This beautiful titanium wheel design was made entirely from 3D printing technology.
It might look like it’s made from Legos, but this new wheel design is actually an intricately created titanium pattern made using 3D printers. Also known as “additive manufacturing”, 3D printers layer on materials in thin strips until a final product emerges. It’s not quite the same as replicators from Star Trek, but it’s the next best thing.
These particular wheels, shown off on a McLaren P1, are from HRE Wheels and GE Additive. The two wheelmakers have announced a brand new partnership where they explore the use of 3D printers in making new wheel designs.
They call this design “HRE3D+.” Used as a sort of technological proving grounds, the only purpose of HRE3D+ was to see just how complex a wheel design could be successfully created using difficult to work with materials like titanium. As you can see here, it turns out they were highly successful.
Titanium is an ideal material to make wheels out of due to its lightweight, extreme tensile strength, and resistance to corrosion. However, those same properties that make it great for turning into wheels also make it very difficult to use in traditional manufacturing methods.
Most wheels are made by cutting them out of giant blocks of metal, discarding as much as 80% of the material. Titanium is expensive, so getting a block large enough to cut into the shape of a wheel is even more costly. Then melting down the 80% left over to turn into more wheels is more expensive still.
By using 3D printers, only 5% of the material is wasted, meaning much less “stuff” is needed to create a final product. HRE and GE Additive used two different 3D printers to create five distinct wheel sections, and then fastened them together using titanium fasteners to create the finished product.
Although it looks as delicate as a snowflake, HRE and GE say this design is strong enough to mount on vehicles as powerful as supercars.
"This is an incredibly exciting and important project for us as we get a glimpse into what the future of wheel design holds,” said HRE President Alan Peltier. “Working with GE Additive’s AddWorks team gave us access to the latest additive technology and an amazing team of engineers, allowing us to push the boundaries of wheel design beyond anything possible with current methods. To HRE, this partnership with GE Additive moves us into the future.”