This 3D-printed locking wheel nut aims to cut alloy theft

Ford has developed a 3D-printed locking wheel nut in a bid to deter thieves from stealing alloy wheels.

A locking wheel nut is commonly found on each wheel of most modern cars and requires a special tool to remove in a bid to keep the alloys safe from theft. It’s not a flawless solution though, leading to the European arm of the American car giant working on new tech to improve protection.

These new units are grooved with a pattern created from the voice of the vehicle owner, with engineers recording them saying a phrase for at least one second. That soundwave is then converted into a printable pattern using specialist software, before being turned into a circle and implemented on the locking wheel nut and accompanying key.

The nut and key are 3D printed in stainless steel as one piece, before being separated from one another after creation rather than being individually crafted. This would theoretically give a unique pattern to the wheel nut, ultimately preventing universal tools from being able to remove the unit.

Ford also says the unit is unable to be copied using wax or other materials as it contains unevenly spaced ribs and indentations that widen as they get deeper. This is said to make any materials used for cloning break apart when removed from the units.

Raphael Koch, Ford of Europe advanced materials and processes research engineer, said: “It’s one of the worst experiences for a driver, to find their car up on blocks with all four wheels gone. 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 personalisation are further proof that 3D printing is a game-changer for car production.”