Life Cycle Analysis Of A Phone Report Example
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Ethical Issues in Design of the Phone
Ethics have been described as that which involves moral aspects of human behavior. Ethics is concerned about how people make judgments regarding approvals and disapprovals, opinions of whether something is right or wrong, and judgment of whether a certain behavior, affair, object, or state is bad or good (George, 2005; Harris, Pritchard & Rabins, 2009). Ethics is broad. However, in the context of engineering design of a phone, ethical issues that shall have to be observed include designing of a phone that shall be considered good in totality. It shall involve design of a phone that has minimum environmental impact and works as per customers’ expectations in its service life. The design should also result in a phone that is of high quality and compliant with internationally recognized standards and regulations regarding safety and operation. By quality, it means the material used to produce the phone is satisfactorily good and durable. For example, it shall be considered unethical if the phone manufactured cracks when exposed to sunlight or its color fades in color in a very short period of time. It would be also considered unethical if the phone manufactured has operational anomalies such as a few seconds delay in ‘call’ or ‘receive’ button. Such delays could result in losses to the consumer. That may sound a little loss when one consumer is considered. However, if millions of people who will buy the phones and the number of calls made or received in the useful life of the phone is considered, the losses would be very enormous.
EPA (2014) defines Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) as a method used in assessment of environmental and/or potential impacts of a service, process, or product. LCA can be carried out by compiling energy and material consumption as well as releases into the environment. It can also involve evaluating the possible impacts linked to particular inputs and emissions. Finally, LCA can involve interpretation of results obtained for the purposes of making more informed decisions (Klopffer and Curran, 2014).
In order to conduct an LCA for a phone, a number of issues need to be highlighted. One of the issues to address is the environmental impacts of the phone in totality. This include an assessment of impacts associated with the phone right from the extraction of raw materials used to manufacture its components, impacts in its useful life, and subsequent impacts during disposal. The purpose of conducting the assessment is to understand where the impacts are coming from so that they can be minimized or eliminated. Another goal of conducting the LCA is to inform potential customers about the product. Such information can also be used to sell the virtues of the phone, compare phone with others, and for the purposes of comparative assertion where the phone can be claimed to be environmental superior to other(s).
The phone to be produced shall be composed of 9 parts: plastic casing, battery, microphone, liquid crystal display (LCD), antenna, speaker, keypad, circuit board, and accessories such as chargers and headsets (MCC, 2006). Each of these parts has its own lifecycle. The LCA of the phone shall involve six steps including materials extraction, materials processing, manufacturing, packaging and transportation, useful life, and finally disposal.
Materials extraction. When complete, the phone would have involved the use of several materials. These materials could be composites, metals, plastics, ceramics, trace elements and others. The major parts of the phone shall be liquid crystal display, the battery, the circuit board, the cover, and the keypad. These components do not use the same materials. And while some materials are harmful to the environment, others are environmentally friendly. But still, some materials could be minimum but their extraction, processing, transportation up to the point of use in manufacturing phone result in enormous environmental impact. For example, the phone circuit board is manufactured from composite materials and metals such as tantalum, copper, lead, beryllium, zinc, coltan, steel, nickel and others. The board can be a product of plastic, while its fiberglass is made from sand and limestone. LCDs can be made from plastics and glass with mercury as part of the liquid. Batteries can be made from lithium-ion, lead acid, nickel-cadmium, or nickel metal hydride. Some of these materials like lead, plastics, lithium metallic oxide, mercury, and resins used in the fiberglass are toxins that can stay in the environment for a very long period of time.
Materials processing. Most materials that shall be used in the manufacture of the phone shall not be used in its raw state. They have to be processed. For example, in a plastic processing plant, plastics are products of crude oil, natural gas and other chemicals. A metal like copper undergo various processes such as mining, grinding of ore, heating, chemical and electrical treatment to obtain pure copper used in the production of batteries and circuit boards.
Manufacturing. This involve assembly of parts made from various processed materials. For example, the circuit board is made from gold plated plastic and fiberglass. The circuit board itself has several components mounted on it including copper circuits fixed to board with solders and other items secured in position by glue. LCDs are made from liquid crystal sandwiched between glass and / or plastic while batteries are composed of covers, electrodes and electrolytes.
Packaging and transportation. Components used to manufacture phones and also produced phones shall require to be transported either to the factory or from the suppliers. The components and complete phones require also some packaging to protect from damage. Modes of transport could be rail, air, sea, land. All these options usually involve trucks, planes, cars, ships, and other vehicular means that consume fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change. Although packaging can be made from recycled materials, it can also involve the use of materials such as papers, plastics, and aluminum foils derived from natural environment with a lot of energy.
Useful life. During its service life, the most frequent activity is communicating either by text or calls or playing music in addition to other features such as playing games. Most of these activities exhaust the battery. Batteries can be disposable or rechargeable. Besides careful use on the consumer’s side, the batteries ought to last as long as possible. Batteries that require frequent replacement creates a huge burden to the environment.
End-of-life. After 12-24 months, the phones shall be disposed. The design has to factor in what happens after its useful life. The phone shall have to be durable enough so that those who wish to continue using it past 12-24 months can still enjoy the services. Some people might consider donating the phones and it is important that durability is not compromised. Besides reuse, the design has to be innovative in that it should be possible to easily recycle all parts after its end-of-life. Furthermore, in case of disposal, the components used to manufacture it should pose minimum or no negative environmental impact. For example, the design can use active-matrix light emitting diode (AMOLED) in place of LCDs. LCDs contain mercury while AMOLED do not contain mercury.
Design for Canadian Market Vs Developing Country
In Canada, through Industry Canada (IC), phones has to conform to not only internationally recognized standards but also requirements of local telecommunication standards. The standards have been developed to ensure that telecommunication equipment sold in Canada does not cause interference, harm to the country’s telecom network, and safety to users and workers employed in the telecom industry. These added regulations involve what is referred to as mutually recognition arrangements/agreements (MRAs). MRAs are government-to-government agreements which have been put in place for the purpose of facilitation of trade. Usually, the standards are voluntary technical standards meant specifically for telecommunication equipment. Countries that are in mutual agreement with Canada has to agree assessment method for conformity for both wire line and wireless telecommunication equipment. As such all telecommunication equipment such as phones entering Canada must be inspected to ensure they meet they meet the technical standards and marking requirements of IC. As a manufacturer, it is important that IC certification is sought to as a way of ensuring that the product comply with the Canadian telecommunication regulatory standards and that the phone shall consistently meet the IC requirements in all its service life. IC certification is sought only by manufacturers located outside Canada. However, if the manufacturing facility is located in some economies such Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Telecommunications, European Community, Information Working Group and Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, European Economic Area-European Free Trade Association, and Switzerland, the Canada government has signed MRAs negotiation agreements with these economic zones and there shall be no need to seek IC certification (Industry Canada, 2015).
Developing countries might be lacking in technical capacities to impose stringent requirements for telecom industry. However, as a basic requirement, the phone shall be designed to comply with the internationally recognizable systems and standards such Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) (Sans Institute, 2001). It would be unethical to produce two types of phones which greatly differs in quality. The two phones manufactured for the two markets ought to be similar in all features. The only difference might arise due to some few technical additions that might be required in the Canadian market. But still, if the Canadian requirements does not result in a great difference in cost, and if the technical requirements does not compromise operational requirements for the phone in other countries, it would be prudent to manufacture just one type of phone. Then, the phone shall then qualify to be labelled it meets ‘Canadian IC Requirements’ and can be sold within and outside Canada.
Design stage of the phone plays a significant role and shall influence so many things such as materials to be used, manufacturing process to be adopted, and consequently level of environment mental impact. LCA can assist in identifying potential impacts so that alternatives are chosen in advance. Ethical issues are also equally important in the design of the phone to ensure that consumers acquire safe and quality products. While designing a phone, it is also important to consider the target market. Although it might be designed to comply international standards, some countries have local regulations that may restrict entry of certain products that fail to meet local standards.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2014). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/std/lca/lca.html
George, S.K. (2005).Ethics, Literature, and Theory: An Introductory Reader. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Harris, C., Pritchard, M., & Rabins, M.J. (2009).Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases. Belmonth: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Industry Canada. (2015). Mutual Recognition Agreements/Arrangements (MRA). Retrieved from: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/mra-arm.nsf/eng/h_nj00055.html
Klopffer, W. & Curran, M.A. (2014). Background and Future Prospects in Life Cycle Assessment. Frankfurt am Main: Springer
Marshall Cavendish Corporation (MCC). (2006).Growing Up with Science. Tarrytown, NY: MCC.
Sans Institute. (2001). The GSM Standard (An overview of its security). Retrieved from: http://www.sans.org/reading-room/whitepapers/telephone/gsm-standard-an-overview-security-317
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