3D Printing is a technology that is literally changing the way people create and manufacture real world objects. And now, specialist high-end wheel manufacturer HRE have unveiled the world’s first 3D printed titanium wheel.
It’s 3D Printing’s Turn
To achieve this astounding engineering and technical feat, the team at HRE worked closely together with Addworks, a division of General Electric that specialises in pushing the limits of additive manufacturing. Together they designed, prototyped and tested the wheel using a new method called Electron Beam Melting.
This radically changes the way wheels can be made. Previously, a traditionally-manufactured wheel is crafted from a 45 kilogram forged block of steel and then, in effect, whittled down into a 9 kilogram wheel. This means that there’s a lot of wasted material that can’t be recycled. HRE and GE Addworks’ system boasts that only 5% of the material used to make the wheel is taken away from the final product, and all of that can be used again in future builds.
A quick Primer on 3D Printing
Chances are you have a regular printer in your workplace or home. This device, basically, drops tiny amounts of ink onto a flat surface (usually a piece of paper) to make words or images appear. 3D printing extends this system into three dimensional objects.
Instead of using ink, 3D printers lay down a fine layer of material (usually plastic, but in this case, metal) and then adds further layers on top to make a solid object. The objects can be any shape or size imaginable and are usually designed with complex 3D modelling software before being sent to the printer. The technology is in its early stages yet and people are working on making the objects more durable and versatile.
The advent of 3D printing has seen a sizable shift in how physical objects are prototyped. Designers would have to send early versions to a manufacturing facility and have dozens or even hundreds or thousands of units made to test their viability. Now, with 3D printing, a designer can simply print one unit and make iterations and improvements basically instantly. This dramatically reduces R&D costs and times.
Using titanium, HRE are able to make a wheel that not only uses less material to generate but is also lighter than others in the market. Additionally, 3D printing allows their designers more creative freedom to make wheels that would not be easy or possible at all with traditional manufacturing methods.
The wheel used in the proof of concept was made by combining five separate pieces that were individually designed and printed on two Arcam EBM Q20 and Q10 machines, then joined with titanium fasteners. The team are expecting that as the technology improves the costs will lower while giving equal or better performance.
At ShapeCUT, we’re excited to see the future of steel manufacturing. No matter how objects are constructed, the team at ShapeCUT will be ready to cut, bend and shape it to any pattern imaginable. Contact ShapeCUT to see how we can help your business stand out from the crowd.
Images: HRE Wheels