Your Voice Is Now The Key For The New Ford 3D-Printed Lug Nuts

While security systems are improving and making vehicles as a whole harder to steal, thieves are looking to take parts instead, alloy wheels being a good example. The guys at Chevy can attest to that seeing as a new 2020 C8 just had its wheels go missing.

As you may know, a way to deter wheel thieves is to use locking nuts, one on each wheel, which requires a special adapter, or key, to loosen. However, even these are not invulnerable. So to help combat that, Ford is looking to 3D printing.

The automaker has come up with locking nuts which contours based on the driver’s voice. Like an iris scan or a fingerprint, a person’s voice can be used as a unique biometric identification. Engineers record the driver’s voice for a minimum of one second, saying something like “I drive a Ford Mustang”, and use software to convert that singular soundwave into a physical, printable pattern. This pattern is then turned into a circle and used as the design for the locking nut’s indentation and key.

With the geometry in place, the nut and key are designed as one piece, then 3D-printed using acid and corrosion-resistant stainless steel. When they’re finished, the nut and key are separated.

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.

So although this technology is useful in terms of burglary and theft, it presents challenges elsewhere. For example, if someone is borrowing your vehicle and gets a flat, or you take it in to the shop. Obviously, your friend or mechanic won’t have your voice to unlock the lug nut and remove the wheel.