“Greening” a product

Project Description

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The Problem
A US based bio-technology instrument manufacturer wanted to reposition one of the current laboratory equipments. The objective was to reduce the power consumption by 40%, reduce the weight and space occupied by the instrument by 25% and reduce the average consumption of reagents by 15%. The idea was to position this product amongst its competitors as the greenest in the market. 

The Solution

To achieve the above goals a multi-pronged strategy was adopted. A detailed study of the product was completed and an energy consumption audit was performed on it. The analysis report outlined a large set of opportunities for reduction in energy consumption, the actual impact and the cost for achieving the same was listed. This enabled the team to prioritize and select those items that gave the maximum energy reduction with the lowest development as well as manufacturing costs.

The entire electronics was redesigned. The number of boards were reduced to just two from the previous seven boards. The system was broken up to eight sub-systems each of which could be powered on or off. The processor itself was capable of having several power saving modes. The display and signal conditioning were redesigned to lower the power consumptions. Memory size and other features were carefully chosen to just what was required while allowing the option to increase it in future if needed. The components selected were RoHS compliant and consumed low power. The number of components was brought down by the effective use of integrated components and usage of low power FPGAs. The space and wiring requirements were dramatically reduced by the new electronics design.

The firmware was enhanced to leverage the power-aware electronics. Sub-systems were turned on only when required. The firmware was designed to keep the processor in low power modes until the user interacts with it or during test runs. The system now has a proximity sensor where if a user is away from the system for a long time, the display would be shut off and the display would be turned on when a user approaches the system. Firmware provided an option to disable this ‘screen saver’ feature. Batch operations allowed the user to run several tests in sequence. This enables the units to conserve energy by maintaining temperatures across tests.

A compact real time scheduler was developed and the entire firmware was redesigned to be event driven. This enabled easy identification of idle time for the processor, enabling reduced power consumption during these times.

Along with the client’s work in redesigning the chemistry, the product redesign helped to reduce the average power consumption by over 45%, the physical foot print area was reduced by 35% and the chemical reagent consumption was reduced by about 18%. The greener product helped the client revitalize this product in the market place and also garnered additional market share.

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