What’s your gut instinct? Which has a better carbon footprint – an organic apple from Austria or an apple grown conventionally by local farmers? How does a used diesel car compare to a brand-new electric vehicle? Tough, huh? This is due to the fact that the environmental impact of a product is influenced by many different factors: from the extraction of raw materials to production, transport, useful life, and disposal or recycling. All aspects need to be considered throughout the entire service life of a product in order to take stock or make comparisons. A gut feeling is simply not good enough (no matter how good it might be)!
You need to base your decision on facts.
Delivering reliable information about the carbon footprint of a product or component requires a detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA for short). At csi, we generate them using LCA tools, such as the “GaBi” product sustainability software, which is based on the world’s most robust LCA databases. “GaBi” helps us to present the sustainability of products – internally but also to our customers – making sustainability “tangible”. This software allows us to calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product (PCF) or its GWP value/CO2-equivalent. GWP is the abbreviation for Global Warming Potential and is probably the best-known method for determining the climate impact of a product. It takes into consideration the carbon dioxide emissions of a product as well as other greenhouse gases, such as methane, fluorocarbons or sulphur hexafluoride. “GaBi” thus also reveals the potential for reducing environmental pollution. However, analysis alone does not make products and processes better.
We need action to improve the world.
This is where we come in! As designers and developers, we have the capability to design things to be as “green” as possible from the start. After all, it is during the design and development phase that we have the greatest influence on how sustainable a product ultimately turns out to be. 80% of the environmental impact is linked to decisions taken at this early stage. What does the component geometry look like? What material is used? How and where will the product be produced? Will the component be modular or will different materials be permanently welded together? All these factors have an impact on the PCF and/or the recyclability of a product, and hence also on its sustainability.
Real and virtual: that’s smart.
As sustainability is becoming increasingly important to us, to our customers, and their customers, we automatically involve it in every design and development project. Luckily, we have extremely clever and experienced minds in all our departments, who have been doing this for many years. At the same time, more and more tools and technologies are coming onto the market, which will help us to link LCA to design. They include artificial intelligence, virtual prototyping and digital twins. Following an intensive test phase and successful completion of a 3-month pilot project, we have now introduced the Dassault Systèmes’ cloud-based Eco-Designer.
The Eco-Designer enables us to produce LCAs based on design data from CATIA, i.e. a digital or virtual twin. Design changes are automatically transferred to the system and the resulting PCF is recalculated. This allows us to easily and quickly compare different concepts with each other – both on a component and at the assembly level – and then make informed decisions. This has also convinced Anastasia Fedorov, our Sustainability Manager at csi. “I can really imagine that we will be using the Dassault Systèmes’ Eco-Designer in future (on all development projects). Its interface to multi-CAD design tools, such as CATIA, sets it apart from conventional LCA tools. It is also very simple to use and the concept comparisons are visually so well presented that we can present them simply to our customers.”
We wish to offer our customers, among them many international automotive manufacturers, support in their eco-design processes. We can do so with the Eco-Designer and “GaBi” but also with our membership of Catena-X and our involvement in the “PCF” working group. After all, sooner or later, many customers’ buying decisions will depend on how sustainable a product really is. And then – perhaps with the exception of the (organic) apple – it should be based on facts and not simply gut feeling.
If you would like to learn more about this issue, please contact our Sustainability Manager Anastasia Fedorov.
csi entwicklungstechnik | Ingolstadt | Sustainability Manager