TechBlick 18 - Michael [EN]

So my name is Jos and I’m working on research in circular economy and automotive sector. And I would like to know your point of view. If you accept, I’m going to record our conversation, transcribe it and put the transcription with a pseudonym, not your real name, in a repository of text documents that will be used for the research. If you do this and you change your mind and no longer want to participate, give get in touch with us and we will immediately remove your interview from the repository. I’m leaving you an information sheet with the contact information after the interview, so if you agree, please tell me your name and that you agree.

Sure, I agree, my name is Michael LaFave.

Thank you Michael. So the first question, can you tell me a bit about your educational and professional background and interest?

Sure I have a BA from Boston University and a BS from Boston University as well, and I have been in the printed electronics industry for 40 years now. (As I told me last night, you know who you’re talking to. Okay.)

What is your area of expertise?

Thin film membrane switches, thin film sensors, and anything that’s printed on thin film substrates.

The theme of this conference is the future of Electronics Reshaped. What does the idea of reshaping electronics for the future mean to you?

It means thinner, flatter, more flexible, and everything that we are currently working on and currently seeing here is going to become thinner and more flexible and more user friendly, but it will become more personal. So the things that are foreign today would be things like an Apple Watch was ten years ago. Nobody would know what an Apple Watch is, today It’s commonplace. What we’re working on here is very thin films that will become part of your life, and you will rely on them, but you will never know they’re there because they’re going to be integrated into you clothing so well and be integrated into your daily health routine so well that they’re transparent. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.

What do you think is the relationship between electronics and sustainability?

The relationship between the two really relies on the engineer. When you start a project, I believe it’s the responsibility of every engineer to look at a circular life cycle. If you started the design, then you must end the design either by recycling it or finding a way of dismantling it. I believe if you really look at the people that are at this conference, you’ll find that every person here has that and shares that value. So cradle to grave is something that is very real. And I believe it’s my responsibility that if I start a design, I’m going to find a way to break that design down and make sure that my footprint was not left behind, so that that’s my responsibility.

Can you define a circular economy in your own words?

You know, a circular economy is something that for me, we spoke about this this morning. Everybody here needs everybody else when you spend a dollar. It affects everybody here. And you think, no, the world is a big place. It isn’t. And we find this out every single day. When I look at a circular economy. I no longer see it as large as it was always portrayed. The older I get, the smaller things become, including where I spend my money. So if I spend a dollar here in Berlin, I do see the effects of it in the United States or in Jamaica or wherever I happen to be. So that circular economy is something that has presented itself very, very well here at the show, because all these folks here are all from the same. I think the same discipline and all of this technology that we share will come back full circle. And so that’s how I see this, or at least how we’re presenting it here.

Do you participate in a circular economy yourself in any aspects of your life?

I think how I conduct myself, even looking at what I throw away. Everything, yes I do, I is something that I practice every day and I think I’m forced to do that just because of the people that I’m around. So what I’m finding out is. As I start learning more and more about what I have available to me and my responsibilities as a designer or an engineer, even as a human, I’m finding out that I have those responsibilities and that does come always come back to me. For instance, if I design something into a part that I know is going to be wasted, no, it comes back to me. It’s going to come back to me, either by costing me more money eventually to have somebody clean it up, or it’s going to do something to the environment that eventually is going to affect me, and we’re starting to see the effects of that right now, all of us. So I’m very careful what I throw away and what I use. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s how I feel.

Let us talk about automotive industry. Do you think electronics can play a role in making the car industry more sustainable?

I do. What I’m seeing happening right now is more interactivity with vehicles. We spend a great deal of time in cars. What I think may be most interesting is this push for solar and hydrogen powered vehicles. As we start moving further and further away from fossil fuels, I’m seeing more people spend more time in their car and maybe feel less guilty about spending time in their cars. And because you’re spending all of that time in your car, you’re interacting with that vehicle in a way that we never interacted when we were kids. When I got into a vehicle when I was nine years old or ten years old, is nowhere near what it’s like today. I get in my vehicle, starts talking to me. It’s talking to my watch. It’s it’s connected to my home. It’s I can start it. I can unlock it. Oh, no. These were not things that. Yeah, nowadays it’s very commonplace. Younger people are. I think they’re very used to it. For me, it’s something that I’ve watched evolve. But what I do notice is more things are happening in the vehicles that I’ve ever seen, ever at any time in my life. And so, yes, as we start getting thinner and flatter and more flexible in our vehicles, we’re starting to see more interactions happening in the vehicle itself. So heated steering wheels, lumbar seating that’s massage, all of these little things. Oh gosh, I’m going to stay in my car now. Why not? It’s giving me a massage. I don’t need to go anywhere.

Do you think electronics can play a role in making the kind of thing more circular? I mean, focused on reuse and eliminating waste.

I think that’s incumbent upon the manufacturers to begin to use more sustainable materials as they start integrating more of these materials is where you’re going to start seeing more of that happen. We start breaking these materials down and saying, okay, we can now turn this seat into something else. More and more people are beginning to see the value in that. So yes, I do. But I believe it is something that has to be. It’s a branch that you have to go out on by yourself. And once you get out further on that branch, people start recognizing, oh, there’s money to be made here. Well, I’ll follow along. It only takes one person to start. So we see that with perhaps some of the composites that we’re seeing in vehicles now, the lighter the car, the stronger the vehicle, the better the fuel economy. As these vehicles start getting lighter and easier to manufacture, we start seeing that we don’t need heavy parts. And all of these electronics that are coming into cars are becoming more, I think, adaptable, and they’re also becoming more easily broken down and put back into the waste stream so that yeah, I again that again. That’s up to me. Right? I have to make that decision as a as a designer. And I’m committed to that starter design know how it’s going to end. So don’t start the story if you can’t finish it.

In your opinion, does the automotive industry is promoting the circular economy?

I’m not sure I understood that. Try that. Say it again because I didn’t understand the question.