paper - the material of tomorrow.

over a decade ago, we started using 100% renewable energy, marking the shift in our focus towards sustainability and ecological design. our innovative approach to crafting remote controls has led us to create the “better world architecture”, a testament to our commitment to a more environmentally conscious future.

with the “better world architecture” we have been able to reduce the co2 footprint by 70% compared to a conventional remote control. and co2 is not the only substance which can harm the environment. we have replaced petrochemical plastics with bio-based alternatives, transitioned from printing to laser etching (porwal, 2015), which also enables the material to be recycled at the end of a product’s life in a cleaner way (karana et al., 2014). we have reduced the number of components, achieved 3 times longer product life, and accomplished these changes without the need for silicone or lacquer. 

however, we haven't yet achieved all of our goals. a further investigation of our “better world architecture” has shown that after our achieved improvements, the printed circuit board (pcb) has the greatest environmental impact (besides the electronic parts which are necessary to fulfil the functionality). the acquisition of the pcb in our “better world architecture” remote controls causes approximately 30% of the impact of the whole product.    
a common circuit board is made of a so-called fr-4 material, which is a thermosetting plastic laminate. while this material has exceptional electronic properties, its environmental impact is flawed, given its energy-intensive production process and non-recyclability.

so we asked ourselves – how can this impact be reduced?

after a study of new emerging products, we have found out that there is currently no market-ready environmentally friendly alternative available. however, merely replacing one material with another doesn't align with our approach. therefore, we embarked on a mission to discover a new method for fulfilling the function of a pcb.

and sure enough, a new approach was found: the bulk of the pcb could be replaced by a cardboard sheet with printed electronics on it. compared to the fr-4 material, it offers many advantages: it can be produced with a low energy input, it is relatively cheap, widely available, and can be recycled. however, an fr-4 board cannot be fully substituted by a cardboard. so our solution is a combination of a cardboard sheet with printed electronics together with a small electronic module. 

by adopting this innovative approach, we are not only able to achieve the necessary functionality but at the same time make substantial progress in reducing the environmental impact – leading to a remarkable reduction of up to 60%, compared to the environmental footprint associated with a conventional fr-4 pcb. this groundbreaking advancement serves as a critical milestone, emphasizing our dedication to sustainable practices, positioning us at the forefront of efforts aimed at harmonizing technological progress with ecological responsibility.

 

Aster, H. (2023). Ecological Impact Analysis and Design Optimization of a Remote Control. FH Wiener Neustadt, Campus Wieselburg.

Karana, E., Pedgley, O., Rognoli, V. (2014). Materials experience : fundamentals of materials and design. Oxford : Butterworth-Heinemann.

Porwal, T. (2015). Paint Pollution Harmful Effects on Environment. International Journal of Research – Granthaalayah, 3.

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