Find out How Ford Is Using 3D Printing Technology to Deter Wheel Theft
Thieves just love them fancy alloys. More than the car itself, your car’s rubbers are the easiest to steal, and though it can be funny to see a parked car robbed of its wheels, it’s no laughing matter for the victim car owners.
To help Ford owners protect their precious wheels, the Blue Oval is looking into the use of 3D printing technology to make its locking wheel nuts. When in place, these locking nuts will require a special adapter or key to remove.
Ford understands that this alone is not enough to eliminate wheel theft, so it plans to combine 3D with a system that uses the owner’s voice to define the shape of the nuts and make them truly personalized.
Ford’s idea begins with 3D-printing the locking nut and its corresponding key from stainless steel, with a design unique to each vehicle in order to make copying or reproduction more difficult.
Together with EOS, a leading supplier for high-end solutions in additive manufacturing, Ford will create the locking nuts based on the driver’s voice. Like an iris scan or a fingerprint, a person’s voice can be used as a unique biometric identification.
Engineers record the driver’s voice for a minimum of one second, saying something like “I am a proud Ford car owner”, and use software to convert that singular sound byte into a physical, printable pattern. This pattern is then shaped into a circle, which serves as the basis for the design of the locking nut’s indentation and contours.
With the shape of the nut now defined, the nut and key are then designed as one piece, then 3D-printed using acid and corrosion-resistant stainless steel. After printing, the nut and key are separated, then grinded to remove any imperfections and make them suitable for use.
Aside from the unique shape, the design also incorporates other security features that prevent any cloning or copying from being done. The unevenly spaced ribs inside the nut, along with the indentations that widen the deeper they go, can prevent a thief from making a wax imprint of the pattern, because the wax will likely break off when it is pulled from the nut.
Ford hopes that with these patented unique locking nuts personalized by owners, alloy wheel thefts could be thoroughly eliminated in its cars.