Engineers at Ford have developed 3D-printed locking wheel nuts to help prevent thefts.

The unique solution uses biometric identification, namely the driver’s voice, as the key to the locking wheel nuts.

To create the locking wheel nuts, engineers record the driver’s voice for a minimum of one second, before using software to convert that soundwave into a physical, printable pattern which is then turned into a circle and used as the design for the locking nut’s indentation and key.

Raphael Koch, research engineer in advanced materials and processes, Ford of Europe, said: “It’s one of the worst experiences for a driver, to find their car up on blocks with all four wheels gone.

“Some alloy wheels can cost thousands to replace, but these unique rim nuts will stop thieves in their tracks.”

The design, which was developed with EOS, a leading supplier in the 3D printing industry, also includes second level security features that stop 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 maxing a wax imprint of the pattern because the wax would break when it’s pulled from the nut.

If the driver’s voice isn’t used to create the contours, the nuts could feature designs specific to a car – the Mustang logo or the driver’s initials, for example.

Koch added: “Making wheels more secure and offering more product personalisation are further proof that 3D printing is a game-changer for car production.”