Sustainability is not only a concern for research and politics, but is also rapidly gaining importance in industry. Customers, especially of the younger generations, are increasingly demanding sustainable products.
The political and social will for more sustainability is expressed particularly strongly by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or the EU’s Green Deal, among others. The aim is always to take a holistic view at the economic, ecological and social levels.
One important field of action for achieving ecological sustainability is the circular economy. Circular Economy describes a circular-based model of production and consumption, whereby materials and products are to be recycled after use in such a way that further use is possible. This can be done in various degrees of recovery, for example by reuse, repair, recycling, remanufacturing, etc. This cycle should be repeated as often as possible, with as few raw materials, materials or products leaving the cycle as possible (e.g. incineration or land fill).
What does Circular Economy mean?
The importance of the Circular Economy has increased noticeably in recent years due to numerous external factors. For example, during the Ukraine war, NATO countries and the European Union imposed extensive economic sanctions in response to the Russian attack to cut Russia off from international financial markets. As a result, important raw materials from Russia are no longer available in the usual and sufficient quantities, which additionally leads to a significant increase in raw material and energy prices. The Covid 19 pandemic that preceded the Ukraine war has also already led to shortages of key industrial goods. Another example is the stricter End-of-Life Vehicles Regulation published in July 2023. This not only represents a legal requirement for the environmentally friendly recycling of end-of-life vehicles (e.g. by dismantling components containing valuable and raw materials), but also for the design of future vehicles to be suitable for recycling and the mandatory use of secondary raw materials.
Within the circular economy, there are different strategies (so-called R-strategies). Depending on the literature source used, these are defined differently. The main ones are Reuse (repeated use of a product without significant changes), Repair (remanufacturing of a non-functional product), Remanufacture (mechanical reworking of products or components to produce a like-new condition with the same or better performance than the corresponding new product) and Recycle (disassembly of a product into individual, material components and reprocessing into new materials / raw materials with a loss of energy and value in the process).
Aim of the EREP research project
In this context, remanufacturing is preferable to recycling and therefore represents an industrially attractive recovery option with high value retention. The EREP research project is working on new ways of integrating different production processes (especially additive processes in combination with subtractive processes) for the realization of high-quality and complex remanufacturing processes. The research project will develop a model for component redesign through data-based decision making and intelligent process planning. As things stand, there is no automated evaluation procedure that can be used to make a data-based decision regarding remanufacturing suitability and to plan a production process. The foundation of the evaluation model for automated assessment of remanufacturing suitability is the requirements catalog. This classifies product properties in terms of their influence on the extended remanufacturing process.
Thanks to sponsors and project executing agencies
At this point, we would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as the sponsor as well as the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe (PTKA) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) for their generous support.