In a demonstration of what could be commercially possible within the near future, California-based HRE Wheels recently teamed up with GE Additive's AddWorks team to create the first-ever titanium wheel to be 3D-printed via Electron Beam Melting. The process is said to be more efficient than traditional machining.
Electron beam melting involves irradiating an electron beam onto a bed of titanium powder and selectively melting the titanium powder to create a continuous layer of solid material that is fused together to form a single object. All unmelted powder can still be used for subsequent construction.By contrast, when parts are made of titanium blocks, more material ends up being wasted.
Once the five main parts of the hub are printed, the temporary support structure inside the hub (which is required for the printing process) is removed manually for recycling.The surfaces of the parts are then minimally machined to ensure that they fit together.
The top of the spokes is then brushed flat by hand and cleaned to remove any oil or residual powder. Finally, a central part was used to connect the five parts together, and titanium fasteners were used to fit everything inside the carbon-fiber rim cylinder.