Measure Environmental Impact with Eco Materials Adviser

September 11th, 2012

There are many reasons that people look to materials library databases—strength and mass properties would most likely rank at the top of the list. However, as companies become more and more conscious about the environment (and how people perceive their behavior with the environment) they look to the databases for other information such as determining how the material will ultimately impact the environment.

Along Comes Granta

Granta is a United Kingdom-based materials information technology company offering services relating to materials that include libraries, management services, and education. It was founded in 1994 from collaboration between professors Mike Ashby and David Cebon at the Cambridge University Engineering Department. Its services are used by companies around the world, and the company has grown to be the largest organization focused on niche areas of materials information technology.

So what would be better than having that vast library available to you? Having it directly available in Autodesk Inventor®.

The Granta Eco Materials Adviser

The Granta Eco-Materials Adviser (EMA) is an installable environment for Autodesk Inventor, which allows users to:

  • Access the cloud-hosted materials property database that includes nearly 3,000 metals, plastics, composites, ceramics, and natural materials.
  • Apply the materials properties to the BOM to be cataloged by Autodesk® Vault and used by other applications such as simulation and analysis.
  • Eco analysis on any size Inventor assembly.
  • Calculate energy and CO2 for the full product lifecycle—includes transport and use phases in addition to raw materials, manufacture, and end-of-life.
  • Add consideration of finishing processes—painting, electroplating, powder coating.
  • Calculate the cost, water usage, RoHS compliance, food contact compatibility of your product.
  • Guide materials selection and substitution—search for suitable materials from ~3,000 options and rapidly assess the impact of a materials change.
  • Generate PDF reports to communicate your analysis.

Figure 1: The Granta EMA in Autodesk Inventor

Following are some interface highlights and comments for users interested a great embedded material database add-in.

Material Assignments

The EMA will display the material mapping for the entire document assembly, and adapts to encompass the component set in the current document of focus. This alone is a great feature. 



Figure 2: EMA materials assignments

As a component or components are selected through any manner including the Inventor Graphics View area, the EMA delineates the selection by a checkbox next to the component name.

Manufacturing processes for each material can be selected and assigned to each component as desired for further analysis.

Figure 3: Assigning processes

Material Browsing

The database can be browsed for materials under two headings: Material Universe and Typical Materials. The latter is simply a convenient selection of commonly employed materials, which is kind of thoughtful considering there are nearly 3,000 different types to navigate.



Figure 4: EMA material browser

The materials are divided by type:

  • Ceramics and Glasses
  • Composites and Honeycombs
  • Elastomers and Rubbers
  • Ferrous Metals
  • Foams
  • Non-Ferrous Metals
  • Plastics and Elastomers
  • Woods and natural materials

Each material type is color coded, giving a greater awareness when reviewing the assignments for large component assemblies. From here, materials can be selected and applied to the current component selection. (Actually, the material assignments can be applied from any place a material is listed.)

BOM and Styles

Once materials are assigned, the Bill of Material is updated, and creates a new material style in the local Autodesk Materials Library.



Figure 5: EMA BOM warning

As the components move to other areas of design, the full material data is transferred with it, including purposes such as simulation and analysis.
Additionally, color styles can be created and added to the material style and saved locally, exported, or even added to the permanent style library.

Datasheets

Every material in the library is represented by a very complete datasheet. Items include mass and makeup properties, strengths, electrical properties, environmental concerns, and so on. These datasheets can be viewed at any time, printed, or saved as a PDF and cataloged as needed.



Figure 6: Material datasheets

Database Search

The Granta database can be searched through an impressive list of criteria, including price and strength.



Figure 7: EMA database search criteria

A list of materials is returned that match the criteria given. If any criteria are out of range, the EMA highlights the problem and notes it in the status line.

Favorites

Favorites is a simple list of materials that you want to save for future operations.  This convenient feature is easy to manage and use.



Figure 8: EMA favorites list

Transportation and Use

The EMA allows users to establish how the product is intended to be used, how it is carried in transportation, and what type of energy sources are employed. These factors include type of transportation, frequency of transport, and more.

The advisor then factors those into the costs and CO2 production of the material assignments and reporting.



Figure 9: EMA transportation and use section

Eco Impact Dashboard

The Granta EMA dashboard is where all the information comes together. It serves as a guide and benchmark to how changes in the design affect the environment in a positive or negative manner. The factors measured are:

  • Embedded energy
  • CO2 footprint
  • Water usage
  • Estimated raw materials cost
  • RoHS (Restriction on Hazardous Substances)
  • Food compliance
  • End-of-life behavior

Figure 10: EMA analysis dashboard in summary mode

The baseline can be set at any point or time while working on the assembly. Once set, any changes that are made to the assembly are evaluated against the baseline material configuration. The results are then displayed graphically on the dashboard.

You might establish all the basic materials in the component assembly, and then set the baseline. Thereafter proposed changes can be easily evaluated against factors of concern to you.

The dashboard can be displayed while other areas of the EMA are being used. It can be turned off with one click.

Modes

The dashboard can be used in any of three modes:

  • Summary
  • Details
  • Recommendations

The default mode is summary, which is the graphical display shown previously. The details mode delivers a spreadsheet-like account of every factor considered by the EMA. Each of the main factors considered have their own page and can easily be paged through as needed.


 
Figure 11: EMA dashboard in details mode showing energy usage

The recommendations mode is simply a list of areas in the design where materials and process assignments could be improved.



Figure 12: EMA dashboard in recommendations mode

Reports

The EMA contains two report types:

  • Eco Impact
  • Eco Impact Comparison



Figure 13: EMA reporting

Simply stated, the Eco Impact Report delivers a summary of the materials and factors considered, arranged in a manner that makes it easy to see where improvements might be achieved.

The Eco Impact Comparison Report is similar to the latter, but biased toward the comparison with the baseline material assignments to record how proposed material alterations perform against the baseline configuration.



Figure 14: EMA Eco Impact comparison report

Material Mapping

Since material nomenclatures are not universally identical, mapping of materials from the Granta materials database to the Autodesk materials library had to be established. The Material Mapping area shows how these assignments have been established by Granta.

Figure 15: EMA to Inventor material mapping

The material mappings can be changed at any time. This allows users to map material styles that were user-defined to the Granta equivalent, or to re-map materials as needed. 
Settings and Help

The settings are fairly simple, and include basic preferences and Internet connectivity.



Figure 16: Settings

The help button opens the default web browser and displays the online help system.

Basic and Full Versions

Granta offers a base version and full version of this marvelous tool. The topics discussed above relate to the full version. The base version is free, but restricted as follows:

  • Access to only 50 typical materials
  • Analysis of 20 or fewer components in an assembly
  • Reporting of baseline configurations only
  • Some processes are not evaluated

In addition, it has been noted by users that the base version of the EMA does not transfer the properties to the BOM, and as a result cannot be further utilized by other digital prototyping processes. This, however, does not mean you cannot gather the data from the datasheets and manually enter them.

Conclusion

The Granta Eco Materials Advisor is a wonderful tool. Having 3,000 materials available with detailed physical properties for each is by far my favorite capability of this tool. Because my focus is usually component performance, the ability to map these properties directly to the BOM and save them to the Autodesk Materials Library is marvelously convenient. Once established in the BOM, the material data transfer seamlessly to Inventor Stress Analysis and Autodesk Simulation Multiphysics.



Figure 17: EMA lifecycle chart

There is so much more to the EMA environment than just material strength properties. Unless you absolutely don’t care how the product will perform in any aspect, the EMA conveys information that is important to everyone. Everything from the evaluation of CO2 production in manufacturing, to the cost estimation of transportation and recycling is in there.

The datasheets are wonderfully detailed and include somewhat difficult-to-find information such as heat of combustion.

The MSRP of this product is $995 USD. Right now, Granta is still running its promotion for the tool at $795 USD for a one-year subscription.

Granta also offers numerous other material property services on their website. Their customers include General Electric and Raytheon, and support just about every modeling and simulation platform available in one manner or another.

More information is available on the website at www.grantadesign.com

Evaluation of this tool was made possible by the efforts of the generous people at Granta Material Intelligence and the Autodesk sustainability team.

 

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About the Authors

John Evans

John Evans is the Managing Director and Technical Specialist at Design & Motion, an international R&D firm, helping customers with product design, manufacturability, and validation. He is a USAF veteran and has over 20 years of design, manufacturing, and fabrication experience in aerospace and industrial machinery, and holds various industry certifications including Autodesk Inventor Professional.  John is a devout fan of simulation technologies and material sciences, and continues to pursue his engineering education. John’s roles at Design & Motion include technical research and journalism related to engineering software from around the world, and publishes articles in various engineering journals as well as the company website. John speaks Japanese and English, loves to fly, loves his wife and 2 boys, and would rather be on a 1000 yard rifle range right now. You can reach him at john@designandmotion.net

 

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