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HRE’s second-generation 3D-printed titanium wheels are still cool and complex

Somehow, they're even lighter than before.

HRE Wheels

HRE builds some amazing aftermarket wheels, and last year, the company blew minds when it unveiled a set of concept wheels made from 3D-printed titanium. Now, HRE is back at it with a second-generation wheel that, almost magically, found plenty of room for improvement.

HRE on Tuesday unveiled the second-generation HRE3D+ set of wheels. While the design is more or less the same, it's the underlying processes that have been improved, resulting in wheels that are somehow lighter while also cutting down on the amount of waste material generated during the printing process.

Like its first set, HRE relied on the help of GE Additive, which developed the Direct Metal Laser Melting 3D printing process. The process, which is just as cool as the name belies, uses lasers to melt titanium powder in ever-growing layers. But it also uses a second process, Electron Beam Melting, which utilizes a beam of electrons in a vacuum to heat and join raw metals. The parts are then put into post processing, where CNC machines drill bolt holes and fine-tune various surfaces.

The second-gen HRE3D+ wheels are lighter and less wasteful than before. HRE says that it's reduced material waste from 80% of the raw material's weight to just 5%. At the same time, whereas the first-gen wheels weighed 20 and 23 pounds in respective 20- and 21-inch sizes, those same wheels now weigh just 16 and 19 pounds, respectively. The lighter the wheel, the less effort needs to be expended to get them to turn, improving agility in all directions by reducing unsprung mass.

The result is a design unlike anything the aftermarket offers. Using 3D printing allows HRE to create an impossibly intricate set of wheels, with spokes running through other spokes. The wheel faces are bolted to a carbon-fiber barrel using titanium fasteners, just about the lightest stuff you can use in a wheel today.

HRE's wheels are merely concepts for now, as the process to make the a set of HRE3D+ is likely prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, as improvements continually stack up, perhaps cost can drop enough for them to be feasible aftermarket upgrades. For now, you can see these wheels in person at the RAPID + TCT additive-manufacturing trade show in Detroit from May 21 to 23.