As awareness of green design permeates the consumer consciousness, people are beginning to seek out sustainable products and behaviors. To meet this growing demand, digital media storage leader Fabrik turned to Los Angeles-based industrial design consultancy Stuart Karten Design (SKD) to design two sustainable hard drives for its SimpleTech brand.
SKD responded with designs for the 500 GB SimpleTech [re]
drive, which introduces new sustainable materials to Fabrik's product line, and the SimpleTech Simple Drive, which makes steps toward improved sustainability using the materials and manufacturing processes already in place at Fabrik.
"SimpleTech came to us with a desire to create a product that addressed sustainability in a meaningful way. This project represented an opportunity to break new ground in an industry that has paid little attention to its impact on the environment," says SKD principal Stuart Karten, who has designed for the consumer electronics industry for nearly 25 years.
SKD re-thought the market's assumption of what a hard drive should look like, exploring new materials and manufacturing processes, from injection molded starch-based biopolymers to vegetable-dyed soft goods, that would minimize the drives' impact on the environment.
Simplicity became the driving force behind both drives: eliminating excess, minimizing size, part count and volume of materials and reducing carbon exhaust during production. Stripping the drives down to their basic functional components, SKD let the selected manufacturing processes dictate minimalistic forms that highlight the beauty of efficiency.
Defined by its naturally finished bamboo and organically-shaped aluminum side panels, the [re]
drive revolutionizes Fabrik's design for its SimpleTech line. While the use of sustainable hardwood immediately signals "green" to eager buyers, SKD pushed sustainability beyond surface aesthetics, incorporating renewable and recycled materials and an ultraefficient construction method to minimize the resources the drive consumes during both production and operation.
Each component of the [re]
drive serves a dual purpose. Bamboo panels, naturally grown local to Fabrik's production facility, utilize a fastgrowing and quickly replenish-able resource to add stability and rigidity to the drive, as well as a unique natural beauty that becomes a focal point of the design. Cast aluminum side panels, with an organic form evoking a bamboo forest, are not only visually interesting, but functional. They serve as a heat sink, allowing the drive to operate efficiently without a fan. The extruded central chassis provides a frame onto which the pieces attach - some using a pressure fit to minimize fasteners required in assembly.
The use of interchangeable parts, including mirrored panels and identical fasteners, minimizes energy and resources spent in production. Waste aluminum is recycled during manufacturing and mixed up to 30% with raw aluminum to form parts. By keeping materials separate from one another, the [re]
drive is designed to be easily disassembled and recycled at the end of its life.
In addition to the dramatic [re]
drive, SKD was challenged with greening Fabrik's core product, designing a hard drive that made a significant step toward sustainability within the company's existing infrastructure. With a design that reduces size, material volume and part count relative to Fabrik's previous offering, the SimpleTech SimpleDrive has a spare but elegant aesthetic that highlights the inherent beauty of simplicity. Its plastic clamshell casing, molded in a softly undulating form, represents a purity of materials that is aesthetically pleasing as well as simple to produce and simple to disassemble and recycle at the end of its life. The enclosure features a durable slide-fit construction that minimizes necessary parts. Vents are incorporated directly into its design to allow heat to escape, improving the efficiency of the drive.
Both SimpleTech drives will be available to consumers on July 28, 2008. In the spirit of sustainability, they will be sold in 100 percent recyclable packaging with instructions saved digitally on the drives.