Peter R. Druce
University of Canterbury
March 4, 2013
In 2004 alone 674 million mobile phones were produced globally (Tech monitor, 2008). This life cycle analysis discusses the various roles of Engineers both professional and non professional throughout the life cycle of mobile phones. This report focuses on the life cycle of metals used within mobile phones.
Metals are finite resources in the world (PMR, n.d). However the demand of metals for mobile phones has increased each year. It is this demand that is challenging engineers to maintain and reuse existing mobile parts for a sustainable future (Tech monitor, n.d). Engineers range from Electrical engineers who build new mobile phones and create processes for effective manufacturing to Telecommunication technicians who in a non professional capacity repair and ensure the maximum lifespan a mobile phone can function (studylink, 2012). This report considers the role of engineers and the metals used and recycled in the life cycle of mobile phones.
Engineers are a part of every part of the life cycle of metals in mobile phones. Figure 1 shows a diagram depicting the different stages in the life cycle of metals. The different stages are raw material extraction, processing, manufacture, use and repair and recycling and disposal.
Figure 1: diagram of the life cycle of metals in mobile phones.
3a. Raw material extraction:
Over 14 different metals are required for mobile phones (OECD, n.d). The metals are extracted as raw materials by the process of mining exploration (Geyer. R., Doctori Blass.V., 2009). Mining engineers play a vital role in the extraction of metals from mines. They plan the mining schedule, consult with clients and government and oversee the extraction of metals (Careers New Zealand, n.d).Environmental engineers are also required at the raw material extraction stage. They minimise the impact of mining and other projects on the environment, design solutions to pollution problems and consult clients (Careers New Zealand, n.d). Figure 2 shows the quantity of the main metals required annually to produce mobile phones.
Figure 2: approximate quantities of metals required annually in the production of mobile phones. (OECD, (n.d), Eoearth, (n.d))
In this stage the raw materials like metals are refined into the appropriate materials required for the key components. The processing of metals for mobile phones involves the role of Chemical engineers. Chemical engineers examine and develop the processes in factories to transform the raw metals and other materials into useful materials (Careers New Zealand, n.d). These useful materials include a copper of enough purity to conduct an appropriate current (Tpub, n.d).
This stage is when the refined metals are morphed into the appropriate shape and then assembled along with other components to produce a mobile phone. Metals are mainly used for the electrical wiring of circuits and batteries within mobile phones (Ehow, n.d). The manufacturing process requires Electrical engineers, Industrial and Manufacturing engineers and in a non professional capacity, Electrical technicians. This report will concentrate on the role of Electrical engineers in the manufacturing stage. Electrical engineers develop and design effective electrical systems for products such as mobile phones. They also supervise the assembly of systems and equipment in the manufacturing process (Careers New Zealand, n.d).
3d. Use and Repair:
The average lifespan a cell phone is used is approximately on average 18 months in developed countries (Vodafone group, 2000). In this stage of the life cycle repairs are