Sustainable production and digitalisation – thesis project

This article is based on a thesis work done as part of the Smart Fabriker project. This project explores the factory’s environmental impact from a quantitative perspective. It also includes a literary overview on sustainable digitalisation.

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Rebecca and Theresa, who carried out the thesis project.

The product studied was a pair of VR glasses in a cardboard that is used with a smartphone to get a VR or 360 experience. Rebecca and Therese did a life cycle analysis (LCA) where they studied the product's environmental impact for the entire life cycle of VR glasses. The product consists of cardboard and plastic lenses. The life cycle analysis does not take into account the environmental impact of the smartphone but focuses on the VR glasses themselves. To be able to do a life cycle analysis, two system images were made. One for the entire VR glasses production chain and one for the process itself in the factory.

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VR glasses in cardboard and plastic lenses.
Figure 1
An overview of the production chain for VR glasses. All of the solid arrows represent the flow of materials, while the red ones also illustrate conveyors outlined in the study. However, the conveyors related to maintenance are not included in this diagram. The dotted arrow represents the flow of information.
Figure 3
An overview of the factory, illustrated by the yellow square in the diagram above. All of the arrows designate the flow of materials, with the red arrow also representing conveyance. The factory’s energy consumption is not shown in the diagram but is included in the study.
An illustration of how climate change contributes to every part of the life-cycle for 300,000 VR glasses.

The report is divided into two sections, the first of which proposes improvements to the constructed factory in order to reduce environmental impact. The second part provides a literary overview of sustainable digitalisation in order to identify topics for future study.

The study is divided into three objectives:

  • Identify five critical areas in the factory.
  • Identify possible improvements for the factory.
  • Identify the extent to which the topic of sustainable digitalisation is covered by scientific literature. Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is used extensively during this thesis project. According to the analysis, the five critical areas are the cardboard, lenses, rack, rotary press and Eton Systems conveyor. It emerged that the greatest reduction of environmental impact can be achieved when the volume of consumables is cut. Moreover, environmental impact can be substantially reduced if recyclable material is used for the cardboard sheet instead of new fibre. Consequently, production volumes and the types of material used are particularly important to take into account for the project. The literary overview shows that it is relatively difficult to find reports about sustainable digitalisation. The majority of reports focus on the economic and social dimensions of sustainability, with less focus on environmental considerations. However, more research is required into certain specific fields.


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This article is categorised as Advanced  |  Published 2018-01-25  |  Authored by Johan Bengtsson