Environmental Performance of IMSE® Across the Lifecycle
Sustainability in applications and industries has been steadily increasing in importance over the last decade, and this growth will only accelerate in the foreseeable future.
Sustainable packaging, locomotion, construction, manufacturing, and food, to name a few, is a value in itself for a large portion of consumers in any market segment.
TactoTek focuses on reducing the environmental impact of its IMSE technology and thereby improving its sustainability - from the initial design of its products through their end-of-life. Striving for continuous impeovement, we partner with different organizations to conduct studies on the topic and get reliable results.
Assessing environmental performance
As per best practice, we at TactoTek work with external experts and institutions to provide objective views on environmental performance. This is to ensure we are working with the latest methods and analysis techniques to find out the real data and facts on envirinmental performance. Most recently, we worked with a company called '2.-0 LCA Consultants', a well-known actor in the field with a proven track record for LCA studies. Their methodology, 'Consequential LCA', or cLCA for short, answers what the different drivers for the environmental impacts are, for example, the production of consumer electronics. We consider this method to be particularly appropriate for our technologies.
Comparing IMSE to conventional solutions
In practice, this means we compared two different digital twin IMSE solutions against a conventional solution to see how IMSE fares against product components in the current market and get further information about the environmental performance of IMSE parts contrasted to conventional solutions. As objects to the study, we chose a conventional Human-Machine-Interface (HMI) panel, a panel made with IMSE technologies, and a panel with an IMSE System in Package (SiP). SiP means that we are bringing the control electronic components inside part, further minimizing the size of the PCB.
The study was designed in cooperation with Dr. Ivan Muñoz from 2.-0 LCA Consultants to get accurate, robust, and reliable results of the environmental impacts of IMSE. For the input information on the parts, the team at TactoTek gathered the required data on the conventional part and created comparable IMSE designs. After the input data, certain aspects of the study have been agreed on, such as amounts produced annually, geographical locations of materials, components, manufacturing, use, etc. The rest is subject to the LCA modeling done by 2.-0 LCA Consultants.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
The chosen reference part was deliberately close to an IMSE solution regarding its technical features and technologies to achieve realistic results. We wanted to see the differences between the environmental performance of IMSE head to head with other modern capacitive touch devices. For example, the reference part had capacitive touch buttons instead of mechanical switches.
Comparing the reference device with the ones using IMSE technology showed that IMSE helps lower lifetime greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 56% for an IMSE solution with external electronics and 62% for an IMSE System in Package (SiP) solution. Considering the similarity of the devices, the circa 60% reduction in GHG emissions was a positive surprise and proves that IMSE lowers the environmental impact significantly.
Another outcome was the unexpectedly high impact of the printed circuit board on GHG emissions. We already knew from a previous LCA study that the printed circuit board (PCB) affects GHG emissions, but when the relative mass of the PCB to the total mass of the control panel was higher, the impact was remarkable.
Better performance of IMSE among the other impact categories
The study results also showed that IMSE performs better not only in greenhouse gas emissions but in all of the 14 measured impact categories. The results were monetized to rank their environmental impact according to their perceived damage to the environment. This enables the comparison of different impact categories, even if the actual units are different per category. The list contains a few examples
- Respiratory inorganics: IMSE 62% reduction, IMSE SiP 68% reduction
- Greenhouse gas emissions: IMSE 56% reduction, IMSE SiP 62% reduction
- Human toxicity, carcinogens: IMSE 58% reduction, IMSE SiP 65% reduction
- Nature occupation: IMSE 39% reduction, IMSE SiP 48% reduction
- Acidification: IMSE 54% reduction, IMSE SiP 63% reduction
A similar trend is visible in all impact categories.