciled with the product requirements. Overmoulded connectors, for example, are cheaper and more robust, but more difficult to recycle and repair. Appropriate compromises must be found here in order to meet the competing requirements in the best possible manner.
In order to solve this problem, HARTING is taking part in a funded project that aims to relate the eco-design principles to each other and make them systematically assessable (see box).

Once this project is completed, we will be able to meet our customers´ wishes and demands for cost-effective products that can be manufactured and operated sustainably, thereby making important contributions to environmental protection.