Ford looks at renewable material for parts to cut costs, weight

Automaker could make parts from sisal, a renewable material found in dartboards, carpet and rope.

June 20, 2012   by PLANT STAFF

AACHEN, Germany: Ford of Europe engineers are investigating making car parts using sustainable fibres from sisal, a plant more frequently used in dartboards, carpets and rope.

“Sisal is of major economic importance to some developing countries and communities; it’s a perennial agave plant that thrives on marginal land in hot and arid conditions and its use has far-reaching social benefits”, said Maira Magnani, advanced materials expert, Ford of Europe.

Renewable fibres like kenaf, flax, hemp and wood fibres are currently most commonly used in door trim inserts, with Ford’s all-new B-MAX the latest model to benefit. Manufactured using a press-moulding process, up to 50% of the content in B-MAX’s door inserts are flax fibres.

An injection moulding technique that Ford implemented when it started  using wheat straw in interior parts is being considered for sisal, and hemp. The method allows increasingly complex components such as battery trays and engine junction box covers to be made.


The process would develop parts with up to 30% of the renewable materials that would cut part weight by up to 10%.

As well as reducing component weight, the temperatures needed to produce these parts are 40 degrees lower than conventional plastic parts.

Ford’s history of using fibres from materials including: kenaf, flax and wood, dates back as far as 20 years while its use of renewable materials dates back to 1915 when wheat-based glue, soybean wool and soybean were used in the Model T.

“The use of renewable and sustainable materials in our vehicle parts reduces the use of fossil-oil-based product and in turn reduces dependency on finite sources” added Magnani. “As the oil for producing plastics becomes more scarce and more expensive, it’s likely that the interest in using renewable materials will grow, but we’re aiming to stay ahead of the game now.”

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