Design Engineering

HRE Wheels teams up with GE Additive to 3D print titanium wheel

Devin Jones   

Additive Manufacturing General Automotive AM GE Additive metal am titanium

Using Arcam EBM machines, HRE3D+ was completed in five parts before being bolted together.


HRE Wheels

GE Additive and the California-based HRE Wheels recently announced the completion of what they’ve dubbed HRE3D+, or rather, the first additively manufactured titanium wheel.

While reinventing the wheel might be a stretch, the announcement is certainly head turning. Using two Arcam electron beam melting (EBM) machines—which GE bought controlling shares of in 2016—the metal powder process helped complete the wheel in five disparate pieces, fastened together using a combination of a custom center section and a carbon fiber rim bolted on using titanium fasteners.


While the center hub wasn’t 3D printed, GE believes they’ll soon be able to develop the entire wheel as a single piece.

“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 Wheels President Alan Peltier. “Working with GE Additive’s AddWorks team gave us access to the latest additive technology and an amazing team of engineers.

The Arcam EBM build process is similar to Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), where a thin layer of metal powder is selectively melted, in this case, by an electron beam instead. Whereas SLS uses laser, an EBM build, given the name, relies on an electron beam – with manufacturing taking place in a high-heat vacuum. This vacuum stops the metal powder from oxidizing upon heating, allowing most of the unfused powder to be reused almost immediately.

One of the advantages of using an EBM process is that it typically makes parts faster than traditional laser printing while maintaining a higher tensile strength and resistance to corrosion.  Additionally, because of the lack of thermal stress throughout the build process, EBM processed parts require less support structure.

There are a few downsides to EBM 3D printing, one of which being its expensive cost, the amount of post-processing needed compared to traditional laser AM process, and the inability to work with a wide range of metals.

Part of the objective was to reduce the amount of material wasted while “testing the capabilities of additive manufacturing in a practical application.” When using a traditionally forging process to create a wheel, manufacturers typically start with a 100-pound block of aluminum – with 80 per cent of the material being machined away. According to HRE and GE Additive, using 3D printing technology, only five per cent of the materials used was wasted. 

Created for the Mclaren P1, there were two different wheels made for this project, one measuring 20 x 9 inches, for the front, and the rear wheel measuring 21 x 12.5 inches. This wheel was obviously created as a design challenge and bears no performance measures. Currently, there are no plans to sell the titanium wheel, but we’ll update the story accordingly if HRE Wheels does indeed decide to do so.


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