A punctured tire is the definition of a bad day, but Michelin is taking some of the sting out as it announces the opening of its newest North American plant, which the company says is the first in the world dedicated to the manufacture of airless tires called "Tweels". The US$50 million plant will be used to make the Michelin X Tweel Airless Radial Tire and others for commercial and agricultural applications.
The Tweel is a combined tire and wheel that was introduced by Michelin as a concept in 2005. It consists of a molded-tread rubber band similar to that of a conventional tire mounted on a steel shear beam that acts as a contact patch. Between this and the hub is a series of energy-absorbing polyurethane spokes connected to an inner rim structure, which can be adjusted based on the expected loads with the tread also able to be customized.
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According to Michelin, the Tweel lasts three times as long as conventional tires. Unlike conventional tires, the tread can be replaced without having to replace the entire unit, so there is less waste of material. In addition, since the design doesn't need to retain air, it can be made to shed water quickly, which reduces hydroplaning. The company says that the Tweel is easy to install, damage resistant, and provides increased operator comfort.
Currently, Michelin is aiming its advanced airless radial tire at the agricultural and construction markets, which suffer from significant downtimes from punctures. However, the performance of the Tweel indicates that it has applications in many other fields.
"Differentiating us from competitors, the Tweel airless radial tire is the industry’s first commercialized airless radial solution and verifies Michelin’s leadership for the next generation of mobility," says Ralph Dimenna, head of Michelin Tweel Technologies. "The Tweel airless radial tire enables Michelin to enter new markets and expand its reach in existing business segments within the low-speed application category. The industry is hungry for solutions contributing to productivity, safety and bottom lines."
The video below shows Michelin announcing the opening the new plant.