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Friday June 23rd 2017

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Airless tires

Not new

It was in 2005 when Michelin first presented the Tweel (comes from Tire and Wheel). It was a breakthrough non-pneumatic concept. It promised to be maintenance free, puncture-proof, easy to mount/dismount and with a longer service life than a pneumatic radial tire. The Tweel was made up of a rubber tread bonded to the hub through flexible spokes.

The first designs of the Tweel where focused on the earthmover industry. So, low speed applications. The key point of this innovative tire were that because it had no air pressure in it, it could never puncture and therefore there were no loss in productivity. Performance was also expected to be better than an inflated tire. Vibration and shock absorption were also improved. The idea of the Tweel is so breakthrough that Michelin has won several prizes thanks to it.

The handling characteristics of the Tweel can be adjusted. More pliant spokes result in a more comfortable ride with improved handling. The lateral stiffness of the Tweel is also adjustable. However, you can’t adjust a Tweel once it has been manufactured. You’ll have to select a different one.

But what about the car applications?

Michelin has also been working in car applications. In 2008 Michelin reported that during their high speed tests, the prototype Tweel was within five percent of the rolling resistance and mass levels of current pneumatic tires. That means a slight reduction in fuel consumption.

But the Tweel has some serious flaws. The worst is vibration and all that comes with it. Above 80km/h the Tweel vibrates considerably. This vibration causes noise and heat. And it could even cause mechanic failure for some structural elements of the car.

Another problem is the industry. The fabrication process of a Tweel is quite different from the one for a radial tire. Serious changes would need to be made to the production factories. Also the tire balancing and mounting machines that are used nowadays all over the world will need to be replaced.

Because all this drawbacks Michelin is not planning to roll out the Tweel any time soon. They will be investing on low speed and military applications by now.

Michelin is not the only one on this game

Other companies such as Resilient Technologies and ERW are also working on similar designs.  Resilient Technologies only works for military applications.

We can only wait

In a press report Michelin  said that possibly in the next decade new technology advances will make the Tweel suitable for high speed applications.

Some interesting videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmL2LCb6q7Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmL2LCb6q7Y

References:

http://www.michelin.com/corporate/actualites/en/actu_affich.jsp?id=13730&codeRubrique=58&lang=EN

http://www.michelin.com/corporate/actualites/en/actu_affich.jsp?id=17448&codeRubrique=58&lang=EN

http://www.michelin.com/corporate/finances/en/fin_affich_com.jsp?id=17450&codeRubrique=63&lang=EN

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/27/eveningnews/main669888.shtml?tag=currentVideoInfo;videoMetaInfo

http://www.resilienttech.com/

http://www.energyreturnwheel.com/

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