Manufacturing Savvy

Soy-based Seat Cushions?

Yes, it's true. Ford is using soy and other bio-based materials for its seat cushions and seatbacks on its 2010 Ford Taurus.

And the Taurus isn't the only model to use these materials -- it's the eleventh. The other 10 models are; Mustang, F-150, Focus, Flex, Escape, Expedition and Econoline as well as Mercury Mariner, Lincoln MKS and Navigator.

Ford vehicles are now 85% recyclable by weight.

Last year that translated into $4.5 million of savings and even more importantly diverted between 25 and 30 million pounds of plastic from landfills in North America alone.

"We already have bio-based foam on more than 2 million vehicles and we're looking to convert 100% of our fleet to it in the future," said Jerry Brown, Ford chief engineer of seat and restraint engineering.

The company is also using a variety of other recycled materials including:

-- Post-consumer recycled resins such as detergent bottles, tires and battery casings used to make underbody systems, such as aerodynamic shields, splash shields and radiator air deflector shields. The latest example is the engine cam cover on the 3.0-liter V-6 2010 Ford Escape. As a result, Ford has diverted between 25 and 30 million pounds of plastic from landfills.

-- Post-industrial recycled yarns for seat fabrics on vehicles such as the Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid. Repurposed nylon carpeting made into nylon resin and molded into cylinder head covers for Ford's 3.0-liter Duratec engine.

-- The automotive industry's first application of wheat straw-reinforced plastic for the third-row storage bins of the 2010 Ford Flex.

Soy might be joined by corn, sugar beets and sweet potatoes and other vegetables as bio-based materials. Research is currently underway.

Ford has high aspirations. "One day I hope to see the world of automotive plastics go totally compostable, removing petroleum by 100%,"said Debbie Mielewski, technical leader, Ford Plastics Research.

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