Rubber Journal Asia Tyre Sector
Living on the edge with airless tyres No-flat tyres were almost inconceivable
Cradle-to-cradle materials Airless tyres, which can be manufactured by 3D printing, do not rely solely on rubbers, unlike a typical pneumatic tyre that is comprised of about 47% rubber. Moreover, aside from plastics, many other materials can be potentially used in manufacturing airless tyres, including paper, wood, recycled rubber and electronic scraps. Current designs utilise recycled rubber and organic compounds. Such is the case in French tyre maker Michelin’s Vision airless tyre, an advanced version of its X Tweel airless radial that debuted in 2014. The former is described as “an innovation inspired by nature”, and fits into the company’s sustainable mobility vision and circular economy strategy.
with the proliferation of the ubiquitous pneumatic tyres. However, with the
advent of airless tyres, the landscape of
the tyre sector could soon change to create sustainable and safer driving conditions, says Angelica Buan.
he condition of car tyres is critical in safe driving. Lack of air pressure in tyres due to punctures, incorrect internal pressures, tread separation and other reasons, could result in tyre blowouts, which could be injurious, and at high speeds, be fatal. Each year the US has about 78,000 crashes and over 400 fatalities related to tyre blowouts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Globally, the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) estimates that nearly 4,000 people are killed in road traffic crashes that are also due to various vehicle issues. By 2030, the CDC predicts that road traffic injuries will become the seventh leading cause of death around the world. Tyre blowouts can be prevented by always checking the health of tyres, which can be cumbersome at times. Nevertheless, new tyre technologies, particularly the airless tyres, may provide a hassle-free, blowout-proof solution.
Michelin’s Vision airless tyre is rolled with biodegradable components like food scraps, wood, molasses and other biosourced materials
Biosourced and biodegradable, the materials used in Vision include natural rubber, food scraps, bamboo, metal, wood and molasses. The synthetic rubber is produced from ethanol derived from molasses sugar, making the Vision tyre recyclable as a single unit at the end of its life. Launched in 2017, Vision is claimed to be the world’s first tyre that recharges, meaning that with the aid of 3D printers, treads can be customised to fit the needs of the user. Equipped with sensors, Vision provides real time information about its condition. Using Michelin’s mobile app, it is also possible to simply make an appointment to change the tyre’s destination, depending on the user’s needs. In a related development, it can be recalled that environmentally-friendly materials were also worked in Bridgestone’s “Air Free” tyre concept, which it introduced in 2011, with the aim to make it commercially feasible.
Airless tyres: a new concept So what exactly are airless tyres? India-headquartered market analyst Insight Partners describes the tyres as “non-pneumatic tyres, which are generally not supported by air pressure”. At first glance, the airless tyre looks odd, especially if your idea of a tyre is limited to the air-filled doughnutshaped rubber tyre. Leading tyre makers such as Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear, Kumho, Sumitomo, and several others are developing airless tyre designs based on a spoked or honeycomb structure. The design calls for usage of plastics more than rubber. In fact, according to a report by Global Market Insights (GMI), plastics will account for a 65% share of the global airless tyre market volume from 2017-2024. Plastics make the airless tyres more recyclable, light weight, design flexible and cost effective.
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