Life Cycle Assessment Study Provides Evidence

Whitepaper

27.5.2022

22.3.2022

Sustainability
Ivan Muñoz

Life Cycle Assessment Study Provides Evidence

In the first article of our sustainability series, our Sustainability Manager Janne Jääskä gave an overview of the environmental performance of in-mold structural electronics (IMSE®). The second article, written by our guest blogger Ivan Muñoz from 2.-0 LCA consultants, gives insights into the life cycle assessment (LCA) study 2.-0 LCA consultants conducted for TactoTek and provides more details.

The Basics of Life Cycle Assessment

LCA is a method to assess the environmental impact of products and services. We conduct a compilation and evaluation of a product or service inputs, outputs, and potential environmental impacts throughout its entire life cycle. Inputs refer to natural resources, while outputs refer to air, water, and soil pollution.

An LCA study consists of four phases, according to the ISO 14040/14044 standards

1. Goal & Scope definition

2. Inventory Analysis

3. Impact Assessment

4. Interpretation

Goal and Scope of the LCA Study for TactoTek

The study was commissioned to determine the life cycle environmental impacts and potential environmental benefits of IMSE technology when applied in the particular case of a coffee maker. In order to do so, we at 2.-0 LCA consultants compared the life cycle environmental impact of alternative options for a control panel incorporated in a coffee maker, designed with:

  • TactoTek in-mold structural electronics (IMSE®) technology
  • TactoTek IMSE systems in package (IMSE® SiP) technology and
  • Conventional technology (separate plastic and electronic components)

In the study, the control panels were tracked from ‘cradle to grave’, meaning the following life cycle stages were included:

  • Supply of components and packaging
  • Manufacturing of the control panel
  • Distribution
  • Use
  • Disposal of control panel and packaging

We collected the data needed for the inventory analysis from the bill of materials, the packaging, and the manufacturing process. By gathering this information, we are able to create a mass and energy balance.

The Outcome of the Impact Assessment

The Impact Assessment aggregates the information from the Inventory Analysis into a set of indicators, such as the carbon footprint, for instance. In the case of the coffee maker control panel, we assessed 14 different indicators addressing the use of natural resources and impacts on human health and ecosystems, for example, health effects from particulate pollution or nature occupation.

Reduction of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Evaluating the Environmental Performance of IMSE

​​The IMSE and IMSE SiP control panels involve a lower life cycle environmental impact than the reference control panel. The reduction in impact varies depending on the indicator. For example, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (the carbon footprint) are reduced by 56% and 62% by IMSE and IMSE SiP, respectively, compared to the reference.

In all indicators, the IMSE SiP option leads to a lower life cycle impact than the IMSE option. As an example, GHG emissions are 14% lower in the IMSE SiP option as compared to the IMSE option.

Most of the environmental damage induced by the control panel life cycle is associated with the indicator for respiratory inorganics (emissions of particulate pollution), closely followed by global warming (emissions of GHG).

For all three control panels, the supply of components dominates the life cycle impact, with all other stages representing a relatively low fraction of the total impact. For IMSE and IMSE SiP, the supply of components represents 85% and 84%, respectively, of the life cycle GHG emissions. Among components, the supply chain of electronics (touch film, FPC, PCB, controller, transistor, connector, LED) constitutes the main contribution to life cycle impacts.

More detailed results of the latest LCA study were discussed during our webinar “Environmental Performance of IMSE” on 23rd February 2022.  Download the Recording.

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Critical Review and Next Steps

Next, the study will be subject to a critical review according to ISO 14071. During this process, it will be reviewed by a panel of three independent LCA experts, who will check the study for scientific quality and compliance with the ISO 14040/14044 standards on LCA. Based on their feedback, we might have to introduce changes to the study, not only from an editorial point of view but also from a modeling perspective. The outcome of this process is a fully ISO-compliant study.

In addition to that, we currently plan to conduct a second LCA case study, where we will assess an automotive component.

About 2.-0 LCA Consultants

2.-0 LCA consultants are a consultancy company entirely dedicated to quantitative sustainability assessment with life cycle tools. Its headquarters are at the University of Aalborg in Denmark. Ivan Muñoz is the Manager of the Spanish Branch, and he started working in LCA in 1998. In his Ph.D. in environmental science, he focused his research on the suitability of LCA as a tool for Green Chemistry.


Ivan Muñoz
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