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Life Cycle Assessment

Published on 16 February 2021

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a system-analytical method for investigating environmental aspects and potential environmental impacts of products, services and processes over their entire life cycle. LCA is suitable for
- The identification of potentials for the improvement of the environmental characteristics of products, processes and services
- Providing decision support for industry, policy makers and other stakeholders
- Comparing the environmental impacts of two product systems with the same function
- Comparing alternative processes, e. g. production methods or recycling routes
LCA provides transparent and objective results through a modular and standardized procedure. According to ISO 14040/14044 LCA is divided into four phases (see Figure 1).


LCA Phases according to ISO 14040/14044



In the Goal and Scope phase, the objective of the study and the specific research question are formulated and the scope of the study is defined.
In this project the LCA study is performed to critically examine the environmental impacts of production methods for fully dense rare-earth based permanent magnets.
The environmental impacts the systems shown in figure 2 will be compared:
- Additive manufacturing of Nd-Fe-B magnets using the new developed magnetic powder
- Manufacturing of permanent magnet via sintering, which is the state of the art production technology for Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets at industrial scale. 



Figure 2 : Comparison of the environmental impact of the AM vs sintering routes


- In the second phase all material and energy flows that flow from the natural environment into the technical system defined by the study framework and leave it again in the natural environment are recorded.
- Based on the data collected environmental impacts correlated with the inputs and outputs are quantified in phase 3. For this, the results of the inventory are assigned to impact categories such as climate change, resource depletion, acidification etc.
- In phase 4, the results of the impact assessment are validated. The aim is to derive conclusions, explanations and limitations, and to make recommendations for the target group, taking into account the objective and scope of the study. Main components of this LCA phase are the identification of the significant parameters based on the results of the life cycle inventory and the impact assessment, the assessment of the results by considering completeness, sensitivity and consistency checks and the derivation of conclusions and recommendations.