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Joining the dots with Clean Sky's Eco Design Transverse Activity

The Eco Design Transverse Activity (TA) aims to promote and coordinate ITD and IADP projects to significantly reduce the ecological impact of future air vehicles, focusing mainly around the non-operational phases of the aircraft's life.

"Several demonstrators at different TRLs were assessed in Clean Sky 1 through Eco-Statements implementing Life Cycle Assessments, mainly for airframes. In Clean Sky 2 Eco Design TA aims to broaden the assessment methodology to include more environmental indicators providing a framework for technology evaluation support, including future social impacts to enhance the competitiveness of the European aviation sector" says Paolo Trinchieri, Project Officer at Clean Sky. "Eco Design TA mainly focuses on materials, processes, resources sustainability, efficient manufacturing and production, lifetime service, end of life, and shall consider also emerging aspects coming from future requirements to be met".

He adds that whilst it's not core to its mandate, a welcome by-product of Eco Design TA is that it "could also positively impact the operational aspects, because with more smart manufacturing processes you can use less materials to do things that were previously done with heavier or more complex materials, resources and processes, resulting in lighter and more fuel-efficient aircraft".

The Transverse Activity, which is being led by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, takes an integrated perspective of the lifecycle across the products and technologies under development in Clean Sky 2 in order to predict the holistic effects of changes of the product and their impact. This means evaluating the eco aspects associated with every stage of the life-cycle, including the consumption of resources (energy, materials, water); emissions into air, water, and the ground that are relevant for the environment and human health. Waste, especially hazardous waste, and other forms of waste defined in environmental legislation, is also considered, as are the cumulative emissions into the environment (such as global warming potential, ozone depletion potential, leaching from landfills, disposal problems), which are inventoried too. 

"ecoDESIGN is an approach to designing products with an upfront consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole lifecycle, at least pre-inspected for procurement, manufacture & production, use, and disposal product phases; and we want the relationships like buy to fly scraps" says Rainer Schweppe, Head of Department at the Fraunhofer-Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) and Clean Sky 2 Eco Design TA Chairperson.

“In Clean Sky 1 large demonstrator parts each employing a tenfold of green technology applications were matured, from advanced milling to one shot manufacturing, Cr-VI- free coatings, clean assembly and disassembly, electromagnetic fragmentation and sorting, bio oil containing Polyurethane foams with reduced flame retardant content to name just a few.”

The technology pathways were methodologically guided and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) assessed with culturally new Eco Statement impact references. This was the first relevant scale exercise of wide industrial methodological conformity in research action. More than 120 parties were involved. This was firstly anchored from an airframer perspective. In Clean Sky 2, the assessment picture is being upgraded and newly balanced in view of a grown product umbrella. Implicitly, supply chain opportunities/ factors for equipment and process options have to be logistically considered in aviation material flows”. 

The ECO Transverse Activity Life Cycle Impact Analysis (LCIA) of the technology inventory rises on the CS2 level to three Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): the Re-Use Recycle Quota (RRQ); the Ground Pollution Potential (GPP) (including indicators to equivalent global warming, chemical and energy loads, bio diversity and resource depletion risks); and thirdly Eco-Statements with Socio-Economic Derivative (SED).

The associated ecoDESIGN guidance indicator framework shall answer to such matters and be commensurate to social impacts, partnering European aviation sector competitiveness and services capacity of the future. 

“The ecoDESIGN Database, one side from the industries & distribution networks, the other complimented from the assimilated aeronautics materials/processes, through Clean Sky, takes on a mighty challenge. Apart from the exploitation of the tremendous Clean Sky 1 LCA inventory, it is clear that new societal and CS2 programme dimensions have led to a hybrid caretaking and enrichment of new data, that dictate that a new definition of evolution and purpose ICT tools is on its way. This is what the current Eco Hybrid Platform delivery means”, says Schweppe.

"All consumables, materials and parts used in the life-cycle phases are accounted for, and all indirect environmental aspects linked to their production and disposal. The environmental aspects of the phases of the life cycle are evaluated according to their impact on the basis of a number of parameters, such as the extent of environmental impact, potential for improvement or substitution, or potential of change. Furthermore, we would like to guarantee the link between ACARE and the fulfilment of its environmental goals regarding CO2, NOx, environmental impact, and global warming potential".

Beyond these already mentioned Key Performance Indicators (KPI), which are informing the technical progress of ongoing Clean Sky 2 projects, Schweppe points to the fact that the Eco Design TA serves as a "motivator for partnership in new business strengths, in the aeronautics manufacturing base of excellence hand in hand with its advanced material cycles. High performance materials and reliability needs for aeronautics demand a more discerning process approach, yet this knowledge could pay back well”.

ecoDesign also anticipates a time in the future when the aeronautics industry has to comply with a pre-specified regime of environmental standards, says Clean Sky's officer Trinchieri: "It is important for European aviation to be ready to have the core resources and tools in order to prepare for the possible introduction of eco directives that could come. For example, we only have eco directives in some very specific areas at European level, such as for household domestic appliances like ovens and refrigerators — but in the future I'm convinced that this will come in aviation. It will come for aircraft systems and structures, so we need to be prepared, and Clean Sky supports this".  

“Indeed, formalisation of Life Cycle Assessment and eco compliance has already started trending in aeronautics” says Fraunhofer's Schweppe, “and it's imperative that Europe stays at the forefront: We know there are companies in aeronautics that are moving towards environmental product declarations (EPDs). For example, Bombardier has been quite active in this. In 2016, they delivered the first report which summarised all of the benefits and all the compliance, as well as all the water reduction and all the energy reduction in producing their C-Series aircraft" (now rebranded as the Airbus 220 series).

"Ideally, in the future, ecoDESIGN will be a more customized partner equally in pre-conceptual design and post design accreditation".

“Future developments will see an elevated context of Design for Environment 2020+ (DfE2020+)," notes John Simpson, General Director Aviation at Fraunhofer, "by ensuring sustainable inventory management through enhanced digital expedience, and by helping the acceleration of resource efficient European production innovations and securing skilled jobs of the future in a global industry. "Each vehicle platform demonstration constitutes a vibrant micro economic test field that in sum are committed in a macro CS2 programming scale. In return for component and flight performance testing, green manufacturing solutions may be built into the next future factory, skills and culture of design, extended to more profitable product service life. Only through a bottom-up circulation of ecoDESIGN initiatives, at this private-public partnership scale, can we hope to stay near a real solution development cascade, legislation and stakeholder interaction needed beyond the research lab doorstep”.  

Social benefits for Europe's citizens from the Eco Design TA will also manifest themselves through improvements introduced in the aircraft manufacturing and maintenance environments says Schweppe: "We want to help employees in the future by reducing or eliminating their handling of harmful chemicals (REACh conformity), and also by reducing the need to work with heavy components. Using high performance lightweight and chemically benign materials helps achieve these aims. So the social benefits for the EU workforce are very important and are embedded in the Eco Design platform and referenced in the Eco statements".

Currently, the ongoing priority for the Eco Design TA is to expand and enhance the database that was established in Clean Sky 1 by introducing new data on technologies, processes and resources. "Then we want to produce customised life-cycle assessment models for current and future aircraft covering production maintenance and end of life," adds Schweppe, "and we want to support and train all those involved in Clean Sky 2 and Eco Design and provide guidance. We want to serve as a frontrunner in the aviation sector for Europe, and probably worldwide, for analysing and quantifying the environmental footprint of air transport".

ecoDESIGN synergy in Clean Sky is not only a computer desktop vision or regulation preamble, it is a technical, wide grass roots discourse in action to get most out of shared resources and weighing possible marketable solution return. This is being supported by special, sector-overarching materials workshops on: additive manufacturing, digital materials, on water saving measures, free production optimisation, REACh etc. Also, pragmatic initiatives such as the European aeronautics recycling convention from early CS1 will be reheated on a new Design for Environment 2020+ technology footing.