Wheel locks just got a whole lot smarter.
It's a nightmare situation. You return to your new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray only to find that a thief has stolen the wheels off the mid-engine sports car. Sadly, that's exactly what happened to the owner of a C8 Corvette recently. As car security systems have become more advanced, thieves are resorting to stealing car parts instead, including alloy wheels. Using locking nuts can deter thieves since they require a special adapter or key to loosen, but even these aren't invulnerable. But Ford may have a solution to this problem.
Ford engineers have developed unique locking wheel nuts using 3D printing technology. The blue oval automaker worked with EOS, a leading supplier for high-end solutions in additive manufacturing to create locking nuts with contours based on the driver's voice.
It works like other security systems that require an iris or fingerprint scan but uses a person's voice as a unique biometric identification. Here's how it works:
Engineers record the driver's voice for a minimum of one second. Software then converts the 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.
The nut and key are designed as one piece before being 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.
Additional security measures also prevent the nut from being cloned or copied. Inside the nut are unevenly spaced ribs and indentations that prevent a thief from making a wax imprint of the pattern, as the wax breaks when it is pulled from the nut. Instead of using the driver's voice to create the contours, the nuts could also feature designs specific to a vehicle such as with the Mustang logo or use the driver's initials or the outline of a famous racetrack.
"It's one of the worst experiences for a driver, to find their car up on blocks with all four wheels gone," said Raphael Koch, research engineer, Advanced Materials and Processes. "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 personalization are further proof that 3D printing is a game-changer for car production."