Triangle-hosted tyre lab an “open platform” for innovation in China
According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, last year the country spent RMB 861 billion (£85.7 billion) on research and development, a figure equal to 1.83 per cent of its gross domestic product. One area of investment was work towards establishing around 100 ‘National Engineering Laboratories’ that will specialise in facilitating innovation in a range of industries. The interests of China’s tyre industry will be served by a dedicated laboratory, and in August 2011 China’s government appointed the Triangle Group the host company for a joint-funded facility, the National Engineering Laboratory for Radial Tire Design and Manufacturing Technologies (NEL). At the Triangle Group’s 2012 Global Automotive and Tire Industry Forum & Business Summit, held in Beijing on 11 April, NEL associate director Harry Gong explained the laboratory’s purpose in greater detail.
“We are very proud that our lab, the National Engineering Laboratory for Radial Tire Design and Manufacturing Technologies, is the only one for the tyre industry in this nation,” Gong told summit delegates. “Triangle was chosen by the national government last year to build this laboratory. And the lab has been charged with the task of technology innovation for the tyre industry in China, and it will formulate technical requirements for tyre manufacturing and products in China as well.”
Gong stressed that the NEL is an “open platform” for innovation within the tyre and rubber sector, and as such is available for use by all Chinese tyre makers. He added that some of the test equipment installed in the NEL is “not found anywhere else” in the world. “We are going to have an advanced lab with advanced test equipment that is going to meet the long-term needs for innovation in tyre technology and product innovation,” Gong continued. “The needs here are not just Triangle’s needs but the national industrial needs, and we are going to have a world-class research teams working on projects that will advance the state of the art in tyre manufacturing, compounding, design and tyre performance – all tyre-related technologies.”
The NEL associate director then outlined the ongoing research projects already being conducted at the centre: “One of them is energy saving mixing processes – we have been working on that and continuing to improve the energy efficiency of the mixing process. Secondly, we are continuously working on green compounding technology for reducing rolling resistance and improving the fuel efficiency of the tyre. Thirdly, we are working out a new manufacturing process for new inner liner materials, which will improve air permeability and prolong tyre life. We are also working on the simulation of manufacturing processes so that we can optimise these processes and improve tyre quality. Next, we are working on computer-aided tyre design and development technology with an emphasis on performance prediction and optimisation, so that we can reduce the product development cycle and bring new products into the market faster and better.”
The upshot of all this research, Gong stated, is that Triangle and other Chinese tyre makers will be better able to manufacture “high performance, high quality tyre products,” while at the same time placing a greater emphasis on the environment. Summing up Triangle’s role in the project, the associate director declared that the choice of this particular tyre maker to host the NEL serves as evidence that Triangle is the “recognised leader of the Chinese tyre industry.”