Researchers have expanded the definition of product modularity from function-based modularity to life-cycle process-based modularity. In parallel, measures of product modularity have been developed as well as corresponding modular product design methods. However, a correct modularity measure and modular design method are not enough to realize modular product design. To apply the measure and design method correctly, product representation becomes an important aspect of modular design and imperative for realizing the promised cost savings of modularity. In this paper, a representation for retirement process-based modular design has been developed. Built upon previous representations for assembly and manufacturing-based product design, the representation includes a process similarity matrix and a process dependency matrix. The retirement process-based similarity is based on the similarity in components’ post-life intents (recycling, reuse, disposal), and either the degree of their material compatibility if the components will be recycled, or their disassembly direction or disassembly tools if they need to be disassembled from each other for retirement. Process similarity within a module leads to increased process efficiency (the elimination of non-value added tasks) from the sharing of tooling/equipment. Retirement process-based dependency is developed based on disassembly difficulty, one aspect of the physical interactions between components. Retiring components together as a module to eliminate disassembly and differential processing and reducing the disassembly difficulty between the modules can increase the efficiency of the retirement process. We have first presented which process elements we should consider for defining retirement process similarity and dependency, and then constructed the respective similarity and dependency factors tables. These tables include similarity and dependency factors, which, along with their quantifications, are used to determine a product’s modular architecture to facilitate the retirement process. Finally, a fishing reel is used to illustrate how to apply these factors tables to generate the similarity and dependency matrices that represent a product for retirement-process based modular design. Using these representations as input to the DSM-based modular design methods, we can achieve a design with a modular architecture that improves the retirement process efficiency and reduces retirement costs.

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