Sumitomo Rubber using AI to increase whole-life tyre performance

Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. has developed a new technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to estimate the properties of the rubber used in its tyres and also detect the structural changes that occur during use. It calls this technology ‘Tyre Leap AI Analysis’.

In order to look at the properties of rubber and other raw materials used in tyre production and how these may change during use, Tyre Leap AI Analysis examines real-world data on the raw materials. It also examines advanced analytical data on the internal structures of rubber.

Tyre Leap AI Analysis utilises AI-based analysis technology that was jointly developed with Hokkaido University’s Professor Miki Haseyama. The tyre maker intends to use it to accelerate the development of its ‘Performance Sustaining Technology’, a technology that aims to suppress the drop in tyre performance that occurs due to wear and the passage of time. Should it succeed, Sumitomo Rubber will be able to produce tyres that offer new-like performance for a longer period of time.

Sumitomo Rubber notes that the rubber used to make tyres is actually a compound made from many different materials, including polymers (such as natural and synthetic rubber), reinforcing agents (such as carbon black and silica), crosslinking agents and additives. A tyre’s performance depends on numerous interlocking factors related to the proportions of these various materials, the structures that they form in combination and so forth.

The exceedingly complex internal structures of rubber present a challenge. Anyone wishing to analyse them without the assistance of AI will find the process time-consuming and the results lacking in precision. Tyre Leap AI Analysis can analyse electron microscope images of tyre rubber compounds with a level of precision that far exceeds human capabilities. It is thus possible to derive accurate estimates of rubber properties from structural data found in this imagery. Meanwhile, combining data on the individual raw materials contained in a rubber compound with data on its internal structure allows for even more precise estimates of rubber properties. Furthermore, Tyre Leap AI Analysis can detect structural changes that occur during a tyre’s working life by comparing used and unused rubber. This gives this new technology enormous potential for predicting the characteristics of rubber throughout its lifespan.

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