National Physical Laboratory

Software aids sustainable material choices

The Environmental Materials Information Technology (EMIT) Consortium is a collaboration founded by NPL, Cambridge University spin out Granta Design, and industrial partners to develop software tools that assess the environmental impact of materials at the product design stage. The aim is to reduce the environmental impact and associated manufacturing costs. NPL coordinates the project and Granta Design develops the software.

EMIT eco-design software tools
The EMIT Consortium develops eco-design software tools to
be incorporated into computer-aided-design (CAD) systems

Engineering companies need to control the environmental impacts of products, while meeting environmental, health and safety regulations, to survive in today's market.

To analyse the impacts of a product over its whole life cycle (i.e. from extraction of raw materials to disposal), detailed information about the materials used, and on any restrictions placed on specific materials, needs to be available. The earlier this information is applied to guide the product development process, the easier, and cheaper it will be to make any necessary material substitutions.

Computer-aided design (CAD) is a widely used tool within the engineering sector and the seamless integration of an eco-design component into these systems would optimise material choice, particularly in the design stage of new products.

The EMIT Consortium has initially concentrated on the issue of restricted substances and materials, including the impact of the REACH Directive, which is the European Union Regulation on chemicals and their safe use. This is a business-critical issue, particularly for the aerospace members of the project.

This has led to a capability to analyse the 'Bill of Materials' for a product, or a company's portfolio of material and process specifications, against over 60 such regulations from around the world. The software generates reports such as a REACH Article 33 report, which identifies potential problem materials based on this legislation.

The analysis is done through the web browser interface of Granta's GRANTA MI software and the project is now moving on to provide an interface within common CAD systems.

Another stream of the project is working on tools to quickly estimate the CO2 footprint and energy usage of product designs, guiding materials selection to minimise these impacts.

EMIT is coordinated by NPL and developed by Granta Design, with the following members:

The major industry players in this consortium can influence the industry as a whole to make better, and more sustainable, materials choices aided through the integration of eco-design into CAD and similar software.

More on NPL's Materials research

For further information, please contact Graham Sims

Last Updated: 3 May 2012
Created: 13 Oct 2011

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