Bridgestone South Africa

Bridgestone Waxes Lyrical Over Tyre Engineering

Jan 15, 2015

Tyres rarely attract the attention of the public. But their postcard-sized contact patches are the only part of the vehicle that is in contact with the road, and contain some of the most advanced engineering on a modern vehicle. This is the word from Bridgestone's General Manager for Field Engineering and Technical Services, Hiroshi Nakanishi. "People are amazed when they learn what it takes to design and manufacture a tyre," he commented.

Some facts about tyres are well known - for instance, that the purpose of tread on tyres is to disperse water when driving on wet roads. But few people know that the tread pattern also influences tyre noise levels. "Tyres designed many years ago were a lot noisier than modern tyres," Nakanishi explained. "Detailed research has gone into optimising the tread pattern so that it creates less noise."

A new tyre can take as long to design as the vehicle to which it will eventually be fitted. Much of this time is used to fine-tune the chemical composition of the materials that go into a tyre. "This is an ongoing area of research. The new generation of fuel-saving tyres, like Bridgestone's Ecopia, required major advances in structural and chemical engineering to reduce rolling resistance without compromising roadholding," Nakanishi said. "Dozens of different materials go into each tyre, and the development engineers have to ensure that they will remain compatible with each-other over the expected life of the tyre."

And once the new tyre is designed, the manufacturing process is as painstaking as the research and development. Tyres are constructed of multiple layers of different materials such as steel, textiles and rubbers, all of which must each be perfectly sized and aligned. "The slightest manufacturing error can ruin a tyre," Nakanishi explained. "Quality control has to be at the highest level, especially when mixing the various chemicals needed to produce the rubber compound. "

The tyre assembly process creates what is known as a 'green tyre' - a fully-assembled tyre body which is then subjected to high heat and pressure in a tyre mould. It's at this time that the green tyre is formed into the finished product, complete with tread pattern and sidewall markings. Exhaustive quality control is conducted on each tyre afterwards, including X-raying the tyre and checking that it is properly balanced. "When a tyre is spinning at its maximum rated speed, even a slight imbalance will result in an unacceptable ride," Nakanishi commented.

He said that tyres are among the most complex and precision-manufactured components on modern vehicles. "In the early days of motoring, roads were poor and tyre technology was in its infancy too. Motorists often took several spare tyres on long journeys," he explained. "But nowadays, it is very rare for a tyre to fail due to a manufacturing fault. The majority of tyre failures arise from poor road conditions or inadequate tyre care," he concluded.

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Bridgestone South Africa

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