Life Cycle Design of In-Mold Surfacing Film

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This life cycle design project was a collaborative effort between the National Pollution Prevention Center at the University of Michigan, 3M Corporation, and the National Risk Management Research Laboratory of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The primary objective of this project was to apply life cycle design tools to a new product introduced by 3M. In-mild surfacing film (ISF) is an alternative color-coating system to the traditional paint coating process. It has been tested for application on body side molded (BSM) plastic parts on automobiles. In contrast to painting processes, ISF is manufactured at 3M and is shipped to tier 1 (relative to Original Equipment manufacturers (OEM), i.e. automobile manufacturers) suppliers for application into BSM parts. ISF is a layered product consisting of clear coat, color coat, adhesive, and a thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) backing. A Polyethylene Terepthalate (PET) liner is used during manufacturing, but is removed before the file is die cut at the tier 1 supplier's facility. The analysis is performed for 12.2 g of die cut ISF film applied to a BSM part of surface area of 399 cm2. The material production inventories of Poly Vinylidene Fluoride (PVDF), acrylic, PET, and TPO, which constitute the ISF, were evaluated as part of the analysis.

The scope of the LCD study encompasses manufacturing, application, use and retirement stages. In contrast to painting operations, where the majority of environmental burdens are concentrated in the paint shops of tier 1 suppliers or at the OEM facility, the environmental burdens for ISF application are shifted upstream from tier 1 suppliers to 3M. The overall material efficiency based on solids and coating solvents as input material from manufacturing to application is 19%. The total life cycle energy requirement for the paint film was determined to be 11.8 MJ/ISF and the total life cycle solid waste generated per ISF was 62 g. The use phase results in a majority of the life cycle environmental burden in terms of energy (54%) and CO2 emissions (63%), however, the use phase contributes only 29% of the total life cycle solid waste. The majority of life cycle cost occurs during manufacturing (81%). Based on the results of this life cycle environmental and cost inventory, metrics for design analysis are proposed. Different life cycle performance metrics required to meet the OEM specifications are also presented.

This report is submitted in partial fulfillment of Cooperative Agreement number CR822998-01-0 by the National Pollution Prevention Center at the University of Michigan under the sponsorship of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This work covers a period from November 10, 1994 to March 30, 1996.

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Kar, Krishnendu, Gregory A. Keoleian, David V. Spitzley, Kathy Malone and Scott Whitney. 2001. Life Cycle Design of In-Mold Surfacing Film. National Risk Management Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency. EPA 600/R-01/058.
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