Ford and HP are reusing spent 3D printed powders and parts, closing the loop and turning them into injection molded vehicle parts – an industry first.

Automakers have made use of recycled material for years and recycling has become one of the cornerstones the sustainability strategies being adopted across the industry to reduce its impact on the environment.

Ford Motor Co., with the help from HP, brings recycling to an altogether new area of manufacturing, the sophisticated 3D printing machines that are being used to make a growing array of components.

“Many companies are finding great uses for 3D printing technologies, but, together with HP, we’re the first to find a high-value application for waste powder that likely would have gone to landfill, transforming it into functional and durable auto parts,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford technical fellow, Sustainability.

“Finding new ways to work with sustainable materials, reducing waste and leading the development of the circular economy are passions at Ford,” she added.

Goal is to use 100% sustainable material

Ford is using the waste byproducts of other 3D printed materials to form additional components.

Ford is developing new applications and utilizing a multitude of different processes and materials for 3D printing, including filaments, sand, powders and liquid vat polymerization. The company already employs 3D printing for a variety of low-volume commercial vehicle parts, as well as fixtures used by assembly line workers, saving time and enhancing quality.

Companywide, Ford has a goal to achieve 100% sustainable materials in its vehicles.

“A key to achieving our sustainability goals and solving the broader problems of society is working with other like-minded companies – we can’t do it alone,” Mielewski said. “With HP, we defined the waste problem, solved technical challenges and found a solution in less than one year, which is something in which we all take pride.”

HP 3D printers are already designed for high efficiency, with systems and structures to minimize the excess material they generate and reuse a greater percentage of the materials put into them. Working with Ford, which uses HP’s 3D printing technology at the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Center, the team created this solution that produces zero waste.

Sustainability is a priority for both companies, which through joint exploration led to this unlikely, earth-friendly solution. The resulting injection molded parts are better for the environment with no compromise in the durability and quality standards Ford and its customers demand.

Recycled parts used on Ford trucks

The recycled materials are being used to manufacture injection-molded fuel-line clips installed first on Super Duty F-250 trucks. The parts have better chemical and moisture resistance than conventional versions, are 7% lighter and cost 10% less. The Ford research team has identified 10 other fuel-line clips on existing vehicles that could benefit from this innovative use of material and are migrating it to future models.

“You get more sustainable manufacturing processes with 3D, but we are always striving to do more, driving our industry forward to find new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle powders and parts,” said Ellen Jackowski, chief sustainability and social impact officer, HP.

“Our collaboration with Ford extends the environmental benefits of 3D printing even further, showcasing how we are bringing entirely different industries together to make better use of spent manufacturing materials, enabling a new circular economy,” she said.

Ford moving toward zero emissions

Last week, Ford released what it described as it first-ever integrated sustainability and financial report as well as new science-based targets toward the company’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050, in line with terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The targets are to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from operations 76% from 2017 by 2035, and Scope 3 GHGs from use of the company’s products 50% from 2019 by 2035.

The report said reducing emissions has favorable implications for a range of sustainability issues that Ford stakeholders have said matter most – all of which get attention in the newly issued report.

“Ford has always been about building a better world, where people have the freedom to move and pursue their dreams,” said John Lawler, the company’s chief financial officer. “Success in sustainability requires a financially healthy business, and financial health depends on effectiveness in sustainability areas.

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