Electronics design process: LCA results show that the metals in electronic wiring and lead in solders are major pollutants. The industry is rigorously studying alternatives like alloys that harm less and lead-free solder. Integrated circuit manufacturing and packaging is another area the LCA targets. Assessments show that reuse of electronic components and parts, and reduction in size contribute to a smaller footprint. Impact on health and even outlet of industrial wastes into sources like rivers is an important focus of the LCA.
Software for LCA
There are various software for performing the life cycle assessment of products. The popular ones seem to be SimaPro by Pre consultants and GaBi by Thinkstep. Open LCA by GreenDelta is an open source option that seems to be giving good competition to the proprietary tools. Umberto, Quantis suite, Earth Smart, Sustainable Minds, Enviance System, LCA calculator and Ecoinvent are few of the other proprietary ones in the race.
With different organisations following their own processes for LCA, there is a lack of transparency in the whole process. Not knowing the detailed manufacturing process or the purpose of use of the product makes it difficult to compare different processes to arrive at a comprehensive study. Although there are standards out there, they talk about how the LCA should be done without mentioning the specifications or a method to evaluate different processes and use-cases. With the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) and the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) working towards this, we may soon find a way to pin real numbers to the intricacies involved.
The point is clear. With everything we do, non-renewable resources are depleting and the ecological footprint is increasing. This is where the life cycle assessment will play a major role. It will tell you how much trouble you are causing to the environment and at what point, so you could try alternate measures for the process or service. Also, a continuous evaluation helps you identify if your improved or alternate method is working and helps you decide what you should stick to. The only way to make this work is a conscious effort towards a greener environment. Hopefully, with the help of the LCA, we can expect to see a comparatively better and safer design process, and in turn create a better world for generations to come. But all said and done, life is moving towards comfort and fast solutions, and alternatives suggested may not stand up to the expectations. Well, a compromise has to be made somewhere and maybe making LCA compulsory in all design processes might be a good start. Effectively using the LCA results to create sustainable electronics design is the way forward.