Editorial Feature

Michelin Unveils 3D-Printed Biodegradable Concept Tire

At Michelin's International Movin' On transportation summit, the French tire maker introduced a new concept tire that is airless, biodegradable and made with a 3D printer.

Made from waste materials like cardboard, molasses and orange peels, the VISION tire’s most compelling design aspect is the capacity to change its treads quickly and “recharge” the treads via 3D printing. This would allow for road treads to be converted into off-road treads or winter tires, and vice versa. The VISION tires also have sensors that permit drivers to track tire performance via an in-car application.

Unfortunately, the tire is still in the concept stage and Michelin said it likely won’t be available for at least a decade.

It’s a very realistic dream. All the components are currently the topics of active research programs at Michelin and we can deliver on those solutions.

Terry Gettys, Executive Vice-President, Research and Development with Michelin Group

According to a gif released by the French tire company, 3D printing of treads could be done roadside and with the tap of a console touchscreen. Michelins said tread would be reprinted with “just the right amount of rubber” at ‘Print&Go’ stations. In theory, owners would book recharge appointments at these stations with a mobile phone or in-car app.

In addition to adjustable treads, the concept tire also features an alveolar, or honeycombed, structure that literally takes the air out the tires. Instead of being inflated, the VISION tire has an “interior architecture capable of supporting the vehicle,” Michelin said. This would eliminate problems like tire blowouts and pressure loss via small punctures. The complex geometry of the concept tire appeared to suggest that it was also created via 3D printing.

Mostapha El-Oulhani, who led the VISION project, said the tire, “is a showcase of our expertise as well as a promise of the future.”

That future, according to Michelin, includes an airless tire that is 3D printed from biodegradable materials, features a rechargeable tread and has connectivity.

We wanted VISION to be realistic since no purpose is served by designing objects or services that we know pertinently are unrealistic. On the contrary, VISION is possible since it is based on R&D know-how and we can already see the future applications, on which the Group is now working. It’s a promise that is within reach.

Mostapha El-Oulhani, Leader of the VISION project

The new Michelin concept comes after Goodyear announced a 3D-printed concept tire last year that foregoes the traditional disc-shaped tire design in favour of a spherical tire. Inspired by brain coral, the Eagle-360 tire would allow for a 360-degree range on lateral motion, as the name suggests. The bizarre tire also featured a “natural sponge” texture, “which stiffens when dry yet softens when wet to deliver adequate driving performance and aquaplaning resistance” and “absorbs water on the road and ejects water from the tire footprint through centrifugal force,” Goodyear said in a statement.

Instead of being mounted on axles, the tire would be suspended using the same type of magnetic levitation technology used in Maglev trains. In addition to not relying on mechanical parts, which means less wear and tear, the tires would also offer a smoother ride, according to Goodyear.

Like the VISION TIRE, the Eagle-360 tire would also feature sensors to allow a driver to monitor tread wear. The Goodyear sensors would also monitor road conditions with an eye toward optimizing safety.

Also, like the VISION tire, the Eagle-360 tire is based mostly in existing technology, but consumers shouldn't’t expect to see either one on store shelves any time soon.

Want to find out more about 3-D Printing? Request more information here.

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