PhoneBloks: More detail & potential for Active Disassembly

PhoneBloks: More detail & potential for Active Disassembly

This can also be seen at:

For related resources, Design for Disassembly, Eco-Design, Environment and AD Technology, guidelines can be downloaded for free at:

PhoneBloks: More detail & potential for Active Disassembly

Phonebloks is an amazing concept in terms of modular design and longevity. Through the facilitation of upgrade and repair, the modules are a vehicle for changes. This keeps the product from having to be entirely replaced. The overall environmental impact could be significantly reduced if the market traction comes to fruition. But why stop at repair and upgrade?

Besides ‘Design for X’, in the case of this Phonebloks example, Design for:

– ‘Upgrade’ (DfU)

– ‘Repair’, (DfRep)

– ‘Modules’, (DfMod)

We propose ‘Design for Security’ (DfS), ‘Design for Remanufacture’ (DfRem) and ‘Design for Recycling’ (DfR).

But how? We suggest ‘Design for Active Disassembly’ (DfAD). ‘Active Disassembly’ (AD) could be incorporated to secure strategic modules while automating the remanufacture and recyclability of any number of modules or the product entirely.

In our previous entries here (blogger) and here (AD) where we discussed these Eco-Design methods to extend product component lives. And as we stated, because AD technology offers controlled disassembly within a hierarchical regime, AD can be used to not just frame the modules or their dismantling, security of their connections could applied with material specific use enclosing:

– particular propitiatory components,

– more secure disassembly prevention preventing premature release,

– module family control,

– offsite triggered dismantling of modules to render the product unusable,

– increase module tolerances beyond the flex and creep normally associated with polymer casings,

– integrated AD components for a wider variety of functions, reliability and security. 

In addition to the security and integrity applications, environmental and cost considerations could further the usability of the Phoneblok concept, for example:

– automated release through various efficiency including reduced work & speed requirements and automation assisting:

   * remanufacturing

   * recyclability

   * mass module upgrades

   * mass repair systems

   * remote control

   * user preference controls.

All of these design features above however, can be cross-fertilized and modified further through modules in modules for example, a battery cell withing a batter module could replaced while keeping it’s box or module package, intact. The same could be applied for camera, wireless, memory modules and other fast pace improvement aspects of the product.

There is so much potential for this is a great example of ‘Design for Modules’ (DfMod) Concept. When this hits the market, this will be a great interpretation of Eco-Design.

Further to this, more detail on the PhoneBlok concept can be read here below.

This post has been taken from here, DeZeen.

Stay tuned for more where we investigate the next phase… closer to market than you think!

For related resources, Design for Disassembly, Eco-Design, Environment and AD Technology guidelines related to this can be downloaded for free at:

Phonebloks mobile phone concept

by Dave Hakkens


Dutch Design Week 2013: Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Dave Hakkens‘ concept for a mobile phone made of detachable blocks has gone viral, attracting over 16 million views on YouTube and garnering almost a million supporters online (+ movie + interview).

 Dave Hakkens – Phone Bloks on Vimeo

from Design Academy Eindhoven 

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

“I put the video online and in the first 24 hours I had like one million views on YouTube,” Hakkens told Dezeen. “I got a lot of responses to it.”

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

Dutch designer Hakkens, who graduated from Design Academy Eindhoventhis summer, presented his Phonebloks concept at the academy’s graduation show in Eindhoven today at the start of Dutch Design Week.

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

Phonebloks is a concept for a phone made of swappable components that fit together like Lego, with each component containing a different function. This means that components can be replaced or upgraded without having to throw away the phone.

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

“Usually a phone is integrated into one solid block and if one part gets broken you have to throw away the entire phone,” said Hakkens. “But this has different components, so if  your battery is broken you can replace the the battery or if you need a better camera you only upgrade the camera component. So you don’t throw away the entire phone; you keep the good stuff.”

Last month Hakkens uploaded a video explaining the concept to YouTube, where it went viral and has now been watched over 16 million times.

He then put the idea on “crowdspeaking” site Thunderclap, where instead of donating money, supporters donate their social reach. He now has over 900,000 supporters on the site, and when the campaign closes on 29 October a message about Phonebloks will automatically be sent to each supporters’ social media contacts, giving Hakkens a total audience of over 360 million people.

Hakkens said: “That’s the whole point of this idea; to generate lots of buzz so companies see there’s a huge market and realise they really need to make a phone like this.”

The Phonebloks concept features electronic blocks that snap onto a base board, which links all the components. Two small screws lock everything together. Users can choose components from their favourite brands or make their own modules.

“You can customise your phone, replacing the storage block with a larger battery if you store everything in the cloud, or replace advanced components you don’t need with basic blocks like a bigger speaker,” says the video explaining the concept.

Hakkens hopes Phonebloks will lead to fewer phones being thrown away, thereby reducing waste. “Electronic devices are not designed to last,” the video says. “This makes electronic waste one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world and our phone is one of the biggest causes.”

Here’s the interview conducted at Design Academy Eindhoven today:

Marcus Fairs: What is Phonebloks?

Dave Hakkens: Phonebloks is a phone made to upgrade and repair; it’s a phone worth keeping. Usually we throw it away after a couple of years. But this one is made to last.

Marcus Fairs: How is it made to last?

Dave Hakkens: Usually a phone is integrated into one solid block, and if one part gets broken you have to throw away the entire phone. But this has different components, so if for instance only your battery is broken you can replace the the battery, or if it’s slow after a couple of years you can change just the speed component. If you need a better camera you only upgrade the camera component. So in this way you don’t throw away the entire phone; you keep the good stuff.

Marcus Fairs: Tell us how it went viral.

Dave Hakkens: The idea with this whole project is I’m just one guy at the Design Academy; I can’t make this phone by myself. I can go to a lot of companies and pitch, ask them if they’d like to make my phone, but I thought I’d do it the other way around; so I gathered a lot of people who told companies they really wanted this phone. So I put this video online and in the first 24 hours I had like one million views on YouTube. I also gathered supporters so currently I have 900,000 supporters, and they all just wanted this phone. So now I have all this attention and I get a lot of nice emails from companies who want to work on this.

Marcus Fairs: How did you spread the message?

Dave Hakkens: You have this site called Thunderclap. On Thunderclap instead of crowdfunding you crowdspeak people; people don’t donate money but instead they donate their friends and family. You say you’re interested in a project and want to support it, so you donate your friends – their Facebook followers and Twitter followers – and on the 29 October automatically a message is sent out by those people saying “We want Phonebloks”. That spreads to all their friends and families. So currently I have like 900,000 supporters but on 29 October we will reach 300 million people. So that’s the whole point of this idea; to generate lots of buzz so companies see there’s a huge market and realise they really need to make a phone like this.

Marcus Fairs: What is the next step?

Dave Hakkens: My idea succeeded from day one; I got a lot of responses to it. I’ve got a lot of people interested in developing it: engineers, technicians and companies. So right now I’m thinking what would be a logical next step. Crowdsource it on the internet? Work together with a company? That’s what I’m thinking about now; how to realise the phone the best way.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation Case Study

This can also be seen at:

For related resources, Design for Disassembly, Eco-Design, Environment and AD Technology, guidelines can be downloaded for free at:


Original post at:




Image © Dr Joseph Chiodo

Active Disassembly

Established in: research started early 1990s

Activity: Designing with the use of smart materials and processes to enable

the rapid and non-destructive disassembly of products and components.

Enabling Conditions

  1. Enabling technology Enabling technology

Building blocks

  1. Radical DesignRadical Design


  • Investment



Digital Lumens
Mazuma Mobile
Active Disassembly
Refuse Vehicle Solutions
Kalundborg Symbiosis
Autocraft Drivetrain Solutions
Mud Jeans
Maersk Line
Philips & Turntoo
Agency of Design

There are a variety of potential barriers to developing products that are ‘made to be made again’, such as the time and labour intensity of repair and remanufacturing, the cost in designing products in this radical way, and the quality of the recovered components or materials.

The work of Dr Joseph Chiodo, of Active Disassembly Research, has addressed a number of these challenges. Active Disassembly is the process of designing a product using materials or processes that provide movement or release when faced with external stimuli. This is so that it can be dismantled in a non-destructive and hierarchical way. Dr Chiodo’s work began in the early 1990s, and initially focused on design for disassembly, indicating that more automated processes were required. A design led solution to disassembly was born using smart materials and processes. This reduced the mean time of disassembly, especially in large batch processing.

One of the first and most visually impressive examples of this technology is a screw that will lose its thread when heated, enabling high quality batch-disassembly, unlike the shredding or fragging recycling processes that occur in many industries today.




Following a series of research projects with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Sony, Nokia, Motorola and others, Dr Chiodo moved on to trying to get this technology into everyday products. With the price of smart materials previously a barrier to adoption at scale, the focus of research moved to using existing engineering materials and processes that have been made smart. These are specifically designed to address complex recycling issues where added value output fractions are desired. Some recent examples impose stresses in conventional engineering materials or provide significant change in mechanical properties on demand. One interesting project currently being investigated is adding an interstitial layer – a method that can enable the removal of sealant or adhesive in a single bead, preventing the contamination of recyclate.

The work of Active Disassembly Research has shown that technology exists to make remanufacturing and materials recovery faster and more effective, but current customer demand for higher performance and lower price, combined with linear business models of most OEMs hasn’t facilitated the uptake of this technology. Dr Chiodo says that there needs to be more pioneering projects to lead the way:

Customers are motivated. With a manufacturer or a 3rd party recycler willing to take the product back, then we will have a serious technology uptake and the majority of environmental impact eliminated. The right business plan will ultimately make extended life and ‘End-of-Life’ scenarios such as remanufacturing much less expensive since added value savings and very high output fractions can now be reclaimed. Thus, manufacturers will significantly profit from minimal design changes and marginal cost upfront as a strategic aspect of a portion of what they’re selling.

© Copyright 2012 Ellen Macarthur Foundation. All Rights Reserved

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