Niki Bey
Department og Manufacturing Engineering
Technical University of Denmark Building 424
DK-2800 Lyngby Denmark Tel: +45 4525 4800

Title of Ph.D.-thesis:
The Oil Point Method - A tool for indicative environmental evaluation in material and process selection

Download phd-thesis (5.8 MB!)


The interest in sustainable patterns of production and consumption has been growing for over a decade, since the Brundtland Commission presented its report titled "Our Common Future" in 1987. The situation of the environment today - over six billion inhabitants on earth and a growing industrial activity world-wide -makes it increasingly evident that our current way of life is not sustainable.

A major contribution of societys negative impact on the environment is related to industrial products and the processes during their life cycle, from raw materials extraction over manufacturing, transport, use to final disposal. Therefore, efforts focus on attempts to integrate environmental aspects into the whole process of product development and design. They often involve established tools and methods for environmental evaluation, such as formal Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). These tools and methods are, however, often relatively complicated and require more time, data and specific expertise in the field than designers usually possess. Furthermore, the detailed information required for an LCA are not available in the early stages of the product development process, where crucial decisions are made, such as the decision upon materials and manufacturing processes.

It is, therefore, a major challenge to develop tools and methods, which support the environmentally conscious selection of materials and processes while requiring only relatively little time and knowledge in the field of environmental evaluation and only approximate information about the product and its life cycle.

This dissertation addresses this challenge in presenting a method, which is tailored to these requirements of designers - the Oil Point Method (OPM). In providing environmental key information and confining itself to three essential assessment steps, the method enables rough environmental evaluations and supports in this way material- and process-related decision-making in the early stages of design.

In its overall structure, the Oil Point Method is related to Life Cycle Assessment - except for two main differences: the method considers exclusively primary energy relationships and it utilises material and process-specific indicators for the calculations.

The validation of the method is accomplished by means of five case studies, where results obtained with the OPM are compared to results obtained with two established methods for environmental evaluation: A formal LCA method and another indicator-based method.

A set of data for applying the method is presented including over 70 materials in pure or semi-finished form, over 20 manufacturing processes and some 20 other life cycle processes.

Other contributions of this research comprise an analysis of the current research in environmental evaluation and in environmental product development, a classification of tools and methods for environmental assessment in design and the identification of missing links between existing methods for environmental evaluation and their application in material and process selection in product development.

The project period was 1997 - 2000

Supervisors were Torben Lenau and Leo Alting