Developing and integrating a web-based LCA tool to rail vehicle systems design.
The design phase is one of the most important stages in the product development process. At this stage, important decisions are taken regarding the product specifications and characteristics. Apart from the product itself, these decisions can affect the environment throughout the entire lifetime of the product. Since designers know from the early stages of the product development the material composition and how the product will operate, estimations are possible regarding the environmental impacts that the product can have.Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology that can help in defining and calculating the impacts of a product from the moment its materials are extracted from the earth (cradle) up to the point when the product is wasted (grave). Today there are several tools available based on LCA methodology to support calculating the environmental impact. Environmental engineers can use these tools in order to find the hot spots in the products’ life cycle and with the aid of this information work in order to minimize the environmental impacts.This study focus on developing a tool that will assist design engineers in the rolling stock manufacturing company, Bombardier Transportation, to make environmental assessments in the early design phases of train products and systems. Furthermore the purpose of this study is also to provide an overview whether a tool like this can be included into the design process of the train products.Due to the size of the company there is the need to develop a customized tool to support the design department in the best possible way. The tool developed is web-based using GaBi Envision and can be used in parallel with the design software. During the tool development there have been discussions with the designers regarding their needs, the tool structure and operation of the tool. A case study for two train motors with different material composition was used to evaluate the final tool.The results helped to understand the applicability of the tool in the early stages of product development and which difficulties occur when interpreting the outcomes of the tool. Moreover since design engineers normally do not have a background in environmental studies it is also important that the tool can provide easily understandable feedback based on the environmental impact assessment. With this in mind the tool can be improved in the future for better support of design engineers.
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