Ford can now 3D print locknuts for your wheels using your unique voice pattern

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,919   +765
Staff member

Ford engineers have come up with a novel solution to this problem. Using the owner's voice pattern, Ford can create uniquely contoured nuts and keys. Special software takes the sound waves and forms them into a 3D circle. This pattern is used to 3D print locknuts and keys as one piece using acid and corrosion-resistant stainless steel.

Ford says they have also included measures to prevent cloning.

"The design also includes second level security features that prevent the nut from being cloned or copied. The unevenly spaced ribs inside the nut and indentations that widen the deeper they go prevent a thief from making a wax imprint of the pattern, as the wax breaks when it is pulled from the nut. "

The carmaker says that using the owner's voice is optional. Patterns can also be developed from things like the driver's initials, a logo, or even a favorite race track.

While Ford claims the nuts are more secure, there are not a whole lot of thieves going around making wax molds. It is unclear how the new locknuts would prevent the most common method of removal — brute force. Hammering a slightly undersized socket onto a locknut, then using a breaker bar on it can defeat most locking solutions. There are also removal kits you can buy for about $100.

Ford's press released did not mention mitigations to forcing its locknuts loose. So is it really a more secure design, or is it just more of the same with a personalized touch?

Either way, it is a very creative use of 3D printing, and it is not limited to just making locknuts. Ford says that it uses the technology to create specialized production tools from nylon and plastics, which are 100-percent recyclable. They can also print them on-demand without having to wait for them to be manufactured.

"Having our very own plug-and-play printer enables us to make tools and parts exactly when we need them, and to replace them faster than ever before," said Lars Bogner, a research engineer at Ford's Advanced Materials and Processes division. "For some tools, the delivery time was up to eight weeks, but with 3D printing, the turn-around has been reduced to just five days."

Masthead credit Shawn Knight

Permalink to story.

 

3volv3d

Posts: 323   +144
Lol who doesn't use manual ? Auto is not driving.

But, so I speak into something order some wheel nuts, that then get 3d printed, and posted to me, and then I put them on my wheels?
Wait no now I have read it, it all makes sense.
To keep my wheels from being stolen, only I can undo them, I talk into the locknut, and my voice helps it vibrate correctly, so that it will actually turn?
 

gusticles41

Posts: 503   +602
Hammering a slightly undersized socket onto a locknut, then using a breaker bar on it can defeat most locking solutions.

http://www.mcgard.com/automotive/wheel-locks/cone-seat/

Not these suckers, as I learned recently. You actually need the unique key, as the outside of the lug just spins freely. It's the inner keyed part that turns...Pretty clever.

Luckily Mcgard was able to send me a replacement key for $14 shipped with nothing more than a photo.
 

mailpup

Posts: 7,647   +755
TS Special Forces
For years Ford has already had de facto anti-theft lug nuts on many (not all) of their models. The phenomenon is commonly known as swollen lug nuts. Since this is a technical site, I will give some details.

These are two piece lug nuts made with a stainless steel sheet metal shell crimped over a steel base nut. After a time corrosion and simple removal and reinstallation of the nuts increased or distorted the size of the nuts such that the factory supplied lug wrench would no longer fit.

For example if the nominal wrench size was 19mm, it might have swollen to 19.5mm. Some tool companies now sell a 19.5mm socket for this purpose but sometimes the swollen lug nut is too big even for the 19.5mm. I have used a 20mm socket with some success but sometimes it slips and rounds off the nut because the thin shell will distort since there is gap between it and the solid part of the nut. Special extractors designed to remove rounded fasteners don't always work because they grab onto the outer shell and just spin. I have different kinds of extractors.

The final solution is to chisel the outer shell off enough (without damaging the wheel) to get an 18mm or 18.5mm socket onto the base nut. I have all of these tools but it's a struggle. Just this week I've replaced all 20 lug nuts on a 2002 Lincoln LS due to swollen lug nuts. You'd think that Ford would have fixed the problem by now but nay, nay. A little while ago I had the same problem with a friend's 2013 Ford Escape. Maybe in the last couple of years this has been fixed but I don't know.

Anyway, don't get a flat tire on the road if you have these special swollen anti-theft nuts. Even tow trucks might not have the special tools required. Expect to be towed.

Edit: BTW, the lug "nuts" in the video are actually lug bolts. Bolts are commonly used in German and other European cars.
 
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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,748   +5,178
One of the better ways to prevent your car being stolen, is get one with a manual transmission. ;)

Most car theft isn't from a guy getting in the car and driving it away. Most car theft now is either stolen parts off a sitting car, or pulling the car onto a tow truck and stealing it so it can be stripped later.

 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,748   +5,178
#1 wheel locks only slow them down.

#2 Ford's cars aren't attractive enough to have to worry about wheel theft. It's Dodge Hellcats that have been getting hit lately.

The wheels on mine are stock, but worth over $4000 because the tires are damn near $380 a piece

They don't also hit the brakes. My calipers are worth $10,000 a set and the rotors are $950 each.

Add to that, the new C8 corvette.
 

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Axiarus

Posts: 614   +420
Lol who doesn't use manual ? Auto is not driving.

But, so I speak into something order some wheel nuts, that then get 3d printed, and posted to me, and then I put them on my wheels?
Wait no now I have read it, it all makes sense.
To keep my wheels from being stolen, only I can undo them, I talk into the locknut, and my voice helps it vibrate correctly, so that it will actually turn?
Who doesn't? Id say 90% of the US.
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,691   +2,029
Lol who doesn't use manual ? Auto is not driving.

I've driven a manual, since 81. My work provided vehicle, after bitching from me,
is a manual. I just don't like automatic transmission. Especially these days with
all the electronic crap in them.
 

Axiarus

Posts: 614   +420
I've driven a manual, since 81. My work provided vehicle, after bitching from me,
is a manual. I just don't like automatic transmission. Especially these days with
all the electronic crap in them.
That's neat. Majority of people drive automatics still. I like manuals as well. Performance wise? Automatic is king. Ease of use? King.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 612   +584
Who on earth will steal a Ford??????????? And which model??? Ha!!

Yeah, maybe a vintage Mustang, but show me one Ford worth stealing!!
 

mailpup

Posts: 7,647   +755
TS Special Forces
Who on earth will steal a Ford??????????? And which model??? Ha!!

Yeah, maybe a vintage Mustang, but show me one Ford worth stealing!!
Well, the article is about wheels not the entire car.
 

johnofo

Posts: 25   +20
Should they not be focusing on making their vans harder to unlock? Tradesmen in the UK get broken into regularly and it seems to be Ford Transits that are always getting hit with a cheap piece of tech that finds the signal and unlocks the doors.