The Ford Motor Company is developing a new environmentally friendly anti-corrosion technology that cuts water use in automotive paint shops by almost half and decreases the production of sludge by 90 percent.
The new technology, currently being field-tested on a small fleet of Lincoln Town Cars, takes the entire pre-treatment process down to eight steps from the current 13. Pre-treatment is critical to the paint process because it helps prevent rust and corrosion on the vehicle body.
The new process uses a zirconium oxide vehicle bath, which is more environmentally friendly than the currently used zinc phosphate. This is because zirconium oxide doesn’t contain the heavy metals – zinc, nickel, manganese – found in the phosphate bath.
As a result, there is a 40 percent savings in water usage and less waste to be processed into non-hazardous sludge and taken to landfills. Additionally, it doesn’t require heated water to work, saving energy costs.
Better yet, zirconium oxide covers the sheet metal with a uniform film versus the crystal-like structures of the phosphate system. This offers the potential for better corrosion resistance.
Field tests will continue through 2008 when Ford will determine its rollout plans to paint shops in North America.