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Between the Molds: Ford recycles HP 3D printer powder waste in auto parts

Detroit, Michigan – In line with their recent push to reduce their carbon footprint, Ford is teaming up with HP to reuse spent 3D-printed powders and parts to make injection molded vehicle parts.

These newly developed recycled materials are being used to manufacture injection-moulded fuel-line clips on F-250 trucks. This material has better chemical and moisture resistance than conventional versions, are 7% lighter, and cost 10 percent less. The Ford research team has identified 10 other fuel-line clips on existing vehicles that could benefit from powder recycling.

“Finding new ways to work with sustainable materials, reducing waste, and leading the development of the circular economy are passions at Ford,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford technical fellow, Sustainability. “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.”

HP printers are designed with high efficiency, limiting the need for excess materials and reuse a greater percentage of the powders put into them. Using HP’s 3D printing technology at Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center, the team created a solution that produces zero waste.

“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.”

Ford is developing new processes and materials for 3D printing which include filaments, filaments, sand, powders, and liquid vat polymerization. They already use 3D printing for a variety of low-volume commercial vehicle parts, as well as fixtures used by assembly line workers.

“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.”

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