Any supercar designer will tell you that the taut lines and fluid curves of a car are supremely important but few will actually go on to talk about its wheels. Wheels have been a lucrative after-market business in the car industry for a long time, one that has implored many an over-enthusiastic car owner to reach further into his pocket for an ever flashier ride.
Which brings us now to one of the most extreme-looking wheels we’ve ever seen. Created by California-based HRE Wheels, the HRE3D+ are the world’s first set of 3D-printed titanium wheels, and chances are they’ll forever change the way we look at wheel design and manufacturing.
There were once limitations on what designs could do in the real world, but 3D-printing turned the reality of physics on its head and unleashed a new freedom in bringing complex designs to life. Working together with Arcam — General Electric’s additive manufacturing division — this wild prototype sees spokes going through even more spokes and intertwining between sections. This extensively labyrinthine aesthetic would’ve been impossible with current manufacturing methods.
“This is an incredibly exciting and important project for us as we get a glimpse into what the future of wheel design holds. 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,” said HRE President Alan Peltier.
Set resplendently on a McLaren P1 here, the HRE3D+ wheels are made from titanium powder, a metal chosen specifically for its strength, resistance to corrosion and lightweight properties. The wheel was created in five distinct sections via Electron Beam Melting, which melts fine layers of titanium layer by layer in a vacuum until the final design is achieved. The sections are then combined with a custom center section and bolted to a carbon fibre rim with more titanium fasteners.
It’s a whole lot of effort for something that’s often overshadowed by the body of a car, but HRE Wheels knows 3D-printing is a solution to the inefficiencies of current wheel manufacture. 80 percent from a typical 45kg block of aluminium is wasted traditionally, as opposed to only five percent here, making this a more commercially-viable and eco-friendly solution in the long run.
But radicality is the key to driving this business along and if anything, the sheer looks of this bad boy will generate enough buzz for it to pick up commercially in a couple of years. If you do get one, however, always remember that the kerbs are not your friends.