Ford makes auto painting greener, saves millions

Painting new cars used to be a dirty business. The process and chemicals released significant greenhouse gases. Enter Ford's (F) 3-Wet paint process, a technology that allows Ford to apply three coats of paint (primer, base and enamel) in rapid-fire succession with virtually no drying time. The result is faster paint jobs and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

After trialing the system at a factory in the U.S., the automaker is planning a broader global rollout later this year, according to Greenbiz.

Ford is installing the new technology in factories in the U.S., China, India, and Eastern Europe. The economic benefits of the 3-Wet system are substantial. The technology slices 20 percent to 25 percent off painting times, which means faster car production lines. 3-Wet also combines all multiple painting machines into a single machine. The consolidated 3-Wet system will reduce CO2 emissions per factory by 6,000 to 8,000 metric tons per year.

The company has estimated that the 3-Wet process will save Ford between $10 and $35 per vehicle, according to Green Car Congress. Globally, this could result in aggregate savings of more than $100 million per year based energy cost savings and reductions in material and labor. At a plant in Ontario, Canada, Ford installed a fumes-to-fuel energy system that captured fumes from the painting process and use them to run a fuel cell that creates 300 kilowatts of power. That's enough electricity to light up 150 homes.

Ford has been very active in greening its factory process. Last year it won the Environmental Protection Agency 2009 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award. The company has improved its overall energy efficiency 35 percent since 2000 and by five percent in the last year alone.

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