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

Photo: HP and Ford

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Ford has teamed up with Hewlett-Packard (HP) to turn spent 3D-printed powder and parts into stronger, lighter, and more cost-effective vehicle parts. The recycled, injection-molded parts will first be used on Ford’s Super Duty F-250 trucks and have better chemical and moisture resistance than conventional versions. As 3D printing becomes more common in many industries, Ford and HP hope that this partnership can create something good from something that could have been harmful. “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 Ford technical fellow.

Why This Matters: 3D printing makes use of plastic and metal powders that, when disposed of in landfills, can contaminate groundwater and end up in the air, harming human health. To combat this, HP has already implemented practices that minimize waste, but by working with Ford, the company says its 3D printing operations will be zero-waste. The unlikely partnership is also a step toward new industry and old industry working together toward sustainability. Much like green energy companies working with oil and coal companies to transition communities, economic partnerships like these will be key to achieving a strong, net-zero economy in the future.

Teamwork Breeds Innovation

The partnership isn’t just solving pollution problems, it’s also accelerating new sustainable technology. The world is running out of time to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and halt catastrophic temperature rise, but Mielewski says anything is possible when companies pool resources toward the common good. “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,” she 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.”

It’s not just Ford and HP putting in the work. SmileDirectClub, which operates the largest facility of HP 3D printing systems in the U.S., produces more than 40,000 dental aligners a day. The resulting used 3D printed parts are collected and sent to resin producer Lavergne, where the plastic molds are transformed into recycled plastic pellets for injection molding. Through this team effort, the same dental mold that straightened a teen’s teeth may very well end up in their first car.

Several automakers have come forward with plans to make their fleets 100% electric in the next 15 years, but Ford has taken it one step further, pledging to also achieve 100% sustainable materials in all of its vehicles.

Up Next

One Cool Thing: Green Halloween

One Cool Thing: Green Halloween

Spooky season is almost over, how does your everyday werewolf or vampire keep it green this Halloween?  While the holiday can easily be filled with candy wrappers, disposable decorations, and costumes your kid will likely never wear again, the internet has some “tricks” to keep your celebrations environmentally friendly.   EcoWatch’s list of best methods […]

Continue Reading 106 words
One Cool Thing: Going for the Climate Gold

One Cool Thing: Going for the Climate Gold

This past July, all eyes were on Tokyo when over 10,000 Olympians from 206 nations descended on the city to make history. Despite a decrease in carbon emissions due to COVID-19 and fewer traveling spectators, the games still produced 2.3 million tons of CO2.    In 2021, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) pledged to reduce […]

Continue Reading 144 words
One Cool Thing: Fighting the Pandemic Plastic Boom

One Cool Thing: Fighting the Pandemic Plastic Boom

Startups across the country are on a mission to provide sustainable food packaging options and close the plastic loop, especially prompted by the pandemic take-out boom. Over 70% of Americans order delivery one to three times a week, creating hundreds of billions of single-use bowls, bags, utensils, and more.   But some innovative companies have […]

Continue Reading 168 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.