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16 Jan 2024

Ford uses olive tree waste and biocomposites to manufacture car parts

Ford uses olive tree waste and biocomposites to manufacture car parts

Ford, the well-known car manufacturer, recently announced their most recent successful project, manufacturing car parts out of olive tree waste and biocomposites. The company began the project with the use of fibers and recycled plastics, to create prototypes of their end product.

The company has been searching for ways to make the automotive industry better for the environment, through making its manufacturing process greener and they aim to do this by making the car parts out of greener materials. This is where Ford’s inspiration to use recycled and discarded olive tree waste, comes in. This inspiration originates from the COMPOlive project, which the company have chosen to take part in. The COMPOlive project was created around the aim of creating environmental change within the olive production industry. This change will be brought around by two core components, recycling and support for the circular economy.

Therefore, through following this trial, Ford decided to create their greener car parts from olive tree waste and they also decided to source these parts from Andalusia’s olive grove in Spain. They chose this area, as according to the region’s local government, this is the area which is said to have the highest production of olive oil in the world. From this area, Ford only sourced parts of the olive tree such as branches, twigs and leaves, which had been discarded or were waste material. Once collected, the olive material is blended together with biocomposites, which makes up the starting point to a new, greener material. This combination effectively reduces the use of plastic within the manufacturing process, whilst it also helps other parties through avoiding the necessity of burning the refuse.

Before going ahead with the new manufacturing technique, the Engineers based at Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne, Germany, tested the usability of olive trees. This was done though using simulation technology to assess the durability, strength and moldability of the olive trees. Once the team had received positive results, they began the development process of the footrest prototypes, which were created out of a blend of 40% fibers and 60% recycled polypropylene plastic. These prototypes were then placed inside a machine which turned them into a substance. The prototypes went into the machine in a liquid form and from there, whilst in the machine, they were heated and then, through the use of an injector, molded into the desired shape for the car part.

After trialing the method and performing it on the actual material, the engineers successfully produced footrest prototypes, plus parts of the boot area, made out of the olive tree material. They then went on to evaluate these prototypes and discovered that the parts were robust and durable. This result is what brought Ford to the next step in their project, researching into whether the same olive material could be used to manufacture car parts, particularly on electric vehicles.

There are multiple benefits in the use of olive tree waste for manufacturing car parts, with the most poignant one being that it reduces the use of plastic, generates a greener manufacturing process and is better for the environment, as it prevents the unnecessary pollution of carbon emissions.

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