The history of the modern tyre began with a bad headache. It was 1888 in Belfast, and on the rough cobbled surface of May Street, a young boy was prescribed cycling as a cure for his recurrent headaches. His father, John Boyd Dunlop, was a successful veterinarian, and it did not take long for him to see that the doctor`s prescription was counter-productive. The solid rubber tyres of the boy`s tricycle made for a jarring ride. This was also the reason that the very first bicycles were once nicknamed “bone-shakers”, but on this day, as he watched his young son bang and bounce across the street, Dunlop had a revolutionary idea.
Using a sheet of rubber that covered his operating table, he cut the material into strips and then sewed them into a long tube which he then glued together. He wrapped the strips of canvas around it and then sealed the surface with liquid rubber and pumped it with air. Thus, the first pneumatic tyre was born. Just a year later, the speed and efficiency of Dunlop`s tyre was confirmed when the Irish cyclist, Willie Hume, used it to win two different races, presumably headache-free.The Guinness World Record of tyres
Since 1888, the tyre industry has expanded to over 900 tyre factories around the world. In 2015, nearly 170 million tyres were manufactured in the US alone. Surprisingly, the world`s largest tyre manufacturer, recognised by the Guinness World Records, remains the Lego group, who produced over 318 million toy tyres in 2011.
Despite these staggering numbers, most of us still don`t think much about tyres until we are inconvenienced by one. Hardly anyone thinks about tyres as their life insurance. Even tough they can be exactly that. A tyre’s tread pattern can make the difference between a short or a too long braking distance. Besides that, everyone also knows the headache of having to change a flat tyre on the side of the motorway, but fortunately, with the advance of tyre technology, this is becoming a much less frequent occurrence.
In 1901, just over a decade after Henry Ford had built his first automobile, there were seven thousand car sales, along with 28,000 tyres and in comparison, a staggering 68,000 replacement tyres produced. Due to early road conditions, which were not yet compatible with cars, putting on a spare was simply part of the routine of driving so that many vehicles were equipped with up to four replacement tyres at a time.The belts behind the scenes
As the tyre industry continuously finds new ways to keep drivers rolling safely across the roads, Habasit works globally behind the scenes to provide tyre manufacturers with the right belting at every step of production.
“During the tyre manufacturing process, from beginning to end, there are many different technical requirements because the process begins with raw materials and then ends with a finished tyre,” explains Habasit`s Key Account Manager for the tyre industry, Jens Niepmann. “We have to provide a variety of belts with very different qualities such as being heat-, wear-, hydrolysis-, or chemical-resistant.”The unexpected ingredients of a tyre
Depending on the properties desired, such as low rolling resistance or ultra-high grip, over 200 different ingredients can go into any one tyre from natural and synthetic rubber to carbon black, and silica as well as a large variety of other chemical agents.
In recent years, as the industry has become more aware of its carbon footprint, manufacturers have begun to explore the possibility of using alternative oils to make synthetic rubber, such as canola, orange and sunflower oil. Not only is this a step toward sustainability, but in some cases, it also provides enhanced performance of the tyre. Researchers are also looking into the replacement of expensive reinforcing fillers like carbon black and silica with oils, cellulose fibres or other plant materials. A few more possible ingredients which you might not expect in your tyre are cornstarch, dandelions, walnut shells and wood pulp.The roadside assistance you`ve been waiting for
Whether a tyre consists of flowers or the milky liquid of a rubber tree, the fact remains that the manufacturing process is a sticky and heated one.
“When the rubber first comes out of the mixing process, it can be up to 150-160°C,” explains Jens Niepmann. “It is a very rough and specific environment for the belts, and since there are chemical processes happening in the rubber mix, the properties of the intermediate material are changing even while in transport.”
From fabric and plastic modular belts to wide timing belts, dozens of belts are necessary for the construction of even one tyre. In a large plant, with up to 20,000 tyres being manufactured each day, seamless and efficient processes are required. Even the slightest interruption to production can mean costly drawbacks for the company. Imagine that flat-tyre on the motorway multiplied by 20,000.
This is where Habasit comes to help, not only offering complete solutions for every stage of tyre production, but also providing a unique product, which is the kind of roadside assistance the industry has been waiting for. There are numerous timing belts required in a tyre building line. If one belt breaks down, unforeseen downtime is driving costs upwards and production numbers down. If a set of belts needs to be replaced in a line, even in planned maintenance windows, it will mean up to ten hours of downtime, and the labour of four to five employees. And every tyre plant operates multiple lines!Introducing the HabaSYNC® Hinge Joint Mechanical Timing Belt Fastener
In order to minimise such costly downtimes, the Habasit Hinge Joint was developed. This small device is securely positioned within the timing belt. Each end of the joint is connected with a metal pin, which can be easily slipped out, facilitating fast and safe belt assembly. For tyre manufacturers around the world, the product has been proven to make a significant impact in lowering production costs and increasing efficiency.
As we all know, the occasional breakdown, whether on the side of the street or on a tyre production line, is inevitable, but headaches are not. In the tradition of John Boyd Dunlop, Habasit is finding new ways to make a bumpy ride less than bone-shaking. (ST)
Visit our booth at the Tire Technology Expo 2019 in Hannover, Germany from March 5th-7th, 2019. www.tiretechnology-expo.com.