Industry innovators honoured at Tire Technology awards
Tomorrow’s tyre industry is not only shaped by external influences such as legislation and growing environmental awareness; the tyres we will drive on in future are today’s breakthrough developments. Each year the most outstanding of the previous 12 months’ crop of innovations are acknowledged by the Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence. This year’s awards ceremony was held on the evening of 15 February in connection with the Cologne, Germany-based Tire Technology Expo. Five winners were chosen by the 21-member industry panel – Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, Rhein Chemie and Environmental Waste International.
Bridgestone Corporation scooped the Tire Technology of the Year Award for its Contact Area Information Sensing (CAIS); a system that Bridgestone says can provide real-time road surface condition information to the driver by way of a sensor within the tyre tread that detects vibrations and wirelessly sends information to the vehicle’s analytical equipment. In doing so it classifies the current state of the road surface is then classified into seven conditions – dry, semi-dry, wet, slush, fresh snow, compact snow, and ice. This information is then transmitted directly to the driver via an in-car display. “This technology from Bridgestone really impressed us”, said Adam Gavine, Editor of Tire Technology magazine. “It’s an ultra high-technology development which can potentially make a genuine contribution to road safety.”
The Manufacturer of the Year Award went to Michelin in 2012 in recognition for a year that saw massive internal investment and the development of significant new partnerships with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Amyris Inc; the first of these is focused on developing new actions to foster safer and more sustainable mobility through motorsport technology, while the second centres on a collaboration in the development and commercialisation of renewable isoprene. Under the agreement, Amyris and Michelin will partner financially and with resources to develop Amyris’s technology for producing isoprene from renewable feedstocks. Amyris expects to begin commercialising this isoprene in 2015 for use in tyre and other speciality chemical applications. In terms of investment, during the course of last year Michelin directed US$200 million towards its Lexington facility in the US to further expand capacity, while an additional $50 million was spent in the US upgrading equipment and expanding capacity at the Fort Wayne BFGoodrich Tire manufacturing facility. Additionally, a 100 million euros was spent upgrading Michelin’s global research and development centre in Ladoux, France.
Environmental Waste International won the Environmental Achievement of the Year award for developing a recycling technology that provides an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional tyre recycling methods. The company’s new high-tech facility utilises Reverse Polymerization (RP) technology, which uses microwaves to extract a tyre’s oil, along with other valuable by-products, and produces no emissions. Running at a planned recycling rate of about 300,000 tyres per year, the plant is expected to produce 240,000 US gallons (908,500 litres) of oil, two million pounds (907 tonnes) of carbon black and 600,000 pounds (272 tonnes) of steel annually. In addition, off-gases produced by the system are used to co-generate electricity that allows it to be energy self-sufficient.
The Tire Manufacturing Innovation Award went to Goodyear for its Retread Multi-Piece Cushion, a multi-layered, concentric extrusion process that overcomes the traditional cushion disadvantages of short shelf life and limitations in the number of chemicals that can be used with the material. Explaining Goodyear’s development, Jay Hofner, general manager, retread, for Goodyear’s North American Tire business said the Multi-Piece Cushion contains three distinct layers: “One of these layers is a barrier extending the product’s shelf life,” he said. He noted that the other layers consist of carefully selected ingredients that, when mixed together, complete the curing package. Goodyear’s Multi-Piece Cushion is heat-resistant, eliminating the need for refrigeration.
Tire Industry Supplier of the Year went to Rhein Chemie Rheinau, which expanded its product portfolio in 2011 through the acquisition of two businesses from Flexsys Ameri ca L.P., a subsidiary of Solutia Inc. Rhein Chemie is also taking over the Vocol and Santoweb product lines, which strengthens its expertise in high-quality dithiophosphate accelerators and pre-dispersed polymer-bound fibres, enabling it to expand its service spectrum for rubber processor. Today, Rhein Chemie is the only global player offering both curing bladders and release agents for the manufacturing of tyres.
The organiser of Tire Technology Expo 2012, UKIP Media & Events Ltd, says this year’s exhibition in Cologne has so far been a bigger event than ever before; the show closes this afternoon.