Eco-excellence: New international consortium targets environmental impact of materials


Granta Design announces a new collaborative project called the Environmental Materials Information Technology (EMIT) Consortium, coordinated by the U.K.’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). The effort will target materials and process decisions that control the environmental impact of engineered products and develop information resources and software to aid members’ response to environmental regulations and to enable design for minimum environmental impact—including low carbon footprint, energy efficiency, reduced wastes and emissions, and avoidance of restricted substances.
The three-year project began July 1 with founder members Emerson Electric , Eurocopter , NASA , and Rolls-Royce . It is expected to grow to between 10 and 15 member organizations. Granta is the primary software developer for the Consortium.
Regulations such as the European Union’s REACH will have a profound effect on manufacturing organizations. Materials or processes may become obsolete or prohibitively expensive. Problems with compliance will introduce delays and cost. Other environmental objectives—e.g., low carbon footprint or design for end-of-life—are becoming more important due to consumer demand and government action, such as carbon trading schemes.
By far the best response is to build consideration of these factors into the design process, where modifications to products cost least and have the greatest impact. Choices of material and of manufacturing process are of central importance since these determine the use of restricted substances and can have a major influence on energy usage and emissions over a product’s lifetime. Requirements for such choices include:
• Accurate information on restricted substances and on “eco properties” such as the carbon dioxide generated in producing a raw material;
• Specialist analysis capabilities—for example, to estimate the carbon dioxide that a potential product will generate at each stage in its life cycle based on the materials and processes it uses; and
• Well-managed corporate materials information integrated with the organization’s wider business and engineering systems—for example, to enable all materials in a company’s products to be identified and the impact of materials substitutions to be assessed.
Today most manufacturing enterprises have none of these elements in place. Excellence in eco design demands integrated and easy access to all of them. For the EMIT Consortium, the starting point will be proven technology developed at Granta and the University of Cambridge in each of these key areas: eco property data, eco analysis software, and materials information management.
Consortium members will implement and apply this technology in their design processes, and guide its further development and integration. The model for the project is the successful Material Data Management Consortium , which has brought together leaders in aerospace, defense, and energy to develop best practice approaches and software to manage mission-critical materials data. The MDMC is now in its sixth year, with 17 active member organizations.
According to Professor David Cebon, managing director for Granta, "The caliber of the initial members and the broad interest that we have experienced across industry sectors demonstrates its importance. These issues are vital, whether you are an aerospace organization seeking to avoid use of materials that may become obsolete in future, or an appliance manufacturer aiming to reduce the environmental impact of products without increasing cost."

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