HRE Wheels and GE Additive – via its Addworks division – have unveiled the world’s first 3D-printed titanium wheel. The HRE3D+, as it’s called, is a prototype made with an advanced titanium powder and created with Electron Beam Melting (EBM) technology, which uses an electron beam to melt and fuse fine layers of titanium powder into a solid piece.
The process deposits a bed of fine titanium powder a layer at a time, resulting in very little wasted material, unlike traditional subtractive methods like machining from a solid forging.
Comparatively, 80% of material is removed from a 45 kg forged block of aluminium in creating a traditional aluminium monoblok wheel, while the 3D build only removes 5% of the material used. The temporary support material is recycled, further improving efficiency.
Following the removal of this surplus, the mating surfaces and threads are CNC machined post-printing, to ensure tight tolerances of assembly. The wheel is then hand finished and cleaned, and because titanium has excellent corrosion resistance, the wheel needs no additional powder-coating or clear coat layer protection.
The HRE3D+ was produced in five separate sections on two EBM machines and then combined using a custom centre section and bolted to a carbon-fibre rim using titanium fasteners.
The companies say that the goal of the HRE3D+ project was to test the capabilities of additive manufacturing in a practical application, essentially exploring new wheel design technologies as well as seeing how advanced materials like titanium can be harnessed to create complex designs.
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