“The wheels are always in motion here at BigRep, to consistently dream up objects that push the boundaries of design for 3D printing. BigRep Product Designer Marco Mattia Cristofori wanted to develop an object that demonstrated the benefit of 3D printing for industrial use, while also focusing on original, striking design. Introducing, the BigRep wheel rim.
Like BigRep as a company, working at the intersection of design and technology, Cristofori’s wheel rim is a meeting of advanced design and industry.
In preparing for this project, Cristofori looked at wheel rims and hubcaps for vehicles, and thought he could go even further with a design that what you usually see gracing the average car. An alternative to CNC-machining a prototype, he wanted to design the wheel rim prototype for large-scale 3D printing.
Particularly in the US, customization of these kinds of vehicle features is very popular. Prototyping these custom parts is, however, often an expensive, time-consuming process. With 3D printing, it becomes a much easier process to design such automotive prototypes for form checks and molding.
Providing extra stability are the fluid tree-branch-like forms stemming from the center of the wheel. These braces are a functional feature as well as an aesthetic touch, and defy the norm of having just one layer or line on a wheel rim or hubcap. More complex geometries are not possible with CNC and other traditional methods, but with 3D printing there is endless possibility.
“With 3D printing you can prototype organic forms, like with our Terra chair,” said Cristofori. “It allows you to envision more complex shapes, because you don’t really have any limits.”
The dimensions of end-use wheel rims must be perfect, thus 3D prints can be used to verify assembly and final production methods, to adjust little by little in ensuring it is a sublimely accurate fit.
“What we’ve developed here is a true-to-life model that can be powder coated,” Cristofori commented, in speaking about next steps with the design. “We are planning to Meta-Coat one of them, to see how it looks as a more final product with a highly professional effect.”
The team printed the wheel rim on the STUDIO 3D printer, which has a print volume of 500 mm x 1000 mm x 500 mm. Cristofori points out that a similar level of detail and precision is now possible on the BigRep ONE, with the new Power Extruder.
Printed using high-temperature-resistant filament PRO HT, the wheel rim is strong enough to withstand a range of tests. For more complex designs, printing with BigRep’s water-soluble support material PVA is also recommended. While not fully functional as wheel rims (which are usually cast in steel), the same design principles can be applied to hubcaps, which could be printed as end-use parts in plastic and then coated to achieve a metallic effect.”