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How innovations like the ‘Eco-meter’ will help slash industry’s carbon footprint

Posted 8 Oct 2021

The greatest challenge facing society is the preservation of the environment.

Net Zero legal commitments are already made to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050 with ambitions to make this happen by 2035. By the end of this decade, to deliver a low carbon global economy, everything we make will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered.

A vital step towards reducing carbon emissions will be realising the ability to accurately measure the carbon footprint of industry products and processes. Unfortunately, at present data in the engineering and manufacturing industries often doesn’t flow effectively – leaving society and the environment to pick up the tab.

Greening the manufacturing and engineering sectors

In order to play a valuable role in the race to net zero, engineers and manufacturers must focus acquire, analyse and accurately interpret data such as energy and waste which are vital to calculating the carbon footprint of products and processes – but this can be especially difficult on legacy equipment.

So, what’s the answer?

When applied in the right way, we know that advanced digital technologies, including Distributed Ledger Technologies, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, can help organisations measure their environmental impact and reduce waste.

We’re discovering that by collecting and aggregating the data from sensors, the equivalent carbon footprint can be calculated in a standard way – and precisely allocated to individual projects and products to keep traceability. And, technologies like the Internet of Things can even be used for retrofitting legacy equipment.

Not long ago, measuring the carbon footprint of an item or process would have been considered somewhat futuristic. Now, it’s fast becoming a reality.

Introducing the Eco-meter

Programmes such as DETI – a two-year, research and development (R&D) initiative in the West of England – are helping to push the boundaries of digital engineering for the future and help UK businesses identify the skills needed to embed digital technology.

DETI is providing secure access to data and developing powerful new tools and methods to allow industry to engineer better products, more quickly, at a lower cost – and in a greener manner.
As part of the DETI programme, Digital Catapult has partnered with the National Composites Centre (NCC) and other companies to drive innovation in the design and manufacturing of composites using IoT solutions, cutting-edge technology and specialist engineers.

Excitingly, DETI has now successfully developed a proof of concept for an application called the ‘Eco-meter’ – which measures the carbon footprint of products manufactured by the AFP team in the Coriolis Cell at the National Composites Centre (NCC).

Allowing for greener decision-making

Using sensors, and by streaming data on the equipment’s energy consumption and multiple process variables, the Eco-meter will allow us to visualise carbon footprint data on an hour by hour basis, to enable decision-making and planning based on carbon footprint.

This will allow manufacturers to configure the equipment differently and start working on an offering that makes carbon emission analysis and estimation part of their value proposition. It will also allow the AFP team to start working on an offering that makes carbon footprint analysis and estimation part of their value proposition.

While only a Proof of Concept at this stage, there is a view to explore the provision of the Eco-meter as a service to wider industry – aiding engineers and technicians in manufacturing businesses to make intelligent decisions and cut emissions across their programmes.

Every person, product and process counts

As tackling climate change rises up and up the agenda, as consumers and businesses, we must all step up and take responsibility. With advanced digital technologies at our disposal, we’re capable of transforming industrial processes in previously unimaginable ways.

Whether it’s an aerospace engineer opting for a greener piece of equipment, or a manufacturing business taking targeted steps to improve a polluting process – we all have the power to make a change today, to make a difference tomorrow.