3D printer waste can be recycled into truck parts, Ford finds

Slowly but surely, car companies are beginning to make themselves more sustainable. We most often hear about this in the context of using clean energy to power the production lines and assembly plants that put together new electric vehicles, but it shows up in smaller examples, too. Take Ford, for example. Working with HP, it has come up with a use for plastic waste left over from 3D printing, which it’s now using to make truck parts.

Like many automakers, Ford has been getting more comfortable with additive manufacturing. 3D printing lends itself well to producing low-volume parts that would otherwise be too expensive to make due to the cost of creating tooling. But in this case, some of those printed bits will actually end up in production vehicles—sort of.

Ford, working with HP (which supplies the Blue Oval with some of its printers), has started recycling 3D printed parts and powder and is using the plastic to make fuel clips for the F-250 truck. The waste plastic, along with similar waste from the dental company SmileDirectClub (which apparently has 60 3D printers making 40,000 aligners a day), gets sent to a company called Lavergne that turns it into plastic pellets that can then be used in injection molding machines. Those pellets are then used by one of Ford’s suppliers, ARaymond, to make the fuel clips.

Importantly, Ford says that the fuel clips made from this recycled printer waste are more resistant to chemicals and moisture, as well as being 7 percent lighter and 10 percent cheaper than the clips it has been using until now.

“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,” said Debbie Mielewski, a technical fellow at Ford.

More of this, please!

Listing image by Ford