Wednesday, 5 August 2015

US facility will test “real world” tyres

A new state-of-the-art facility for vehicle tyre characterisation will begin operations in 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The facility aims to offer all the advantages of testing “real tyres on real surfaces”, but with the precision, environmental control and repeatability of a laboratory environment.

It will be interesting to see of the work of the new facility, located seven miles from Charlotte Douglas International Airport and in the midst of the region’s growing automotive research and manufacturing cluster, will evaluate remoulded tyres as well as new tyres. Remoulds, which for example are banned from the front axles of trucks, can vary widely in quality and durability.

The new facility is the result of Camber Ridge LLC forming a financial partnership with Teton Capital, LLC of Jackson, Wyoming.

Teton Capital is backing the commercialisation of Camber Ridge’s patented tyre testing and characterisation technologies that promise to deliver “new scientific insights” into tyre performance that are required to serve the automotive industry’s commitments to fuel efficiency, safety and future technologies such as autonomous driving.

Unlike traditional tyre testing laboratories that use stationary test equipment, Camber Ridge will test tyres on a unique indoor test track, a paved 0.5 mile oval, using specially developed test carriages that are propelled along a guide rail system.

Operations will begin with Camber Ridge’s ‘Genesis’ tyre test carriage, a 9,000N capacity force and moment testing rig intended for passenger vehicle and light commercial tyres up to 34 inch diameter and at speeds up to 65 mile/h.

Initial running will be on dry reference surfaces at a controlled ambient temperature but the facility is being designed for phased introductions of additional paved surfaces, water testing and other controlled conditions.

Camber Ridge will be a resource for tyre manufacturers, OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers who need to assess the performance of tyres in relation to vehicles and road surfaces, rather than simply comparing tyre-to-tyre.

Tyre makers like Michelin have their own comprehensive testing facilities but clearly there is scope for further evaluation of the rubber-road interface, the more so as tyres can influence fuel economy as much as road conditions.

“Our approach is to combine the best features of traditional laboratory testing with the best features of proving ground testing, such that tyre measurements are both repeatable and accurate,” states Dr. James F. Cuttino, chief executive officer of Camber Ridge.

                                           Testing remoulds

“We understand that today's vehicle designers are faced with big challenges -- mostly related to regulatory compliance and complex on-board systems -- both of which demand accurate simulation during the product development stage. At the heart of it all is the tyre, the only connection between a car and the road, so our aim is to give engineers access to the best possible information about tyres, information that can reduce uncertainty in simulations an potentially reduce the costs associated with traditional on-road testing. Teton Capital’s funding allows us to implement a number of advanced technologies that have been in the internal R&D stage since 2009,” he adds.

As to remoulds, Cuttino confirms: “Our first test carriage, called Genesis, is able to test all types of tyre including remoulds and commercial vehicle tyres up to 32 inches in size, and apply controlled loads and displacements over a large range.  Our advanced controls and instrumentation will allow us to cover a range of test scenarios, from standard ISO and SAE protocols, to scripted force and moment characterisations, to flat-running rolling resistance assessments, to new tests such as the replication of actual vehicle suspension force and displacement characteristics.”

“We are very excited about Camber Ridge’s future and our partnership together to bring to market an innovative and efficient way to provide the automotive industry with much needed capabilities that will have such an impact on performance, safety, and development costs,” states David Sokol, chief executive officer and chairman of Teton Capital, LLC.

“Since tyres are such an important influence on how cars drive and behave, I believe this could eventually create a paradigm shift in the way modern cars and roadways are designed,” he adds.

REMOULDS (retreads). According to estimates by the US Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau, the number of retread facilities in the US has decreased by half since 1990. Today, the association estimates around 700 retreading plants exist in the US compared to 3,000 in 1990. Yet, TRIB says that the output throughout the years has remained the same.

While output has remained fairly steady during the last 15 years, sales of new medium truck tires have increased sharply – especially in recent years – taking a bigger percentage of the replacement market, according to Ben Rosenblum, product manager at Bridgestone America’s Bandag operation, says that in 2000 retreads were “roughly 55 per cent” of the total replacement medium truck tire market.

The RMA estimates that in 2014 there were 14.6 million retread truck tire units shipped in the US, penetrating 42 per cent of the replacement market. That number has not changed much over the past five years; in 2010, the RMA’s estimate was 14.2 million retread truck tires, carrying 45% of the replacement market.

The cost benefit of retreading is obvious. Tire Review’s 2014 TIRES Study showed the average price for a new 11R22.5 was $448.10, while a retread of that size has an average price of $249.70 – a $198.40 difference. Tire Review says “serious money when you are dealing with thousands of tires”.

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