1 December 2016
Ray-Ban Wayfarer Materials
In today’s society, popular fashion plays an important role in influencing consumer behavior. Famous brands are advertised by celebrities and as a result, certain clothes or accessories become greatly demanded by the general population. In response to this increased demand, companies set high prices for their products. Among such products are Ray-Ban sunglasses, specifically the Ray-Ban Wayfarers, an iconic model preferred by many over other models of sunglasses. In addition to their appealing style, the price of these sunglasses is another aspect that makes them stand out. However, even though some consider this price too high based on the materials of the glasses, it is unwise to come to this conclusion without analyzing the processing of these materials. Through examining the life cycle of the Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, it’s evident that not only are the raw materials an important consideration in their lifecycle, but also the various processes that the materials undergo to become components of the sunglasses.
The materials which the Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses are made of include cellulose propionate, glass, stainless steel (referred to as inox), nickel silver metal (referred to as alpacca), and the metal alloy ZnAl4Cu3. (In the EPD for this model, cellulose acetate was listed under the materials list, however cellulose propionate was referenced many times throughout the document as being the injected plastic, therefore, it will be assumed that the correct material for this model is cellulose propionate.) The separate parts of the sunglasses are composed of these materials as follows: the frame is made up of the cellulose-based plastic, the lenses are made up of glass, and the hinges, pins, screws, and symbols are made using the three metals. Of these five materials, the two materials that are most significant in making the sunglasses are cellulose propionate and glass, contributing to 52.6% and 32.5% of the entire mass of the sunglasses respectively. Therefore, these two materials will be the primary focus in the analysis of the life cycle of the Ray-Ban Wayfarers. An important aspect to note is that these two materials are secondary materials that have undergone processing until they have become a part of the sunglasses. The following paragraphs will examine how primary materials are processed to make these secondary materials required for manufacturing the sunglasses.
As mentioned earlier, the frames of the Ray-Ban Wayfarers are made up of cellulose propionate, a plastic that’s derived from wood pulp. In the beginning of the process for making this plastic, softwood trees are harvested and sent to the pulping mill in order to be made into wood pulp. The initial pulping process yields wood pulp that is adequate for paper-grade products, but not cellulose-based plastics. Therefore, the pulp is refined in order to contain greater cellulose content. Originally, the pulp is a mixture of hemicellulose and cellulose, so the hemicellulose may be separated from the cellulose through means of filtration and dissolution by adding liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium and water, ethanol, or acetone to the pulp. This process is not the only process through which cellulose may be separated from wood pulp, but has proven to be among the best since it gives a cellulose content yield of 98% or more by mass without any yield losses, in comparison to other processes such as acid sulfite and prehydrolysis kraft processes, which result in yield losses ranging from 15% to 30%. Once a purified sample of cellulose has been obtained from the wood pulp, it is then combined with sulfuric acid, propionic acid, and propionic anhydride. When cellulose combines with sulfuric acid, it forms the cellulose sulfate ester. Addition of propionic acid and propionic anhydride leads to the replacement of the sulfate groups by the propionic groups, forming cellulose propionate. The resulting cellulose propionate is in a powder form, ready to be packaged and distributed to a manufacturing facility. In this case, cellulose propionate is produced in European plants and sent to Agordo, Italy to be made into a frame for the sunglasses.
The process that cellulose propionate undergoes in order to become a plastic frame is called injection molding. In injection molding, pellets of cellulose propionate are heated to a molten state and then delivered by an injection cylinder, similar to a syringe, into a mold in which the molten mixture cools. Each plastic has unique injection molding specifications that have to be observed in order to achieve the desired properties of the resulting plastic. Important factors to consider in an injection molding include the temperature of molten plastic, injection speed, injection pressure, and mold venting. Through the process of injection molding, molds for the temples and frame of the sunglasses are made and then injected with cellulose propionate. Some addition materials that may be used in the process of injection molding would be zinc stearate, which is used as lubricate to improve mold release, and color concentrates, which may give the plastic a desired color. Once, the plastic frame is created, it goes through a process called tumbling in which wet rottenstone and pumice, both porous rocks, are used to roughen the surface of the plastic and later special polishing compounds mixed with sawdust or leather scrap are employed in an operation to polish the plastic. Afterwards, the plastic is washed and coated in order to give it an aesthetic and protective coating. Once finished, the plastic components of the frame are ready to be shipped to Pederobba, Italy to be combined with the rest of the materials.
Aside from cellulose propionate, the other main components of the Ray-Ban Wayfarers are their lenses. The lenses of these sunglasses are composed of glass, a secondary material made from silica sand. Although there are different types of optical glass, it will be assumed that the glass used in making the lenses for the Ray-Ban Wayfarers is based on silica glass and produced using conventional methods. At the beginning of the process for making the glass lenses, pure silica deposits containing at least 95% SiO2 are found, possibly in sand deposits or quartz veins, and quarried. The mined material is then processed using chemical applications as well as physical applications in order to reduce impurities such as quartz grains or iron and increase the percentage of silica content. Next, sodium carbonate and calcium carbonate are added to the silica sand and the mixture may go through a process such as sol-gel processing. In this process, the mixture is homogenized through superheating and its particulate properties are manipulated in a way so that the material may be useful in forming a lens. Before the molten mixture is cooled, it flows into a mold in which it is cooled and made into a spherical glass gob about the size of a pebble. This glass gob contains 99.5%-99.9% SiO2 and is ready to be transported from a European plant to Lauriano, Italy where the actual lens will be created.
In the first stages of making a lens, the glass gob is heated to a molten state and then pressed in a mold, giving it the shape of a disc. Molding conditions are closely monitored in this stage so that the glass disc cools without deforming. Once cooled, the glass disc goes through lapping, shaping, and coating stages which finish the creation of the lens. In the lapping stage, the lens is wet grinded on an abrasive surface such as aluminum oxide or diamond, depending on the fine quality of the grind, in order to eliminate any roughness of the lens. Then, the shaping stage involves mechanical cutting of the lens and laser analysis in order to turn it into an actual lens. This part of the life cycle requires the most precise work because the lens has to be cut within an accuracy of 0.050mm. Finally, coating is applied to the lens depending on which characteristics are wished to be achieved. In this case, a polycarbonate coating would be applied to the lens to give it photochromatic properties and a dark tint. After the lenses have been complete, they are ready to be shipped to Pederobba, Italy where they will be combined with the frame of the sunglasses.
Once both of the main components of the sunglasses have arrived to their designated location, they are assembled together using pieces of metal alloys. These metal components have also been created through a process of retrieving metals in pure form and processing them into alloys and shaping the alloys into screws, hinges, and logos. All of the separate components of the sunglasses are assembled into a whole unit in Pederobba, Italy and then the sunglasses are packaged and ready for distribution. Another important set of materials to consider would be the materials used in the sunglass packaging. The most significant packaging materials would be PVC, ABS, and paperboard. PVC and ABS are both plastic polymers used in making the case for the sunglasses. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is created through extraction of hydrocarbon resources and production of ethylene which is then used for polymerization processes. Similarly, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is also created through extraction of hydrocarbon resources, but styrene is produced and used instead for polymerization processes. As for paperboard, it is created from processing wood pulp. These additional materials are important to consider because since they are used in the packaging of the sunglasses, they are a part of their life cycle.
Once the sunglasses have been shipped, they may be used for their intended purpose by the consumer. Throughout their use, the sunglasses require only optional maintenance. One part of this optional maintenance includes using a case, which is provided as part of the packaging and is made from the plastic polymers mentioned earlier. Another part of the optional maintenance is using a cloth to keep the lenses clean. A polyester cloth is also included as part of the packaging and is generally made from petroleum.
When the sunglasses are no longer capable of being used, their materials may be adequately processed in order to minimize waste. Since the frame is made out of a cellulose based plastic, it is biodegradable. Therefore, biological, chemical, or photochemical mechanisms may be used to decrease the presence of cellulose propionate in the environment. In addition, the glass lenses may be melted and the melted glass may be reprocessed to be used in another glass-based product. Overall, the Ray-Ban Wayfarers are an eco-friendly product when it comes to waste because their materials may be either degraded or recycled.
In conclusion, analysis of the materials that make the Ray-Ban Wayfarers reveals that there are many intricate and technical processes that the raw materials of the sunglasses undergo in order to achieve their desired characteristics. In the end, the high cost of these sunglasses may be in part justified by the additional time and energy required to process the raw materials so that they may become finished components of the sunglasses.
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2 November 2016
The Life Cycle of Ray-Ban Sunglasses: Embodied Energy
Worn by numerous celebrities, the Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer Classic sunglasses is one the most recognizable style in the history of sunglasses (Ray-ban). Designed in 1952, the Wayfarer Classic gained massive popularity among musicians, artists, and actors. Although they are worn mostly for its iconic style, these sunglasses are also comfortable, durable, and provide excellent protection for your eyes. These benefits are thanks to the energy embodied in the life cycle of Ray-Ban sunglasses. Starting from the extraction of raw materials, these materials are carefully manufactured to create the various parts in these sunglasses, and then distributed all over the world.
Ray-bans are initially made in Italy, where all of its raw materials can be found locally. The raw materials that make up a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses are oil (90%), metal (8%), and glass (2%) (Moore). These materials make up all the parts that go into a pair of Ray-bans: 2 arms, 2 lenses, 2 screws, 2 hinges, and 1 frame (Moore). In addition, this close proximity of materials with the production site cuts down manufacturing costs as they are located and digged up from the ground.
The two main components of sunglasses are the frames and lens. Most of the manufacturing process of these parts are done by machines. The production of the plastic used to make the frames and arms of the eyewear utilizes thermal as well as chemical energy. The frames, specifically, is made of injected cellulose propionate (Farioli). Cellulose propionate is “is a derivative of cellulose when reacted with propanoic acid” and helps give Ray-Bans its lightweight, strong, and temperature resistant feature (AZoM).” These features are some of the few reasons for Ray-Bans’ popularity. To start the production of the frames, cellulose would first have to be produced from natural raw materials, such as wood pulp (“How to Make”). Wood pulp can be obtained from trees using both humans and machines to efficiently debark the wood into small chips and process it into fiber (“How to Make”). Softwood trees are usually used as a source of wood pulp as its long fibers contribute to the strength of the plastic (“What Is Pulp”). The end result is cellulose which is later mixed with propionic acid and acetic acid and then injected using a mould around the hinges of the frames (AZoM).
Once cellulose propionate is created, the production cycle of the injected plastic can begin. This cycle is split into four stages: plastic moulding, tumbling surface treatments, surface coating treatments, semi-finished product finishing (Farioli). Frames and arms are manufactured by plastic that is poured into a handmade mold. The plastic is made by mixing chemicals and other scientific processes with oil (Moore). Moulding presses are used to inject the heated material into moulds. (Farioli). The plastic is heated inside the mould until it becomes a fluid state. High pressure forces the plastic into a cool, closed mold (plastics). Once the heated material cools, it becomes part of the frames as it takes on the required shape. Tumbling surface treatments are then done to the temples and fronts of the sunglasses. During this process, the temples and fronts go from a “‘rough’ state to the shine of the end product (Farioli).” Abrasive materials as well as polishing pastes are used during the four successive stages of roughing, smoothing, polishing, and buffing (Farioli). The following surface coating treatment gives Ray-Bans its “aesthetic and protective coating (Farioli).” The injected plastic is now almost done as it undergoes the semi-finished product finishing. After, metal facings are fitted to the temples and front and then shipped to its warehouse in Italy (Farioli).
Glass is essentially made by melting sand. Raw materials such as limestone, soda ash, and silica sand are first extracted to make glass. Soda ash reduces the melting point of the silica sand, saving energy use during manufacture (Woodford). The addition of soda, however, creates a type of glass that would dissolve in water. Limestone is added to the mixture to prevent this from happening and you end up with soda-lime-silica-glass product(Woodford). This end-product is melted in a furnace at 2500-2700°F (“How Are Lenses”). The energy required to just melt glass accounts for over 75% of the total energy needed to manufacture glass as a whole (“Glass”). As can be seen, the production of glass requires an incredible amount of heat and energy.
The lens’ production cycle consists of only three stages: lapping, shaping, and coating (Farioli). Lapping is a mechanical process that “involves abrasive between two surfaces that are rubbed together to create an accurate finish on a part (Jablons).” This process aims to rid the roughness of the glass lens and create an accurate finish. After the glass has been lapped, it is then polished to its required transparency and, using mechanical activities, is shaped and cut into real lens (Farioli). Lastly, the lens undergoes different coating processes such as “anti-reflective, scratch-resistant, anti-fog, mirror coatings, and UV treatment” (“Lens Coatings”). Applying these different coatings to the lens helps to increase the overall quality and life of the eyewear. Anti-reflective coating, for example, reduces eye strain as well as improve vision and appearance of the glasses (Heiting). The process to apply this coating involves vacuum deposition technology (Heiting). This coating is achieved by bombarding the eyewear with electrons in a vacuumed chamber. Ray-Ban offers many more similar features such as polarized lenses that appeal to its many consumers.
Once the frame and lens are complete, these two parts are then shipped to Pederobba, Italy where the full frame production begins. During this phase, hinges and screws, made of stainless steel, are added to hold the eyewear together (Farioli). The finished product is packaged in Italy and then finally distributed all over the world. The top five countries that wear Ray-Bans are the U.S., France, China, Italy, and Australia (Moore). Assuming Ray-Ban ships their product using a plane, a typical plane trip uses approximately 1 gallon of fuel every second (“How Much Fuel”). A gallon of fuel’s calorific value is 40 kWh (MacKay).
The total electricity consumption during manufacturing totals 7894 MJ for a single Ray-Ban sunglasses (Farioli). In addition, both nonrenewable and renewable energy resources are used during the production of these eyewear. Coal, natural gas, uranium, and crude oil comprises of 45009 MJ while hydropower consists of only 2064 MJ of energy used.
At the end of the sunglasses life cycle, all the materials that make up the eyewear can be recycled and reused (Farioli). Although this recycling sunglasses is not common, it is still possible. For example, Ray-Ban sunglasses can be melted down again and reused as other objects such as chairs (Moore). This can be done using thermal and chemical energy to make other objects with similar properties. The frames of the sunglasses can also be reused by replacing the lens.
Producing a pair of sunglasses is relatively cheap compared to the price Ray-Ban sell their products for. Although Ray-Ban greatly marks up the price of their sunglasses, many people still purchase a pair for its aesthetic as well as practical use. Its clarity and comfort is achieved through the various thermal and chemical energies used to manufacture a pair of Ray-Bans. After raw materials are located and then extracted, the frames and lens can be produced and assembled together in Italy where it is ready to be distributed.
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