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Autodesk add-in models 'green' goods to come

Autodesk Inventor software is adding calculators to help product makers forecast the carbon emissions and toxicity of their designs.

Software plays a key role in the clean-tech world, whether helping consumers size up their carbon footprints and crunch the costs of solar panels, or aiding manufacturers in reducing toxicity throughout the supply chain.

Autodesk unveiled an add-in in April to enable designers using prototyping software Inventor to calculate the carbon emissions of an array of products.

Autodesk Inventor's  Sustainable Materials Assistant
Autodesk Inventor's Sustainable Materials Assistant can estimate a product's toxicity, carbon footprint, and capability to be recycled. Autodesk

The Sustainable Materials Assistant, available as a preview through Autodesk Labs, also adds up data about the toxicity and recyclability of materials used, and how the final result might comply with regional regulations.

Users must populate data fields with information about toxic ingredients, regulations, and the like. Autodesk Inventor 2009 then makes calculations about the overall ecological impact, which the designer or engineer can adjust.

Unverferth Manufacturing Company used the add-in to mock up a soil tiller for farms that would release less CO2 while digging up dirt.

Model tiller
Designers used Autodesk Inventor to create this model tiller that disturbs topsoil less than others. Unverferth Manufacturing

Adobe brags of Photoshop helping to welcome an era of digital photography that wastes fewer trees and toxic chemicals. Similarly, Autodesk boasts that its software lets designers waste fewer materials on physical prototypes. In addition to hearing of such indirect ecological benefits of using software for design, prepare to see more applications directly incorporate sustainability data within their interfaces.

Free Google Earth mapping and Sketchup modeling software, which are easier for consumers to toy with, added tools in April for designing green buildings. Users can upload to and find each others' models on the 3D Warehouse site.