Ford Develops 3D-Printed Locking Wheel Nuts To Stop Thieves

Ford Develops 3D-Printed Locking Wheel Nuts To Stop Thieves

by Becky Harrison |
posted 09 February 2020

As car security systems become increasingly more sophisticated, thieves are targeting car parts instead, including alloy wheels. One method to deter wheel thieves is to use locking nuts, one on each wheel, which require a special adapter, or key, to loosen.

But even these are vulnerable, leading Ford engineers to harness 3D printing technology to develop next generation locking wheel nuts.

Together with EOS, a leading supplier for high-end solutions in additive manufacturing, Ford has created locking nuts with contours 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 drive a Ford Mustang”, and use software to convert that singular soundwave into a physical, printable pattern. This pattern is then turned into a circle and used as the design for the locking nut’s indentation and key.

With the geometry in place, the nut and key are designed as one piece, then 3D-printed using acid and corrosion resistant stainless steel. When finished, the nut and key are separated, with a small amount of grinding required to make them ready for use.

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. Making wheels more secure and offering more product personalisation are further proof that 3D printing is a game-changer for car production.”

The design also includes second-level security features that prevent the nut from being cloned or copied. The unevenly spaced ribs inside the nut and indentations that widen the deeper they go prevent a thief from making a wax imprint of the pattern, as the wax breaks when it is pulled from the nut.

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, offers design flexibility to help reduce weight, improve performance and create parts that wouldn’t be possible using conventional methods. On the Ford production line, 3D printing is used to create assembly line tools that are up to 50 per cent lighter.

Ford also creates 3D-printed safety equipment, such as protection sleeves for rotating tools used on the production line, which prevent operators from incurring finger and arm injuries.

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Becky Harrison
Becky Harrison

Becky is part of the marketing team here at Money4yourMotors. Becky oversees a wide range of marketing activities including social media and content creation.