MRO Magazine

Innovatinve paint operation turns waste into energy and auto parts at Ford

Dearborn, MI -- Ford Motor Company has unveiled a clean, efficient and quality-driven "paint shop of the future," w...


January 27, 2006
By MRO Magazine

Dearborn, MI — Ford Motor Company has unveiled a clean, efficient and quality-driven “paint shop of the future,” which reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions by 10% and CO2 by 20%. Cost savings are estimated between $7 and $11 per vehicle.

Traditionally, automotive paint operations have represented the industry’s biggest manufacturing-related environmental challenge. Industry-wide, 70 million pounds of paint fumes annually are collected and destroyed by expensive pollution abatement systems around the world before they are emitted into the air. As well, 24 million pounds of paint overspray are captured in spray booths, treated and consolidated into non-hazardous sludge that eventually finds its way to landfills

“Painting vehicles is arguably the auto industry’s biggest challenge,” said Mary Ellen Rosenberger, manager, Paint Strategy, Ford Motor Company. “Ford has found the solution. It’s environmentally sound. It’s cost-efficient. And it produces beautifully painted vehicles with long-term durability.”

Ford’s Paint Shop of the Future consists of three major technological solutions: an advanced chemical paint formulation, an innovative three-wet application process, and patented waste management technology that converts paint fumes into electricity and recycles paint sludge into car parts.


A new bell-shaped spray applicator minimizes overspray. As a result more paint adheres to the vehicle. Even with more efficient applicators, there is overspray which is consolidated into nonhazardous sludge. Ford is installing a recycling system at Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Mich., that dries the sludge and recycles it into auto parts that help quiet the passenger compartments of cars and trucks. Instead of going to the landfill, the sludge is recycled into a sound-deadening material.

Michigan Truck Plant features a permanent installation of Ford’s patented Fumes-to-Fuel technology, which turns paint fumes into electricity that is returned to the plant power grid. It’s enough electricity to light a typical suburban block of homes. The permanent installation follows a successful pilot of the technology at the Ford Rouge Center in 2004.

VOCs are pulled from the paint air emissions by carbon beads. The clean air is then released from the facility. The scrubbed VOCs are sent to a generator where they are transformed into electricity.