A new generation of instrument panels will be characterized by a single material design. In the design process, more and more attention is directed to the life cycle steps after the usage phase of parts, products or systems. For this reason, the aim of every designer should be the development of a recyclable part, product or system. The request for the development should not only be recyclability, but also economic efficiency as well as low environmental impact during production and usage phase.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool for the development and design process to obtain an optimized economic and ecological (low environmental impact during the whole life cycle) product.
A methodology, how Life Cycle Assessment could be integrated into the development and design process for parts, products and systems, will be presented. This approach supports the designer of a new part with the information to achieve a better environmental performance by the improvement of traditional processes, as well as preventing avoidable environmental and economical burdens for new processes or new products.
In the example, the environmental profiles of two different instrument panel designs are investigated over the life cycle of a car. On the one hand a conventional instrument panel out of a PP - retainer, PU - foam and ABS/PVC film will be considered and on the other hand a new single material design, manufactured out of a PP - retainer, PP - foam initiated by microwaves (EPP) and a TPO (thermoplastic olefins) coverstock. Detailed results from these comparisons along the whole life cycle, will be a further subject of this paper.