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Fastest wheels in history

Engineering News
Thursday, 17 April, 2014

Yesterday passed in a blur of activity here at the BLOODHOUND Technical Centre but was actually a critical milestone day for the entire project - by Commercial and Product Sponsorship Lead, Conor La Grue.

In a box made by Bampton Packaging and hauled by Arthur Spriggs & Sons from Glasgow to Bristol was the spin test wheel, which, providing the forthcoming spin test goes well this will also be the first wheel of the first set that will run on the car at Hakskeen pan in summer 2015.

It was August 2008 that I first sat down with Mechanical Engineering Lead Brian Coombs to talk about ideas for the wheel design and manufacture. The challenge to make the fastest wheel in history, one that would rotate at 10,200rpm, that is 170 times per second, generating 50,000 radial g!  We considered a dished titanium wheel,  a composite wheel  and even a complex metal matrix! All kinds of wild designs were investigated before we arrived at the solution of a forged wheel using 7037 Aluminium.

How did we develop the spin test wheel? Answer, its been a long and complex road with some amazing partners supporting us on the way.

Huge design effort over many years supported by Lockheed Martin and Innoval Technology with a Hakskeen Pan desert test programme to validate that design supported by Alimex who produced the two original test wheels and special thanks to Skip and his team in South Africa

6 tonnes of pure liquid aluminium were delivered by Trimet to Otto Fuchs KG.

The Otto Fuchs team used this to cast cylinders of 7037 material.

They then heated these and then open die hand forged the cast cylinders into cheese-like shapes of forged material at 3600 tonnes.

These were then rough machined, heat treated and cold compressed at 20,000 tonnes with rigorous inspections at every stage.

The ‘cheese’ was then hand delivered to Castle Precision by the Top Gear magazine team, thanks guys!

Once we released our final wheel design, Castle then machined the wheel -  First validating every cutting operation on test wheel, the plate material provided by Metalweb to check the cutting programme -  you can see this display wheel at shows now.

This first real wheel then went to Abbey Metal Finishing Company (AMFIN) for a non-destructive testing inspection.


The next stage is the wheel spin test to validate the design and the behaviour against the FEA (Finite Element Analysis) ensuring the wheel we have produced behaves the same in the physical world as the design did in the virtual world of Stress Engineer Roland Dennison’s computer - our friends at Rolls-Royce, Derby will be spinning the wheel on a rig that is more often used to validate jet engine blade designs.

The team at Rolls-Royce will add their test shaft to the hub adapter and wheel and then Wilkinson Dynamic Balancing  will balance the whole assembly ready to spin.

We haven't shot peened this wheel and to enable better thermal monitoring on the rig, it's not anodised either. Provided the test goes well, the wheel will then go to the Metal Improvement Company for shot peening and then back to Amfin for anodising; it will then be wheel #1 of the first set of four that we use on the desert next summer.

Huge thanks go to the following partners and sponsors:

  • Castle Precision Engineering for the wheel machining and for being the awesome syndicate leader
  • Lockheed Martin for their design expertise
  • Innoval Technology for material expertise
  • Altair Engineering for their Hyperworks FEA software
  • Siemens PLM for the Unigraphics design software
  • INTEL for the design environment equipment.
  • Alimex for the original desert test wheels to validate Brian's design
  • Skip and his team for enabling the South African wheel tests
  • Trimet - for the pure liquid Ali material
  • Otto Fuchs for the casting and forging
  • Wheel Dynamic Balancing Ltd for the Balancing operations
  • Metal Improvement Company for the shot peening
  • Micro Epsilon for providing the spin test sensors
  • AMFIN for the anodising
  • Metalweb for the plate material
  • Rolls-Royce for the spin test resource and design expertise
  • Bampton Packaging for their fantastic  bespoke boxes at every stage of the wheel programme
  • Arthur Spriggs & Sons for transporting the wheel materials and the wheels all over the UK and Europe.
  • All World Freight for shipping the desert test wheels to and from South Africa
  • And finally to Top Gear for the express delivery of the first forging from Germany to Glasgow.

You are all amazing and without you we wouldn't have reached this vital stage in the design, manufacturing and assembly of the worlds most advanced land based vehicle.