Design

Design for maintainability/reparability

Design for maintainability or reparability prolongs product use, extending its useful lifetime. There are multiple elements that designers should consider in this case:

  • Parts standardization and replacement
  • Modular components and parts
  • Accessibility, safety and disassembly
  • Regular self-testing, error recognition and notification
  • Affordability, simplicity and expediency

Example

Fairphone: Modular phone built to last

Situation:

  • Mobile phone owners may find repair difficult and cost-prohibitive.
  • Most people do not discard old mobile phones properly.
  • Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) such as computers, TV-sets, fridges and cell phones grew faster than most waste streams in the EU, from 9 million tons generated in 2005 to an expected 12 million tons by 2020.
  • Moreover, the production of modern electronics requires the use of scarce and expensive resources (e.g. around 10% of total gold worldwide used for their production).

Challenges:

  • Pairing an easily reparable phone with reliable performance.
  • Unlocking the value retained in old mobile phones.
  • Reliance on business model to differentiate from competitors, assuming engineers will discover design and manufacturing secrets.

Solution:

  • Created in 2013 in the Netherlands, Fairphone designs and produces sustainable smartphones with reduced environmental and social negative externalities.
  • Mid 2014, the company started to elaborate Fairphone 2, a smartphone designed to last.
  • Fairphone designed the device for disassembly, repair and with parts that can be simply replaced.
  • The concept makes it possible for any user to do basic maintenance on his or her phone without the assistance of a professional.
  • In collaboration with iFixit, an American company founded in 2003, the start-up elaborated simple repair guides to allow for even easier repairs.

Key Benefits:

  • In 2015, Fairphone grew faster than any other European start-up.
  • During COP21, Fairphone received a prize from the United Nations attributed to innovative solutions addressing environmental, social and economic challenges linked to climate change.
  • As of March 2017, the company managed to sell more than 80,000 of its Fairphone 2, a considerable achievement considering the relatively high price.