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Ford and HP Team Up to Recycle 3D Printing Waste Into Auto Parts

(Photo via Ford)

One company’s waste from 3D printing is another company’s injection-molded vehicle parts: Ford and HP have teamed up to close the loop on waste by turning used particles into auto components.

An industry first, this “unlikely” solution promises to be better for the environment, “with no compromise in the durability and quality standards Ford and its customers demand,” according to the vehicle maker, which employs HP’s 3D printing technology at its Advanced Manufacturing Center.

The waste produced by 3D printing is collected from HP’s customers, turned into high-quality plastic pellets by HP’s recycling partner Lavergne, and then reused for injection molding by Ford supplier ARaymond. “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,” Ellen Jackowski, chief sustainability and social impact officer at HP, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Ford extends the environmental benefits of 3D printing even further.”

Recycled materials are being used to manufacture injection-molded fuel-line clips for installation first on Super Duty F-250 trucks; 10 other fuel-line clips on existing vehicles will be replaced in future models. These parts, Ford explained, boast better chemical and moisture resistance, are 7% lighter, and cost 10% less than conventional versions.

“Finding new ways to work with sustainable materials, reducing waste, and leading the development of the circular economy are passions at Ford,” sustainability technical fellow Debbie Mielewski said. “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’s leftovers aren’t the only materials Ford harnesses. The firm also counts filaments, sand, powders, and liquid vat polymerization among its supplies, and 3D prints its own low-volume commercial parts and assembly line fixtures. Ford aims to eventually secure 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.”

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