Ford has announced an exciting innovation that could make it harder for thieves to steal alloy wheels: 3D-printed locking wheel nuts.
This is the manufacturer’s response to the fact that, as car security systems become more sophisticated, many thieves are targeting car parts instead.
Locking nuts placed on each wheel can deter thieves because they require a special key to loosen, but even these can be vulnerable.
Ford teamed up with EOS, a supplier of high-end solutions in the 3D printing space, to create locking nuts with innovative and completely unique features, including contours based on the driver’s voice.
Much like an iris scan or a fingerprint, a person’s voice can be used as a unique biometric identifier.
Engineers record the car owner’s voice for a minimum of one second, making a statement such as, “I drive a Ford Mustang”, before using software to convert the soundwave into a physical pattern. This pattern is turned into a circle and used as the design for the locking nut’s indentation and key.
The nut and key are then designed together and 3D-printed using acid and corrosion-resistant stainless steel.
Furthermore, Ford has incorporated secondary security features that prevent the nut from being cloned or copied. These include unevenly spaced ribs and indentations that make it harder for thieves to make wax imprints of the pattern on the nut.
Raphael Koch, Ford advanced materials and processes research engineer, said: “It’s one of the worst experiences for a driver, to find their car up on blocks with all four wheels gone. Some alloy wheels can cost thousands to replace, but these unique rim nuts will stop thieves in their tracks.”
Ford has also been using 3D printing on the production line, to create parts that feature in the GT, Focus and Mustang GT500.
Heather Stark, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, comments: “It’s fascinating that 3D printing is starting to play a bigger role in Ford’s operations. Could this be the future of car manufacturing?”