This also means less waste and less energy spent.
When 3D printing first came around back in the 1970s, it was a niche practice. In the next decade patents started coming and by the '90s "additive manufacturing" was using multiple different materials to make intricate parts. It really took off in the last 10 years as home 3D printers became affordable.
Automakers have been using additive manufacturing (AM) for years, and we've even seen aftermarket companies like 1016 Industries take up the mantle, producing huge panels for a carbon-fiber McLaren 720S. Ford has been on the AM train for a while - including using it for producing ventilators - but now the company is perfecting its process, using the waste from 3D printing to make other parts.
Ford is teaming up with HP for this part of the venture, closing the loop, which means using recycled materials to make recycled materials.
"Sustainability is a priority for both companies," said Ford, "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."
For now, the waste material is being turned into fuel line clips for the Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup. They have better chemical and moisture resistance than conventional versions, are 7% lighter, and cost 10% less. Ford says it has identified 10 other clips that could do the same.
"Many companies are finding great uses for 3D printing technologies," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford technical fellow, Sustainability. "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."
And we're not just talking plastics here. Ford is using filaments, sand, powders and liquid vat polymerization for a variety of low-volume parts.
"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."