Ford and HP work together to turn 3D waste into auto parts

Injection molded fuel line clips are made from the recycled materials and are first installed 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. The Ford research team has identified ten more fuel line clips on existing vehicles that could benefit from this innovative use of materials and are migrating them to future models.

“Many companies are finding great uses for 3D printing technology, but along with HP, we’re the first to find a high-quality use for waste powder that would likely have been landfilled and turned into functional and durable auto parts,” said Debbie Mielewski, Technical Ford employee, sustainability.

HP 3D printers are already designed to be efficient and have systems and structures in place to minimize the excess material they create and to reuse a greater percentage of the materials they contain. Working with Ford, which uses HP’s 3D printing technology in the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Center, the team developed this no-waste solution.

“3D gives you more sustainable manufacturing processes, but we’re always looking to do more to advance our industry and find new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle powders and parts,” said Ellen Jackowski, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer from HP. “Our collaboration with Ford expands the environmental benefits of 3D printing even further and shows how we are bringing together completely different industries to make better use of used manufacturing materials and enable a new circular economy.”

For its part, Ford is developing new applications and using a variety of different processes and materials for 3D printing, including filaments, sand, powder, and liquid container polymerization. The company is already using 3D printing on a wide variety of low volume commercial vehicle parts, as well as jigs and fixtures used by assembly line workers to save time and improve quality.

Ford’s company-wide goal is to use 100% sustainable materials in its vehicles.

“One of the keys to achieving our sustainability goals and solving society’s broader problems is working with other like-minded companies – we cannot do this alone,” said Mielewski. “With HP we have defined the waste problem, solved technical challenges and found a solution in less than a year that we are all proud of.”

Three other companies helped Ford and HP make the project outcome possible.

SmileDirectClub, the next generation oral care company with the first medtech platform for straightening teeth, operates the largest facility for HP 3D printing systems in the United States. The company’s fleet of more than 60 HP 3D printers produces more than 40,000 aligners daily. The resulting used 3D printed parts are collected and recycled with HP to add volume for Ford.

Resin maker Lavergne, a long-time HP recycling partner, is converting these molds and discarded powders from Ford’s HP 3D printers into high quality recycled plastic pellets suitable for injection molding. The pellets are then formed into fuel line clips by Ford supplier ARaymond, who designs, constructs and manufactures mounting systems.

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