Airless tyres for commercial vehicles

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An airless tyre developed by Michelin could push pneumatic tyres down the road to extinction. Not as early as many would think, the journey of pneumatic tyres will also depend on how successful products like the ‘tweel’ are. An airless tyre developed by Michelin, ‘tweel’, according to Pete Selleck, president of Michelin North America, is an airless tyre and wheel combination. Michelin recently commissioned a plant to produce airless tyres in South Carolina, USA. First plant in the history of tyre making, that is dedicated to the production of airless radial tyres according to Selleck, the ‘tweel’ will be marketed as a replacement for conventional tyres on lawn movers and off-road industrial vehicles. Aimed at commercial vehicles thus, and those that are more prone to punctures than automobile tyres, ‘tweel’ was born out of the an idea first conceived by Michelin research engineers in the USA.

Changing the configuration of a conventional tyre, bringing together the tyre and the wheel assembly into one solid unit, the ‘tweel’ comprises of a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit. It has no air, thereby solving what had seemed to be the unavoidable challenge of chronic flat tyres that plagues the landscape, construction, contracting, refuse and recycling and agricultural industries. Highlighting Michelin’s long-standing commitment to breakthrough innovation according to Selleck, the ‘tweel’ was born at Michelin Americas Research Company in Greenville, South Carolina, which is one of Michelin’s three global technology centers, as a concept. The same site was also chosen for its manufacture in order to satisfy a growing commercial market. The new plant at the site gives Michelin the ability to boost output of its award-winning Michelin X Tweel SSL skid-steer tyres and begin production of the new Michelin X Tweel Turf as original equipment for John Deere to equip its Ztrak 900 Series line-up of zero-turn commercial mowers.

Originally introduced as a concept at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, the X Tweel makes Michelin’s highly advanced airless radial tyre and is claimed to be the only commercial product available to offer the advantages of no maintenance, no compromise and no downtime. With the capability to perform with traditional radial tyre technology, which requires no air, thereby eliminating the risk of a ‘flat’, the ‘tweel’, said Ralph Dimenna, head of Michelin Tweel Technologies, “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. Serving our customers is at the center of our strategy for success.”