Jul 12, 2017 | By Benedict

Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, says the Russian government will support the production of 3D printed aluminum wheels for the automotive industry. The move could boost the national aluminum industry.

3D printed 500 aluminum alloy water pump wheels for cars. Source: BMW

It’s no secret that the 3D printed car business is racing ahead at full speed, but would you drive a vehicle with 3D printed wheels? According to Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Russians might soon find themselves doing exactly that, as the Russian government looks to accelerate the production of aluminum 3D printed wheels for the automotive industry.

In an interview with Russian news agency TASS, Minister Denis Manturov said the country can boost its flagging aluminum trade by turning the metal into powders, which can then be 3D printed into useful components like car wheels using advanced laser melting 3D printers. “We are interested in production of aluminum wheels in Russia,” Manturov said.

The idea seems simple: Russia imports most of its aluminum automotive wheels from outside of its own borders, yet its aluminum trade is struggling. The solution for everyone? Keep the Russian aluminum in the country, and use it to make something everybody needs.

According to Manturov, the government wants to get behind businesses that can carry out this 3D printing objective. “We will develop production of aluminum powders near aluminum giants,” the minister said. “We will focus on supporting companies creating the added value in the first instance.”

But the government purportedly has other plans to improve trade too. For one, it wants to introduce compulsory certification for aluminum wheels in order to cut down on the number of counterfeit items being introduced to the Russian market. This assurance will hopefully provide extra incentive for the producers of new 3D printed wheels.

The question that the Russian government is most likely to face over this plan is surely “Why wheels?”

At present, virtually no automotive company is using additive manufacturing to fabricate wheels for its vehicles.

Racing giant McLaren added a few 3D printed components to its 2017 MCL32 race car, but these included hidden-away (and, crucially, not round) parts like a hydraulic line bracket and brake cooling ducts.

Even radical innovators like Divergent 3D have avoided wheels: Kevin Czinger’s much-hyped startup uses 3D printed aluminum “nodes” which connect the carbon fiber tubes of the Blade supercar’s chassis.

Fortunately for Russia, there is at least some precedent for the development of 3D printed wheels—in 3D printed RC cars. How different can it be?

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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