Automotive

Michelin opens first plant dedicated to production of airless tires

Michelin opens first plant ded...
Michelin has announced the opening of its newest North American plant, which it says is the first in the world dedicated to the manufacture of airless tires
Michelin has announced the opening of its newest North American plant, which it says is the first in the world dedicated to the manufacture of airless tires
View 8 Images
Skid Steer vehicle equipped with Tweels
1/8
Skid Steer vehicle equipped with Tweels
Tweels on hard surface
2/8
Tweels on hard surface
Michelin X Tweel SSL
3/8
Michelin X Tweel SSL
Tweel on mower
4/8
Tweel on mower
The Tweel is currently aimed at commercial and agricultural vehicles
5/8
The Tweel is currently aimed at commercial and agricultural vehicles
Michelin has announced the opening of its newest North American plant, which it says is the first in the world dedicated to the manufacture of airless tires
6/8
Michelin has announced the opening of its newest North American plant, which it says is the first in the world dedicated to the manufacture of airless tires
Diagram showing how the Tweel works
7/8
Diagram showing how the Tweel works
Diagram of the Tweel
8/8
Diagram of the Tweel

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.

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.

Diagram of the Tweel
Diagram of the Tweel

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.

Source: Michelin via The Telegraph

Michelin Tweel Plant Announcement

18 comments
TheSplund
I could be wrong, and probably am, but are they using the term 'radial' in a different way to what has been previously understood ? (ie radial or cross-ply?) Whatever, it's very interesting
mhpr262
Excellent bit of technology. It could really reduce the numbers of tires that are thrown away each year because of a puncture. I can see it causing problems though when you want to travel at high speed after you have driven through a puddle of mud and one half of the wheel is still loaded up with goo. The vibrations will shake you off the driver's seat. Also, can stones become wedged between the "spokes"?
fb36
Current airless tire designs a step in the right direction but best solution would be to invent a new light elastic material that can be filled into existing tires to permanently replace the air. There are high tech materials called "airgel" which I think someday they maybe used to replace air in car tires.
Mirmillion
Agree with fb36. Open sidewall design invites tire balance issues which will become only too obvious at speeds greater than 30 Mph. Anything (mud, leaves, a stick or a mouse) caught between the spokes will tend to screw up the works. Suggest this design incorporate a sloping surface starting at the longitudinal center-point where the spokes meet the outer wheel. This would tend to shed debris as the wheel turns, even if that debris where hardened mud, sand or other material. Its either that or prepare for a lot of F1-style swerving; in this case to rid the tires of junk rather than warming them up.
f8lee
I imagine the reason Michelin is aiming these tires at the agricultural and industrial arenas is that the vehicles in those worlds don't go very fast (precluding the need to worry about stuff getting stuck between the 'spokes" and dangerously throwing the tire out of balance at high speeds). Perhaps a future version to be used on cars and similarly faster machines will have some kind of flexible skin covering the "sidewall" area to prevent debris from entering that space altogether.
Ormond Otvos
"business segments within the low-speed application category" Perfect for rental construction equipment such as skid-steer loaders, etc. Long way to go to high speed private cars. Might be adaptable to busses with the mods mentioned above. I live the angled interior slope.
Gregg Eshelman
They've had vibration and noise problems in high speed testing. That's easy to fix by splitting the spokes left and right then slightly varying the spoke spacing. It's the same thing they do with the tread blocks to prevent harmonic vibrations at various speeds.
Frank Moores
Being in a an agricultural environment, I have severe reservations on these tires. They look like they would fill with mud and debris quickly, removing any displacement effect and making a very difficult situation with the changes of temperature that are a fact of life for most of us. I don't like flats, but I don't like being stuck or frozen either. I think a semipermeable, aramid membrane on the open side surfaces would be a good idea. Let's face it. These aren't going to cheap anyways
Steve Rock
You could easily block off the sides and let the air move between divisions internally, problem solved!
Martin Winlow
Anyone care to offer an opinion as to the relative rolling resistance of these compared with LRR conventional tyres?