Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn has teamed up with California-based HP to reuse spent 3-D printed powders and parts in order to turn them into injection molded vehicle parts.
The innovation closes the loop and increases sustainability, keeping waste materials out of landfills. The resulting injection molded parts are better for the environment and don’t compromise Ford’s durability and quality standards, the automaker states.
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 percent lighter, and cost 10 percent less. Ford has identified 10 other fuel-line clips on existing vehicles that could benefit from the new use of material and are migrating the process to future models.
The HP 3-D printers Ford uses are 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. Ford’s new system that reuses the powders and parts produces zero waste.
“You get more sustainable manufacturing processes with 3-D, but we are always striving to do more, driving our industry forward to find new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle powders and parts,” says Ellen Jackowski, chief sustainability and social impact officer at HP.
“Our collaboration with Ford extends the environmental benefits of 3-D 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.”
Ford is developing new applications and using different processes and materials for 3-D printing, including filaments, sand, powders, and liquid vat polymerization. The company uses 3-D printing for a variety of low-volume commercial vehicle parts as well as fixtures used by assembly line workers. Ford wants to achieve 100 percent sustainable materials in all of 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,” says Debbie Mielewski, technical fellow of sustainability at Ford. “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.”
SmileDirectClub, an oral care company with a medtech platform for straightening teeth, also helped with Ford’s latest initiative. SmileDirect operates more than 60 HP 3-D printers and produces more than 40,000 aligners each day. The resulting used 3-D printed waste is collected and recycled with HP to increase volume for Ford.
Lavergne, a resin producer, also helps Ford. The longtime recycling partner of HP transforms molds and discarded powder from Ford’s HP 3-D printers into recycled plastic pellets suitable for injection molding. The pellets are then molded into fuel-line clips by Ford supplier ARaymond, a company that designs, engineers, and manufactures assembly systems.