In a demonstration of what could be commercially possible within the near future, California-based HRE Wheels recently teamed up with GE Additive's AddWorks team to create the first-ever titanium wheel to be 3D-printed via Electron Beam Melting. The process is said to be more efficient than traditional machining.
Electron Beam Melting involves shining an electron beam into a bed of titanium powder, selectively melting that powder to create fine successive layers of solid material that are fused together to form a single object. All the powder that isn't melted can still be used for subsequent builds. By contrast, when parts are machined out of a solid block of titanium, much more of the material ends up being wasted.
Once the five main sections of the wheel were printed, temporary support structures within them (which were necessary for the printing process) were removed by hand for recycling. The facing surfaces of the sections were then minimally machined, in order to ensure that they would fit together snugly.
The tops of the spokes were subsequently hand-brushed, after which a cleaning process removed any oils or remaining powder. Finally, a center piece was utilized to join the five sections together, with titanium fasteners being used to mount everything within a carbon fiber rim barrel.
Called the HRE3D+, the finished wheel was unveiled earlier this month at the Formnext trade show in Frankfurt, Germany.
"This is an incredibly exciting and important project for us as we get a glimpse into what the future of wheel design holds," says HRE President Alan Peltier. "Working with GE Additive's AddWorks team gave us access to the latest additive technology and an amazing team of engineers, allowing us to push the boundaries of wheel design beyond anything possible with current methods."
Source: HRE Wheels
Update (Nov. 26, 2018): The above article originally stated that "Electron Beam Melting involves shining a laser beam into a bed of titanium powder." This was a mistake and the article has been updated to reflect the fact that an electron beam is used, not a laser. We apologize for the error and thank the commenters who brought it to our attention.
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