Locus Robotics and Sustainability in the Circular Economy
The diagram below illustrates the continuous flow of materials in a circular economy. There are two main cycles: the technical cycle (right) and the biological cycle (left). In the technical cycle, products and materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible while in the biological cycle, nutrients from biodegradable materials are returned to the earth to regenerate.
The focus of this blog is on the technological cycle, which covers items that are not biodegradable such as metals and plastics. In this cycle, products and materials maintain their highest possible value, while opportunities to generate value come through retaining the greatest proportion of labor and energy embedded in products. The technical cycle of the circular economy functions through circles of activity between users; service providers; product manufacturers; and parts manufacturers. Each practice aims to maintain the highest value of a product by extending its period of use.
🦾 Renault Retrofits Robots at Refactory
The robots that retired from Renault’s plants in Sandouville, France, Maubeuge, France, and Douai are sent to the retrofit unit, which is run by Francesetti Nathalie, head of the tooling department at the plant. In the past, each plant retrofitted its own machines. Now, the Refactory revamps them all so the automaker can reap the benefit of a specialist team pooling their expertise in a dedicated workshop. By 2023, the team will double in size and have eight technicians and a scheduler.
By retrofitting robots, Renault has reduced investments in new projects and repair costs. This operation has also shortened supply chains, which are getting longer and longer for new robots. Ultimately, Renault’s goal is to retrofit more than 170 robots per year to support the company’s shift to producing electric vehicles. The operation will save the automaker some 3 million euros per year.
New Process Converts Scrap Aluminum Into EV Parts
Engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) here have developed a new manufacturing process that can convert recycled aluminum into parts for electric vehicles. They worked with Magna International Inc. on the foou-year R&D project that dramatically reduces the need to mine and refine raw aluminum ore.
The Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE) process collects scrap bits and leftover aluminum trimmings from automotive manufacturing and transforms it directly into suitable material for new vehicle parts. It is now being scaled to make lightweight aluminum parts for EVs.
“This innovation is only the first step toward creating a circular economy for recycled aluminum in manufacturing,” claims Whalen. “We are now working on including post-consumer waste streams, which could create a whole new market for secondary aluminum scrap.”
Circular manufacturing ecosystems: Automotive printed circuit boards recycling as an enabler of the economic development
The management of waste from electrical and electronic equipments (WEEEs) is a well-established topic in the extant literature. However, also the automotive sector is becoming a relevant source of WEEE, given the even more relevant presence of electronic components in cars. Due to new European environmental policies, end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) volumes are expected to grow in the next future, together with obsolete car electronics components. Hence, this work wants to assess the potential economic impact derived from car electronics recycling processes adopting the Net Present Value (NPV) as reference indicator. Through a detailed sensitivity and break-even point (BEP) analysis and a comparison of different cases, this work identifies a set of scenarios useful for industrial actors willing to enter the market of car electronics recycling. Results show an NPV varying from 136,570 to 607,621 €/t with a decisive role played by gold recovery.
Macrodyne receives funding from scale AI to develop AI enabled supply chain equipment and software solutions
Macrodyne Technologies Inc., North America’s largest hydraulic press manufacturer, has been selected to receive 2.2 million funding to develop AI based Supply Chain solutions from Montreal-based Scale AI, a technology supercluster funded by the federal and Quebec governments. Macrodyne, a leading hydraulic press manufacturer and supplier to compression molding industry, has seen an opportunity to help solve the complexity in compression molding supply chain for recycled plastics by providing equipment and AI-enabled software solutions to source feedstock to allow for the circular manufacturing of all types and blends of plastics.
Macrodyne will lead the project by partnering with ReGen, Winnipeg based designer and licenser for the Circular Manufacturing Technology; Moov AI, Quebec based artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions provider; SimWell, Quebec based leader in simulation model to develop the new technological suite. This project will make Macrodyne the first amongst press OEMs to invest in AI based logistic solutions that will provide substantial value for its customers. With this solution, the partners expect to see a major improvement in operational efficiency, by using technologies to plan and optimize the supply chain operations instead of doing it manually and/or based on operators by experience judgment.
‘Pushing the limits of innovation’ - 3D printed footwear showcased by Dior at Paris Fashion Week
The two different types of shoes created by Dior, derbys and boots, were printed using laser powder bed fusion technology, but the brand did not disclose the specific system used. The footwear was just about visible on the catwalk beneath long pants that models were wearing, but close-up images have now been released.
In a video shared by the official Dior Twitter account, a member of the design team spoke about the sustainability of the shoes: “What interested us here is that, once the tongue has been unstitched and the undersoles and laces have been removed, 80% of the material can be entirely reused for other purposes. It’s a circular approach.”
Plastic reuse program could become permanent in Tucson
Instead, the plastic was sent to ByFusion, a California company that places plastic into a patented machine that uses steam and compression to churn out 22-pound blocks that fit together with interlocking pegs. Since the material is all superheated, ByFusion can take the discarded food packaging, plastic grocery bags and bubble wrap that standard recycling plants often can’t process.
While the company has collaborated with other municipalities throughout the country, ByFusion CEO Heidi Kujawa said Tucson’s pilot program has been “one of the first in this capacity,” and that “Tucson looks like they could be the first in the world,” to adopt the infrastructure to make the program an official city service.
“One of the reasons why we did the pilot is to just learn and understand how the community was going to react to a service like this,” she said. “Now that we’re armed with that information, it’s clear that we would have increased participation if we were to provide some extending services outside of drop-off locations.”
The Circular Economy vs. Industrial Automation
The Circular Economy is quickly permeating throughout the way consumers/end users think about manufacturing. Beyond end-of-life solutions, the circular economy at its heart is demonstrating the power of tapping into waste resources to create value, and new ‘product-as-a-service’ business models are highlighting the poer of new consumer demands.
Front-running companies are already pursuing circular strategies and successfully developing new, circular markets. This includes start-ups such as ACTronics, which remanufacturers automotive electronic equipment and CRS Holland, which recovers and recycles marine cable. It is becoming increasingly apparent that to remain competitive in the globl market and create a future-proof business, circular economy business strategies must be adopted.
MIDEA, GER and INEOS Styrolution collaborate to create the first large scale home appliance closed-loop circular economy system in the world
INEOS Styrolution, the global leader in styrenics, announced today that its ABS ECO grades, manufactured from post-consumer recycled (PCR) ABS produced by GER, have been successfully validated by Midea for its range of sustainable household appliances, including air conditioners, refrigerators and water dispensers.
Prototyping for the Circular Economy: Impact of Sustainability Regulations on Packaging Development
New environmental regulations are going to require manufacturers to redesign packaging so they are only one material (monomaterial) – which allows for increased ability to recycle as opposed to packaging made from multi-materials. This creates the need for rapid product development in order to completely redesign bottles and caps to be made of different materials than ever before. More companies are leaning on HDPE bottles and caps rather than the traditional PET bottle, which is going to cause a necessary redesign as the mechanical and physical properties of the materials are different.
Along with mono materials, tethered caps and closures are another shift in the world of manufacturing, designed to keep caps with their bottles to decrease the amount of litter made from single-use containers. These types of caps are pushing designers to get creative and develop entirely new caps and closures. This blog is going to give designers, product developers, and industry professionals the proper information for the future of packaging and how to leverage 3D printed tooling to stay ahead of the competition while maintaining proper prototyping procedures.
A hi-tech factory supports circular mushroom production
To grow mushrooms you need a ‘substrate’ – the base material colonised by the fungi’s mycelium from which the edible mushroom flowers. But sourcing substrates is a thorn in the side of commercial exotic mushroom growers, with supply chain issues dogging the market. This is where Belgian startup Eclo comes in. Normally, mushroom substrates are made from a wood base, grains, water, and mycelium. Eclo, by contrast, has found a way to replace the grains with organic waste from breweries and industrial bakeries. Not only is this a good use of recyled material that reduces the demand for virgin grain – the novel substrate is also high-yield, benefitting growers’ bottom lines.
Towards a more circular production in Scania Oskarshamn
Great achievements towards a more circular production are made at Scania’s cab factory In Oskarshamn, Sweden, since 2019. The production is fossil free since 2020, more material is recycled, and the energy consumption has decreased with several thousand MWh.
NFW closes $85 million Series B to scale naturally circular materials
Today, we are honored to announce that we have raised $85 million in funding to scale production of high-performance, all-natural, circular materials products coming to market with a wide array of global brand partners. The visionary investors backing our truly circular materials include: Evolution VC Partners, Tattarang,Lewis & Clark AgriFood, Collaborative Fund, AiiM Partners, Engine No.1, Raga Partners, Tidal Impact, Scrum Ventures, Gaingels, BMW i Ventures, Ralph Lauren, Advantage Capital, and Central Illinois Angels.
Design for Sustainability
Typically, product designers select a few focuses, for instance, design for manufacturing (DFM), design for assembly (DFA) and design for reliability (DFR), and optimise those aspects of the product. Every design decision is evaluated in the light of the selected focus or focuses and relevant changes are then made taking the full life cycle of the product into account.
A sustainable alternative to this system is the circular economy. The main focus of this type of economic model is to reintroduce used parts as raw materials for new products. The intent is to move from a high-waste to a high-value model. Such a system is highly resource-efficient and reduces the effect of consumer demand on the exploration, pollution, and wastage of natural resources. Models such as biomimicry, cradle-to-cradle, product service systems (PSS), 4Rs, are all strategies that can provide design features to achieve a circular economy.
ABB’s Paper Mill Technology Helps Renewcell Turn Old Clothes Into New Fabrics
In recent years, the pulp and paper industry has gone from having a reputation of being dirty and environmentally unfriendly to being a leader in sustainability and pollution control. Now the technologies that enabled that transition are being used to help the textile industry too. And the players involved are restarting a shuttered paper mill in Sweden to make it happen, once more providing good-paying jobs for the area.
Renewcell is the Sweden-based scaleup at the center of it all. The company developed a sustainable process that recycles waste textiles into a product called Circulose, whose name is the tip-off that it’s aimed at making fashion circular.
Recycled cathode materials enabled superior performance for lithium-ion batteries
Recycling spent lithium-ion batteries plays a significant role in alleviating the shortage of raw materials and environmental problems. However, recycled materials are deemed inferior to commercial materials, preventing the industry from adopting recycled materials in new batteries. Here, we demonstrate that the recycled LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/3O2 has a superior rate and cycle performance, verified by various industry-level tests. Specifically, 1 Ah cells with the recycled LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/3O2 have the best cycle life result reported for recycled materials and enable 4,200 cycles and 11,600 cycles at 80% and 70% capacity retention, which is 33% and 53% better than the state-of-the-art, commercial LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/3O2. Meanwhile, its rate performance is 88.6% better than commercial powders at 5C. From experimental and modeling results, the unique microstructure of recycled materials enables superior electrochemical performance. The recycled material outperforms commercially available equivalent, providing a green and sustainable solution for spent lithium-ion batteries.
How Eastman Strives for a Circular Plastics Economy
“Mechanical recycling—where you go out and take items like single-use bottles, chop, wash and re-meld them and put them back into textiles or bottles—can only really address a small portion of the plastics that are out there,” Crawford said. After a few cycles, the polymers in the products degrade and the process is no longer possible.
Instead, Eastman uses advanced, also known as molecular or chemical, recycling. “We unzip the plastic back to its basic building blocks, then purify those building blocks to create new materials,” Crawford said. This “creates an infinite loop because that polymer can go through that process time and time again.”
Circular Car Factories
The next big shift will be an environmentally friendly movement dubbed the “circular auto factory.” According to some experts, the circular cars initiative will reshape the auto industry during the next two decades, as OEMs and suppliers attempt to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across the entire vehicle life cycle.
The term “circular car” refers to a theoretical vehicle that has efficiently maximized its use of aluminum, carbon-fiber composites, glass, fabric, rubber, steel, thermoplastics and other materials. Ideally, it would produce zero material waste and zero pollution during manufacture, utilization and disposal.
One of the key elements of a circular car factory is a closed-loop recycling program where disassembly lines are housed in the same facility as traditional final assembly lines. All vehicle components and materials are remanufactured, reused and recycled at the end of life.
Circular Economy in Industrial Parks: Technologies for Competitiveness
The key message of the report is that circular economy interventions are not just environmentally beneficial but also economically viable, and hence, can improve the competitiveness of industrial parks and tenant firms. Implementing circular economy principles in industrial parks requires honing in on innovative approaches. In particular, ecoindustrial parks (EIPs), as well as the technologies and business models adopted in EIPs, are important building blocks for scaling up the circular economy approach and accelerating green, sustainable, and resilient industry growth. The report highlights EIP technologies, infrastructure investments, and business models in the following three areas: energy (primarily renewable energy technologies), water (water supply and wastewater treatment technologies), and material and waste heat (industrial symbiosis and other material recovery technologies).
These industrial parks lead the way for a circular economy
Manufacturing companies often come together in industrial parks, where they can reduce costs and environmental impact by sharing infrastructure. In Norway, industrial parks have a particular advantage because of their joint access to some of Europe’s cleanest and most affordable energy from Norwegian hydropower.
Now, Norwegian industrial parks are taking the lead as incubators for innovative technology and a circular economy. The parks make it easier for companies to take advantage of each other’s energy and resources. At the same time, industrial parks have a shared knowledge base which can pave the way for developing and testing climate-friendly solutions.