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Thinking about the life cycle of materials in the design phase is crucial to add value to products

21 March 2022
Article by Susana Sousa, António Baptista, António Torres Marques, researchers in the areas of materials, composite structures and product and systems development.

Not infrequently, the obsession with the functionality of products obscures the holistic view of their entire life cycle. After all, everyone – from the engineers who design them, to the manufacturers who produce them, to the end consumer who will use them – want them to work perfectly and with the proper quality once in use.

However, the product does not live solely on functionality of use. Particularly in new products, there is a higher risk of presenting unforeseen problems in other phases of their life cycle, if they are not developed in a systematic way and integration of multiple aspects of the interested parties. Furthermore, as a rule, it costs less to prevent a problem than to solve it, which is why it is essential to invest in the phase that precedes the product's entry into the market.

Companies must, therefore, invest in new methodologies that can ensure the needs of the customer and other interested parties (of the life cycle), from the conception of the product to the end of its useful life, considering that the materials and their performance are of increasing importance in this context. In fact, with the urgent need to decarbonize the economy and improve the energy efficiency of products and systems, the development of new products, particularly in the context of the Circular Economy, must be accompanied by a better selection of materials or even the concurrent integration of new materials developed. tailored to the application.

Application of the Design for Excellence (DfX) concept to the development of materials

Design-for-eXcellence (DfX) is an approach that has been implemented in the industry to increase the value creation of the product, considering several aspects with a direct impact on its life cycle, from the moment of conception. The terminology DfX means Design for "X" ("Design-for-X", where the variable "X" meets the objectives that must be contemplated in the design phase, namely manufacturing (DfM - Design for Manufacturing), assembly ( DfA – Design for Assembly), cost (DfC – Design for Cost), reliability (DfR – Design for Reliability), sustainability (DfS – Design for Sustainability), logistics (DfL – Design for Logistics), among many others.

Products developed in composite materials have been increasing the challenges associated with sustainability, leading the industries associated with the production of these materials to reinforce the demand for holistic solutions, which guarantee the reduction of the environmental impact, the time associated with the development of the product and the costs. , also ensuring higher product quality and compliance with legislative and customer requirements1.

However, despite the existence of a significant number of methods and tools for selecting and evaluating the performance of materials, there is a scarcity of methodologies that perform holistic (multidimensional) performance analysis, in a simplified way, allowing an easy and multidimensional evaluation of the properties. of the material related to its internal structure and life cycle1.

M-DfX - Innovative methodology dedicated to materials developed by INEGI

Aware of this need, INEGI has developed an innovative methodology for evaluating the performance of materials, with principles of Design-for-eXcellence, which allows for advanced decision support in the development of materials and in their global optimization. It follows a modular and multidimensional approach, aggregating the analysis and simultaneous assessment of different domains in the fields of effectiveness and eco-efficiency1.

This methodology, called Material Design-for-eXcellence (M-DfX), presents an original approach to face the challenge of evaluating material performance holistically and considering its entire life cycle. It evaluates the various dimensions of its "X" properties, related to the internal structure in a multi-scale proposition, based on the evaluation of the different macro phases of the life cycle (raw material extraction, pre-processing, processing, use phase and end of life)1.

In the production of composite materials, the implementation of Material Design-for-eXcellence makes it possible to develop more suitable products, with better overall performance, taking into account an integrated view of their entire life cycle1.

In the near future, this material development methodology should cover its study and application to other materials, but also to new aspects such as social and ethical impact, or even the degree of acceptance by stakeholders. The interests of the various wings of society will be increasingly considered in these processes, particularly if we want to develop paths for an attentive and proactive, ecologically correct, healthier and safer society, and for a more sustainable planet.

With this evolution, areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber-physical systems, virtual and augmented realities or data analytics, should go beyond conventional technological approaches1. The future necessarily involves a paradigm shift in the development of materials and their application in new products - and a new attitude towards consumption - with products being prepared to receive constant technological updates, in order to considerably extend their life. useful1.


[1] Sousa, S. P. B., Baptista, A. J., & Marques, A. T. (2021). Material Design-for-eXcellence Framework – Application to Composites. In D. Brabazon (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Materials: Composites (pp. 290-301). Oxford: Elsevier.

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