KOBE, Japan (May 12)—Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. has developed and put into operation a cell-based tire production system that integrates the manufacturing process from component preparation to tire curing. Dubbed Taiyo—Japanese for sun—the new system produces tires with no measurable joints, a development Sumitomo claims results in a 50-percent improvement in high-speed uniformity while also improving plant flexibility. Development of the first-stage prototype, which integrated the component preparation stages, dates back to 1996, Sumitomo said, with initial production of passenger tires starting in 2000 at the firm's Nagoya, Japan, plant. Curing then was integrated and the first complete Taiyo cell began operation in July 2002 at the Shirakawa, Japan, plant. Sumitomo is installing a second cell at Shirakawa and a third cell, dedicated to sport utility vehicle and run-flat tires, is earmarked for the Izumi-Ohtsu, Japan, plant of Sumitomo´s Ohtsu Tire unit by June.