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World's First 3D-Printed Titanium Wheel

HRE Wheels and GE Additive recently unveiled the first titanium wheel created using electron-beam additive manufacturing (EBM), a type of 3D printing. Called the "HRE3D+," the new prototype wheel demonstrates what the future of wheel technology will bring and how advanced materials like titanium can be harnessed to create complex designs.

GE Additive includes additive machine providers Concept Laser and Arcam, along with additive materials provider AP&C.

EBM machines create dimensionally accurate parts quickly and efficiently by using a high-power electron beam for high melting capacity and productivity. The EBM process takes place in a vacuum and at high temperature, resulting in stress-relieved components with material properties better than cast and comparable to wrought material.

HRE designs, engineers, and manufactures three-piece and one-piece forged aluminum alloy wheels for racing, performance, and luxury cars and SUV's in its San Diego, CA, facility.

The goal of the HRE3D+ concept project was to test the capabilities of additive manufacturing in a practical application and to create a highly sophisticated wheel design with titanium. With a traditional aluminum monoblock wheel, around 80 percent of material is removed from a 100-lb forged block of aluminum to create the final rolling product. With additive manufacturing, only 5 percent of the material is removed and recycled, making the process far more efficient.

Titanium also has a much higher specific strength than aluminum and is corrosion resistant, allowing it to be extremely lightweight and to be shown in its raw finish.

An intensive design collaboration took place between the HRE team in California and the GE AddWorks team in Ohio.

Using design cues from two existing models of HRE wheels, the companies worked together to create an impressive example of what is possible with additive manufacturing. The wheel was produced on two Arcam EBM machines, a Q20 and a Q10, in five separate sections, then combined using a custom center section and bolted to a carbon fiber rim using titanium fasteners.

"This is an incredibly exciting and important project for us as we get a glimpse into what the future of wheel design holds," said 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. To HRE, this partnership with GE Additive moves us into the future."

"HRE prides itself on its commitment to excellence and superior quality in the marketplace. It was a natural fit for AddWorks to work on this project with them and really revolutionize the way wheels can be designed and manufactured," said Robert Hanet, senior design engineer, GE Additive AddWorks.

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HRE Wheels

GE Additive

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