Life Cycle Assessment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology is used to evaluate environmental burden of systems using cradle-to-grave approach. LCAs helps to avoid a narrow outlook on environmental concerns and takes into account the data relevant to every component in a system through the wider scale of comparison criteria.
In addition to the impact on global warming related to carbon emissions, LCA offers criteria for estimating the impact on human health, ecosystem quality, and resources, such as energy and water. LCA can be used as an asset in different stages of eco-innovation in order find the most feasible solution both economically and environmentally. LCA is also a base for obtaining labels for environmentally friendly products, EU Ecolabel, Blue Angel (German label), Nordic Ecolabel, etc.
Different 3D printing techniques require different materials, and there is a lack of reliable data on technical performance and numerical evaluation of ecological impact. Already 52 % of the materials for 3DP are bio-based polymers; polyamide 11 (vegetable oils), TPE and TPS (rapeseed oil), when PLA (corn or sugarcane) being the most used.
According to European Bioplastics, the global production capacities of bio-plastics have increased from 1.4 million tons in 2012 to 2.05 million tons in 2017. Bio-based materials are studied also BSR, however commercialization of new materials require cooperation between RDI actors and industries.
Additive manufacturing covers various direct printing of 3D technologies. It is revolutionizing manufacturing technique as it brings production closer to customers, offers costs effective prototyping of products and manufacturing small series.
3D printing have less restrictions related to product geometries than traditional technologies. Several materials can be used simultaneously, and the integration of various inserts is comparative, which free the mind of designers for creating totally new kinds of products.
3D printing market is estimated to grow globally from 5,3 M€ in 2015 to 44 M€ in 2025. Industrial markets are the most important, and the biggest growth is estimated to realize in aerospace, automotive, medical, electronics and consumer product markets. The 3D printing industry is rapidly developing not only on technological side but also in material development.
Ecological products require professional branding in order to communicate the benefits of investments in sustainability to potential customers. A study among businesses in Lithuania and Ireland highlighted the belief of high costs as an obstacle for going green. With suitable branding and communication of sustainable values of products on the markets, eco-innovations can pay back the investments in sustainability.
Product Service System Design
Newly developed systematic approach for developing sustainable solutions in business is called product-service system (PSS) design. PSS design aims to satisfy customer needs in a competitive way and simultaneously, to reduce environmental impact on both consumption and production sides. PSS design calls for different short and long-term strategies for “going green” requiring changes both internally and externally related to the collaboration with customers, intermediate stakeholders and suppliers.
When companies implement PSS strategies, the range of special expertise required is vast: design, materials, analytics, certifications, prototyping and manufacturing solutions, logistics, branding, business models and marketing. Scarce resources and lack of knowledge set obstacles for SMEs to fully implement PSS and accomplish sustainable strategies. Therefore, effective and holistic network across the value chain is needed to support their endeavors in implementing sustainable eco-innovations.