Solving for the Solvent

Scientist in white lab coat inspects liquid in a beaker,

One person really can make a difference. Just ask the folks at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC), where Dawn Ng played a big role in solving a complicated issue that ended up reducing raw material use, air emissions and water as well as improving quality and saving money. 


Dawn was a student at the University of Waterloo and a co-op at TMMC. As she studied and learned the vehicle painting process, she noticed every time a new color was applied to a bumper, a solvent-water mixture was used to clean the nozzles of the high-tech spray robots. The cleaning agent contained about 10 percent solvent. With the help of the University of Waterloo and other Toyota team members, Dawn researched, analyzed and tested different cleaning agents. After months of work in the university lab, Dawn developed a new cleaning agent with better and faster cleaning ability than what was previously being used. 


The new cleaning agent is used during the painting process on RAV4 bumpers and reduces the use of solvent by 43,000 liters (about 11,300 gallons) – a staggering 80 percent reduction. On an annual basis, it also reduces emissions of VOCs by 22 metric tons, saves 66,000 liters (17,400 gallons) of water, cuts the number of defective bumpers that need to be recycled in half, and saves almost CAN$600,000!