Comparative LCA of in-mould structural electronics (IMSE®) for a coffee maker

The aim of this project was to compare the life-cycle environmental impact of alternative options for a control panel incorporated in a coffee maker, manufactured using in-mould structural electronics (IMSE®) technology and conventional technology (separate plastic and electronic components).

The client

TactoTek Oy – Finland

Our role

This study was commissioned by TactoTek and performed by 2.-0 LCA consultants, resulting in a proprietary report, which will be subject to a critical review by a panel of three independent experts. Project completed June 2022.

Evaluating the environmental performance of IMSE®

The study compared the life cycle environmental impact of alternative options for a control panel incorporated in a coffee maker, designed with:

  • TactoTek in-mold structural electronics (IMSE®) technology
  • TactoTek IMSE systems in package (IMSE® SiP) technology and
  • Conventional technology (separate plastic and electronic components)

In the study, the control panels were tracked from ‘cradle to grave’, including the following life cycle stages: Supply of components and packaging, manufacturing of the control panel, distribution, use and disposal of control panel and packaging.

The Impact Assessment aggregates the information from the Inventory Analysis into a set of 14 indicators addressing the use of natural resources and impacts on human health and ecosystems, for example, health effects from particulate pollution or nature occupation.

​​The IMSE and IMSE SiP control panels involve a lower life cycle environmental impact than the reference control panel. The reduction in impact varies depending on the indicator. For example, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (the carbon footprint) are reduced by 56% and 62% by IMSE and IMSE SiP, respectively, compared to the reference.

In all indicators, the IMSE SiP option leads to a lower life cycle impact than the IMSE option. As an example, GHG emissions are 14% lower in the IMSE SiP option as compared to the IMSE option.

Most of the environmental damage induced by the control panel life cycle is associated with the indicator for respiratory inorganics (emissions of particulate pollution), closely followed by global warming (emissions of GHG).

For all three control panels, the supply of components dominates the life cycle impact, with all other stages representing a relatively low fraction of the total impact. For IMSE and IMSE SiP, the supply of components represents 85% and 84%, respectively, of the life cycle GHG emissions. Among components, the supply chain of electronics (touch film, FPC, PCB, controller, transistor, connector, LED) constitutes the main contribution to life cycle impacts.

More information can be found in the presentation given by Ivan Muñoz in the webinar hosted by TactoTek on 23rd February 2022: “Environmental Performance of IMSE”. Part of this project description was originally featured as a guest blog on the Tactotek blog, on March 22, 2022, and the critical review is mentioned in a further insights blog post.