If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen a lot of 3D printing content on your timeline recently. But while I’ve been futzing around with tiny purple cars, it seems that people who know what they’re doing have been working on much more exciting projects — like printing complete, full-size, (mostly) functional car wheels.
On a weekend HackADay binge, I came across an article detailing Jón Schone’s attempts to 3D print a working wheel for his Mercedes. The project dates back to April of 2020, but Schone finally saw a successful result last month: A two-piece rim made almost entirely of 3D printed ABS.
The initial difficulty Schone ran into was a lack of strength in the ABS he was using to print, with early prototypes popping open when asked to bear the load of a pressurized tire or snapping under the weight of his testbed Mercedes. But for this latest test, he updated the two-piece design to include threaded rods running the width of the wheel for extra strength — and the results seem very positive.
Not only did the wheel support the weight of the Mercedes and the pressure of an inflated tire, it held up to driving, turning, and stopping. It may not quite clear the Mercedes’ front calipers, judging by all the scraping sounds, but it worked fine when wrapped around the smaller rear brakes.
It’s unclear what tire pressure the wheel is holding in the video, though the earlier version featured failed at about 29 psi. Interestingly, the tire in question uses an inner tube — something very uncommon in modern automotive tires.
The HackADay comments, all likely experienced in the art of 3D printing, bring up a few issues that the ABS wheel may run into. Primarily, they all deal with heat — whether it’s generated by road friction or braking, wheels generally deal with considerable temperatures in normal use. ABS, convenient though it is to print, is likely not the ideal choice for those conditions. Still, this project gets humanity one step closer to the ultimate dream — downloading a car.