November 22nd, 2006 by Team Member

by Jeremy Faludi

Now that we’re using a metal extrusion for most of the main body, we also need to use some glue to stick plastic bits to it (such as the window you see the display through), since there just isn’t enough room in the tiny body for strong snap-fits. This makes recycling harder, for two reasons: first, because now the device is harder to disassemble into its component materials; and second, because now the component materials will have some gunk on them (adhesive residue) that cause problems in recycling the metal or plastic.

Don’t Be Too Strong

Fixing the first problem is fairly simple: you just use weak enough glue (or a small enough amount of strong glue) that whoever disassembles the device can just pop the parts out by hand, overwhelming the strength of the glue. This way, disassembly doesn’t take significantly longer than it would with snap-fit parts. If the glue is too strong, you have to pry things out with a tool, or (if the glue is stronger than the plastic itself) you have to release the glue somehow. Most glues can be released by dissolving them in nasty solvents like acetone, or burning them off in a furnace, but some glues dissolve in water, and other glues melt at low enough temperatures that your plastic parts won’t be affected. The advantage of dissolving or melting your adhesives is that then they can be removed from your parts, avoiding the problem of getting gunk in the recycling furnaces.


Using Metal

November 8th, 2006 by Team Member

by Jeremy Faludi

This week’s episode of green design for Exbiblio is about metal. They recently decided to change plans about how the first release of the oPen will be made–instead of the whole body being recycled injection-molded plastic, most of the body will be an aluminum extrusion with holes machined into it for the screen and buttons, and there’ll just be plastic bits on the ends, much like an iPod Nano. The reasons for this had to do with schedule and design flexibility–we have a very tight schedule to make, and need to get to production as soon as possible, but still have not nailed down all of the design considerations. Using an extrusion with machined holes gives us a great deal of flexibility, as machining can be reprogrammed at any time to cut different holes, and extrusions are fast and easy to get into production–easier than injection-molding.

Using aluminum instead of plastic does increase the device’s environmental impact, in three ways: first, aluminum is more energy-intensive to produce than plastic; second, it’s more energy-intensive to manufacture with and requires harder tooling; third, having the case be made out of multiple different materials makes it harder to recycle because it needs to be more carefully disassembled and sorted. With a device this small, we need disassembly time to be extremely short, otherwise it won’t be worth anyone’s while to recycle it, because the amount of plastic and metal you get for the amount of time spent is small. I’ll talk more about design for disassembly in a later post.


The Green 50

November 1st, 2006 by Hugh

Here’s a list of businesses that Exbiblio would surely like to join – The Green 50 – as chosen by runs through some of the issues: High oil prices, global warming, the sense that chemicals cause real harm and the earth’s resources are indeed finite. It concludes:

These are not so much charitable causes to embrace as they are problems that entrepreneurs can solve. Wall Street and Silicon Valley certainly understand this: Venture capital firms invested $958 million in renewable energy companies in the first half of 2006 alone.

Exbiblio is committed to Green Design, but it hasn’t got a product that will ‘save the planet’. Instead, it’s going down the charitable route with its Compendia Foundation. I am told that if Exbiblio fulfills its ambitions, there will be a significant amount of capital available for Compendia and the environment. It’s certainly a different approach to Green Business from that chosen by most of the Green 50 – but Exbiblio is never one to take the obvious or easy path, and I have to say that it is one of the things that motivates people at Exbiblio in their daily work on the oPen and its associated software.

Using recycled plastic

October 16th, 2006 by Team Member

by Jeremy Faludi

Exbiblio oPEN

Originally we had planned for the oPen’s case to be injection-molded out of plastic or other materials with plastic’s useful properties. We’ve since revised that (and I’ll describe what we’re doing now in another post), but I thought it would still be helpful to describe the process of choosing a good plastic and publish the data that would help other companies with similar products make their own choices.


Worldchanging Book Party

October 13th, 2006 by Team Member

by Jeremy Faludi

In addition to contracting for Exbiblio as their green design consultant, I consult for other companies and write for, a green design / technology / policy journal. Worldchanging’s mission is to find and share tools, models and ideas which offer solutions to the planet’s biggest problems. We’ve won multiple awards and have hundreds of thousands of readers around the world, and our book–Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century–brings together the best, most hopeful and most effective ideas we’ve found so far. I was just one of many authors who contributed; the subjects include everything from green product design to megacities to international development, from energy to water to culture and politics, from wood stoves to biotech and nanotech.

The Seattle book release party will be October 28, 7:30pm, at Town Hall, $5 at the door. Bruce Sterling and our executive editor, Alex Steffen, will be on stage discussing the future of sustainability; then a reception and after-party will follow. It’ll be a lot of fun, if you like smart green futurists and such, so come check it out!

Feel free to forward this invitation widely. If you don’t live in Seattle, come to our book parties in other cities, such as Portland, Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, etc. (Details here.)

Hope to see you there!

Jeremy Faludi
design, consulting

Green Pasta

September 7th, 2006 by Hugh

Here’s a green design idea that I don’t think even Exbiblio has considered yet (though I don’t know that for certain) – circuit boards made out of pasta and cases made out of corn. Both are wonderfully biodegradable, and if you feel peckish, you can eat your handheld device instead of throwing it away.

You can read more and watch a video report on the BBC’s website.

Green Design

August 21st, 2006 by Team Member

Hardware LabAt Exbiblio we take responsibility for the things we make and do, and strive to leave beauty in our wake. This means our products should be beneficial to our users, not harmful to them, and likewise our products should not be harmful to the environment or the people manufacturing them.

The main aspects of an electronic device like Exbiblio’s oPen scanner that would cause environmental impact are the circuit board, the components on the circuit board (chips, resistors, capacitors, etc.), the battery, the case, and the packaging. Transportation is also a factor, but should be smaller than the others, and energy usage during customer usage should be very small compared to these manufacturing impacts, so we’re concentrating on them. So far, the green design considerations for are mostly going smoothly. This is a brief summary, more detail on each aspect will appear in the future.