Sustainable and renewable materials must meet the same performance requirements as petro-based materials, including thermal stability, durability, and stiffness. Ford says its prototype vehicle components made with Weyerhaeuser's cellulose-based plastic composites meet those requirements and have other benefits. They weigh about 10 percent less than fiberglass components and can be produced 20-40 percent faster while using less energy. They don't discolor, and they have no odor.
In June, Ford teamed up with Coca-Cola, Heinz, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and other companies to form the Plant PET Technology Collaborative. Its members use polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a material found in things like automotive fabric and carpeting, plastic bottles, and footwear. The group aims to speed up the use and development of 100 percent plant-based PET materials and fiber in multiple industries. It also wants to develop common methods and standards for the new materials' use, such as common terminology and life cycle analyses.
In its latest sustainability report, Ford outlined its efforts to cut waste during the car manufacturing processes. These efforts include recycling scrap metals and collecting damaged parts from dealer-repaired vehicles -- such as sensors, fuel injectors, engine parts, headlamps, and bumpers -- and remanufacturing them or recycling them to recover the raw materials. About 85 percent of materials used in each vehicle is recyclable, according to the report. From 2007 to 2011, the company cut landfill waste by 40 percent to 22.7 pounds per vehicle, and it has set a goal of lowering that figure another 40 percent by 2016.
Other internal goals include cutting the water used in car manufacturing by 30 percent per vehicle between 2009 and 2015, cutting greenhouse gas emissions at manufacturing facilities by 30 percent per vehicle from 2010 and 2025, and cutting energy consumed per vehicle globally by 25 percent between 2011 and 2016.
Al, based on what I've seen, heard and read sustainability is now one of Ford's top goals as a company overall. This is evident from the sustainability report (at the link we give in the article), on things their top officials have said, and most important, from their actions. It's been true for several years but I think they're making it more public recently.
NadineJ and ratkinsonjr, thanks for the info. I didn't know about milk-based fabrics--seems counterintuitive. But then so does a lot of this. Castor bean oil is another feedstock that's been looked into for some time. Arkema was one of the earliest to develop a commercial bioplastic using castor bean oil: its Rilsan product went on the market in 1947: http://www.arkema.com/en/products/product-finder/range-viewer/Rilsan-Arkema/
notarboca, if Henry Ford was really experimenting with soybean-based plastics back then, they must have been among the first ones. As we've written about many times, bioplastics have come a long, long way from unstable, weak plastics, and from smelly stuff goats would want to eat. DuPont, for example, has been in the forefront of making engineering bioplastics as good as, or better than, the ones they replace--check out their tech specs.
Early in the 20th century, there was a LOT of material development. Even more that we see today. Soybeans, hemp, flax and many more natural resources were made into usable materials for mass production. Even waste product from milk and dairy production can be made into fabric. It's really soft!
But, it was all slower and more expensive than the newest thing-plastics. Everything else was shelved. Luckily, many of these developments are being rediscovered.
Ford wasn't interested in being sustainable by today's definition. He was interested in sustaining his bottom line.
I don't know about the interiors story, but I also seem to recall that Henry Ford also produced a prototype car body made from a soybean-based plastic. It never saw production, but if I remember correctly, he was trying to increase the market for farm products, to help family farmers survive and prosper. This may also have been shown during WW II, as a possible way to provide substitutes for metals needed for the war effort. Here's a link:
Ann, your story on Ford's sustainability issue reminded be of an old (hopefully true) Ford story. Always looking to cut costs, Henry Ford worked with materials mainly composed of soybean byproducts for his car interiors. This seemed like a great idea until his rural customers complained the family goats were getting into the cars and eating the knobs, dials, etc., so he went back to the drawing board.
Thanks, Nadine, glad this was useful. I was surprised to find out how many different areas the company has been pursuing alternative sustainable and renewable materials in, and for how long. I'm glad they're not being so quiet about it now.
To give engineers a better idea of the range of resins and polymers available as alternatives to other materials, this Technology Roundup presents several articles on engineering plastics that can do the job.
The first photos made with a 3D-printed telescope are here and they're not as fuzzy as you might expect. A team from the University of Sheffield beat NASA to the goal. The photos of the Moon were made with a reflecting telescope that cost the research team £100 to make (about $161 US).
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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