Additive manufacturing is used to make all sorts of automotive components, from lightweight bodywork to metal engine components. However, one part of a car that doesn’t seem especially suited to 3D printing is the wheel.
It appears that some experts disagree. HRE Wheels and GE Additive today unveiled the first titanium wheel created using Electron Beam Melting (EBM) — a 3D printing technology that uses metal wire or powder as a raw material — as well as announcing a formal partnership.
The 3D printed titanium wheel, which has been dubbed “HRE3D+,” purportedly shows what the future of wheel technology will bring, as well as how advanced materials like titanium can be used to create complex designs.
The companies involved in the 3D printing project, which collaborated between their respective bases in Vista, California (HRE) and Ohio (GE AddWorks), say their goal was to “test the capabilities of additive manufacturing in a practical application” and to create a sophisticated wheel design using titanium.
Part of the motivation was to reduce material wastage. With a traditional aluminum Monoblok wheel, 80 percent of material is removed from a 100-pound block of aluminum to create the final product. With additive manufacturing, on the other hand, only 5 percent of the material is removed and recycled.
Other benefits to the use of titanium include its higher specific strength and resistance to corrosion.
Using design queues from two existing models of HRE wheels, HRE and GE worked together to create the new, future-focused wheel. The titanium product was made with two Arcam EBM machines (one Q20 and one Q10) in five separate sections, then combined using a custom center section and bolted to a carbon fiber rim using titanium fasteners.
“This is an incredibly exciting and important project for us as we get a glimpse into what the future of wheel design holds,” commented 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.”
Robert Hanet, senior design engineer, GE Additive AddWorks, added: “HRE prides itself on its commitment to excellence and superior quality in the marketplace. It was a natural fit for AddWorks to work on this project with them and really revolutionize the way wheels can be designed and manufactured.”
The wheel is currently being showcased at Formnext 2018.