2014 debut for Sumitomo’s ‘ultra pure’ tyres
Sumitomo Rubber Industries’ recent development of a highly purified form of natural rubber may take on tyre form as early as next year. The Japanese manufacturer says it plans to utilise its UPNR (Ultra Pure Natural Rubber) in several tyres, starting with new ranges scheduled for launch in 2014.
“With the recent rise in global environmental awareness, there is now an increasing demand for more fuel-efficient, resource-saving tyres,” wrote Sumitomo in a statement announcing the successful development of UPNR. “In order to respond to this demand while also striving to ensure greater safety and peace of mind, it is becoming increasingly important to develop new, high-performance rubber-based materials to improve tyre grip performance even further.”
A stepping stone on the path to UPNR was the 2011 development of ‘4D Nano Design’, a new material development technology that Sumitomo says enabled it to “freely control material properties through advanced material simulation,” thereby allowing it to accurately recreate and analyse the behaviour of molecules at a nano scale. This technology has, incidentally, already been applied in the development of new materials that employ synthetic rubber, silica and carbon black, including materials used in the company’s Enasave Premium, Winter Maxx and SP688 tyre ranges.
By applying 4D Nano Design to improving natural rubber, a material that (according to figures from the Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers Association) accounts for 28.2 per cent of a tyre’s material mass, Sumitomo Rubber says it has “learned that thoroughly removing the impurities inherent in natural rubber not only improves tyre durability and wear resistance thanks to the increased bonding between rubber molecules and carbon black, but also contributes to improved tyre fuel-efficiency performance by increasing the interaction between the rubber and carbon black, thereby enhancing the dispersion of carbon black at the microscopic level.” Yet removing these impurities is reported to have been problematic, as the process also removes the components that protect rubber molecules and in doing so makes the rubber more prone to deterioration when exposed to the kind of heat experienced in the tyre production process.
With the development of UPNR, Sumitomo Rubber claims to have successfully tackled the deterioration problem. The tyre maker describes UPNR as an “entirely new, highly purified form of natural rubber that combines both superior fuel efficiency and highly durable wear resistance.”
Sumitomo Rubber Industries is currently constructing a UPNR production plant in Thailand.