By: Glen Robson (Dell)
Imagine a future where we don’t simply discard used electronics. Rather, we harvest individual components for a second, third, or even fourth life. Once the device is truly at the end of its life, we refurbish and recycle it to incorporate these same materials into next-generation laptops, monitors, or phones. It’s a future where nothing goes to waste, and the mountain of electronics discarded yearly (more than 57 million tons, globally, to be exact) is dramatically reduced. Not only is technology dematerialized, but the materials we use to fuel a robust circular economy. Thereby reducing the need for new, raw materials.
A year ago, we introduced Concept Luna, our breakthrough sustainable PC design, which illustrates our vision of reducing waste and emissions, reusing materials, and achieving next-level innovation. Our Experience Innovation Group engineers have worked over the last year to refine the modular design of Concept Luna further, eliminating the need for adhesives and cables and minimizing the use of screws. These refinements make it easier to repair and dismantle a system. Concept Luna could dramatically simplify and accelerate repair and disassembly processes, making components more accessible and expanding opportunities for reuse.
It can take recycling partners more than an hour to disassemble a PC with today’s technology, held together with screws, glues, and various soldered components. Our evolved Concept Luna design has reduced disassembly time to mere minutes. We even commissioned a micro-factory to guide our design team, resulting in a device that robots can quickly and easily take apart.
Figure 1: Concept Luna with Microfactory
By marrying Luna’s sustainable design with intelligent telemetry and robotic automation, we’ve created something that can trigger a seismic shift in the industry and drive circularity at scale. A single sustainable device is one thing, but the real opportunity is the potential impact on millions of tech devices sold each year and optimizing the materials in those devices for future reuse, refurbishment, or recycling.
The telemetry we added to Luna also provides the opportunity to diagnose the health of individual system components to help ensure sure nothing goes to waste. Because the way customers use their technology varies, not all components reach end-of-life simultaneously. People working from home, for example, may use external components, such as keyboards and monitors. The laptop’s keyboard and monitor have barely been used, even when the motherboard is ready to be replaced. Our Concept Luna evolution can equip and connect individual components to telemetry to optimize their lifespans. At its simplest, it’s akin to how we maintain our vehicles; we don’t throw away the entire car when we need new tires or brakes.
Our ongoing work with Concept Luna brings us closer to a future where more devices are engineered with a modular design. The exciting addition of robotics and automation catalyzes efficient device disassembly, measure component health and remaining usability, and better understand which components can be reused, refurbished, or recycled – so nothing goes to waste. This vision has broad and profound implications for us, our customers, and the industry as we work together to reduce e-waste.
These explorations inspire our team of engineers, passionate sustainability experts, and designers to continue evolving Concept Luna. And, while Luna is “just a concept” right now, it is a long-term vision for achieving an even greater business and societal impact through circular design practices. As we progress toward achieving our Advancing Sustainability goals, we will continue to innovate, push design boundaries, solicit feedback and rethink business models. Driving breakthrough advancements and shaping a more sustainable future for all is what Luna is about. I am honored to be a part of this journey.