Automotive

Ford develops voice-based, 3D-printed wheel nuts to combat wheel theft

Ford develops voice-based, 3D-...
A single 3D printed, personalized wheel nut per wheel could prevent wheel theft
A single 3D printed, personalized wheel nut per wheel could prevent wheel theft
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A single 3D printed, personalized wheel nut per wheel could prevent wheel theft
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A single 3D printed, personalized wheel nut per wheel could prevent wheel theft
Software takes an audio recording of your voice to create the locking pattern
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Software takes an audio recording of your voice to create the locking pattern
Custom nuts are printed in corrosion resistant stainless steel, along with their unique key
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Custom nuts are printed in corrosion resistant stainless steel, along with their unique key
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Ford seems to believe theft of fancy alloy wheels is on the rise thanks to improved security systems that make it harder to steal whole cars. So it's working on creating anti-theft wheel nuts, each individually 3D printed for the car owner.

For a while there, you could protect things from theft by using Torx-style nuts, but they rapidly became widely available. The same might happen for any type of fastener. So Ford decided to tackle the problem using personalized locking wheel nuts. Just one per wheel is enough to prevent theft, and 3D printing makes it relatively easy to pump out custom, small, one-off parts like these quickly and efficiently in corrosion-resistant stainless steel.

Owners can use a logo or other design of their choosing, but as a nice personal twist on the process, Ford can also use a short voice recording of the owner to determine the unique shape of each driver's nut and companion key. Whatever is spoken into an audio recorder is transformed into an audio wave, and that audio wave is used to design the circular pattern on the nut and key. Presumably there's some smarts built into the system to make sure that pattern can take plenty of torque.

Custom nuts are printed in corrosion resistant stainless steel, along with their unique key
Custom nuts are printed in corrosion resistant stainless steel, along with their unique key

Adding unevenly spaced ribs inside the nut, as well as making indentations that become wider as they go deeper into the metal, makes it impossible for super-determined thieves to push wax into the nuts and attempt to recreate the unique key. The wax simply pulls apart as it comes out.

They look a bit weird, to be sure, which to some degree cancels out the coolness factor you might be expecting if you shell out for fancy wheels in the first place. What's more, things might get difficult for you if you lose your little key adapter – and there's no mention of when or where you'll be able to buy these things, either. So it's possibly just a little experiment in additive manufacturing. But it's a neat idea, and it'd certainly prevent unwanted visitors from playing with your nuts while you're not looking.

The personalized locking wheel nuts are detailed in the short video below.

Ford Develops 3D-Printed Locking Wheel Nuts

Source: Ford

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8 comments
paul314
I call baloney. First, the incredible expense and inconvenience if the thing actually worked and you had to ensure that the custom bit stayed with the car at all times (and the denial of service attacks by making the custom piece go away.). Second, the odds that something like a gator grip or just some expoxy and a standard claw design would defeat this easily. At least it's not a voice-activated lock...

I guess it might slow down some bottom-feeding thieves, assuming that this is a serious problem in the first place.
Allen
This looks like a solution In search of a problem.
Michael son of Lester
I wonder if the rocket scientists who dreamed this up considered the inconvenience factor of having to be with the car when it's serviced i.e. tire rotation, change over from summer to winter tires etc. Or, if they considered how voice-operated systems can be tricked by good voice recorders? Then there is the fact that a person can convert a small camera into a short-range (1 meter) EMP generator (go ahead, Google it) to render the electronics in the voice-activated wheel lock useless along with the other electronics in the car costing a lot more than just replacing the wheels.

This is nothing but security kabuki theatre.
TomC2870
Apparently Ford engineers have never heard of "nut extractors".
Bionic88
There's a simple defeat to this and any other rounded nut..hammer an impact socket on to it. If there's enough of the nut exposed like the picture shows, it's easily done in seconds. If they designed the nut to be tightly recessed, this would make it more difficult to remove. But never underestimate a determined individual. :)
Mark Keller
How about this, just develop a switch that will take into account the position/level of the car upon setting the alarm. Then when the car is jacked up to remove the wheels the alarm will go off because the position/level of the car will have changed.
pmshah
I remember selling sets of special kind of nuts for the very same purpose which had their own special keys. No key would fit any other set. And I am talking about 1975 !!!
christopher
So - now you're going to lose your wheels still, but also the window that they had to smash to get the key needed to remove them...