Ford's 3D printed locking lug nuts aim to thwart thieves

Ford has announced that it has created a new type of 3D printed locking lug nut for its cars. The aim for the new part is to try and keep thieves from stealing the wheels and tires off Ford cars and trucks. The locking wheel nuts use 3D printing technology, and Ford worked with EOS, a leader in additive manufacturing, to create the locking lug nuts with contours based on the driver's voice.Ford says that like an iris scan or a fingerprint, the person's voice can be used as a unique biometric identification. The engineers record the owner's voice for a minimum of one second, saying something like, "I drive a Ford Mustang." Software is then used to convert the sound wave into a physical, printable pattern.

The pattern is then turned into a circle and used as the design for the locking lug nuts indentation and key. The nut and the key are designed as one piece, and then 3D printed using acid and corrosion-resistant stainless steel. After the two parts are separated, a small amount of grinding is required to make them ready to use.

Engineers designed a second level of security feature to prevent the nut from being cloned or copied. The unevenly spaced ribs inside the nut and indentations that widen the deeper they go prevent the making of a wax imprint of the pattern. The wax breaks as it is pulled from lug nut.

The locks can be created without the owner's voiceprint using things like the Mustang logo or driver's initials. The designers could also use the outline of a famous racetrack. Ford is making greater use of 3D printing for many parts of the build and prototyping for automobiles today. The automaker says that 3D printing reduces the development time for new vehicles.