In summary

  • Product design engineering and industrial design students have embraced a right to repair approach to design and engineer sustainable leaf blowers as part of an industry linked project.

  • The ‘right to repair’ is the latest sustainability movement sweeping the globe, which advocates for the design of products that can be repaired

  • Students presented their designs in a showcase that they hope will influence government and industry decision makers

Swinburne students are delivering the next generation of sustainability now through the design of repairable leaf blowers as part of an industry linked project.

A growing sustainability movement that is sweeping the globe, the ‘right to repair’ advocates for the design of easily repairable products, providing a longer lifespan.

It’s also a more effective approach to reducing waste and emissions as these materials stay in use for longer.

  • A render of a leaf blower shows all components separated to demonstrate how east the design is to disassemble
    Joshua McShanag and Thea Davey’s design for hypothetical sub-brand “Ryobi Green” was awarded Best Project for Industrial Design
  • Render of a sleek leaf blower sitting on green lawn and clean pavement
    Students also looked at how best to motivate consumers to repair products when they have become accustomed to a disposable mindset
  • Render of a leaf blower shows how parts disassemble easily for repair, reuse, and recycling
    Creating a design that comes apart easily not only increases reparability, but also means parts can be more easily be reused when the product does reach the end of its life
  • Render of a leaf blower design shows exploded view of screw fittings
    Industrial designers focused on making their products intuitively repairable

Repairing the environment

Swinburne design lecturer, Kate Bissett-Johnson, has been teaching and researching sustainability for over 20 years and is passionate about passing her knowledge on to her students. 

“Right to repair is one of the key movements in sustainability,” Kate said. 

“This is the cutting edge. We can't just do what everyone else is doing — design from recycled materials — and that's it.

“When you look at the concept of circular economy, recycling is only a small part of the move towards sustainable product design.

“Repairability requires a whole new way of thinking about how you design your product from the ground up.” 

In only 12 weeks, Declan and Thomas created a fully functioning prototype and supporting material, including this kickstarter style video

Training proactive designers and engineers of the future 

Students began the project with a tour of a local product recycling company to see the shortcomings and opportunities in the current Australian system.

Declan Scott and Thomas Fisher were awarded Best Product Design Engineering Project.

“Visiting an actual recycling facility made the issue of sustainable design a reality and pushed me to learn how we can improve practices as product design engineers,” Declan said.  

Each team also had to go and interview potential users to find out if and how they would repair a product and identify any barriers.  

“I think the greatest thing I have learned is how important it is to bring the everyday consumer on board and how intuitive things must be for them,” Joshua McShanag said.  

Working prototypes and form studies were made in the Swinburne Protolab, bringing student designs to life

Celebrating achievement  

At the end of the project, students presented their designs to a leading industry alum from the Netherlands as part of a showcase. 

The industry expert gave students encouragement and feedback and picked the top designs from each of the cohorts.

Each member of the winning project team was gifted a keep cup and a book "Design for Sustainability Survival Guide” to help them continue their journeys as sustainable designers and engineers.  

“I now have a strong understanding of my obligations to socially responsible design, and how much impact I’ll be able to have as a future Product Design Engineer,” Thomas Fisher said.  

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