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Sustain-A-Bear™: Applying Manufacturing Sustainability Practices to Plush Stuffed Animals

[+] Author Affiliations
Christina Laskowski, Todd Snelson, Saadia Safir

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Paper No. MSEC2009-84224, pp. 117-126; 10 pages
doi:10.1115/MSEC2009-84224
From:
  • ASME 2009 International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference
  • ASME 2009 International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference, Volume 1
  • West Lafayette, Indiana, USA, October 4–7, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Manufacturing Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4361-1 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3859-4
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME

abstract

The stuffed toy market is quite large, with some manufacturers earning nearly half a billion dollars in revenue per year. However, the vast majority of manufacturers do not currently employ sustainable manufacturing techniques. This paper documents the development of a cost-effective stuffed product by placing an emphasis on sustainability within the design process while maintaining the user appeal of a traditional teddy bear. Specifications were determined by analyzing each of the four stages of the product timeline (extraction, manufacture, use, and disposal) to ensure that sustainability was considered throughout the lifecycle of the product. Material choice was a main focus of the extraction stage, and limiting new material usage was an important goal. Considerations for the manufacturing stage included carbon dioxide produced, waste generated, toxicity, and packaging. Specifications regarding the consumer’s use of the product included user appeal, stain resistance, durability, price, and safety concerns. Objectives of the last stage, disposal, included plans to minimize the amount of material sent to landfills by making the product easier to store, improving ease of recycling, and reducing transportation required. These specifications, importance ratings, marginal values, and ideal values are discussed. While investigating more sustainable manufacturing practices, many solutions were found, and the practicality of these solutions was investigated. By incorporating these solutions, the product — Sustain-A-Bear™ — met specifications, embodied sustainability, and also proved cost competitive. Once specification-level analysis was complete, multiple bears were constructed, both to create a baseline for comparison with standard stuffed animal assembly and also to aid in the development of a more sustainable assembly process. Through the use of ultrasonic welding for material bonding to thermally weld materials together and through the use of specialized platens, the bear was assembled from PET fleece (recycled from plastic soda bottles) using significantly less time and energy than that required to sew a bear together. Part reduction and shape simplification also aided bear assembly throughput. Furthermore, tensile testing on an Instron machine yielded results better than those resulting from sewing, owing largely to the reduction of stress concentrations. Finally, overall cost analysis indicates that stuffed animals made in this fashion could, in fact, be affordably made in the United States.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME

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