BERLIN (May 23, 2011)—Michelin has developed self-sealing innerliner technology it expects will become standard on all its tires, beginning in the next two years or so, according to the firm's head of development.
The company believes the innovation has the potential to change the industry in many different ways, according to Patrick Denimal, head of development for Michelin, speaking at the 2011 Challenge Bibendum event in Berlin.
Michelin sees the change eliminating the need for a spare tire or tire-changing equipment on board a car. Another possibility is that consumers in developing parts of the world never will experience the inconvenience associated with a puncture.
The company is evaluating how best to present the benefits of the technology and how to estimate the value to consumers and original equipment customers.
Denimal said the innerliner material is not made from butyl rubber but from another polymer he declined to identify.
“Once we had defined the stiffness and the Shore (hardness of a compound), the design of the material was easy,” he said. Denimal described the polymer as relatively soft and using a filler with a plate-like geometry to reduce the air permeability.
He said the material distorts around any protrusions, thus preventing air loss.
Unlike other systems that claim to seal over a puncture, the Michelin system has no significant drawbacks in service, Denimal said. There is a small weight gain of about a pound for a car tire and a little more for a truck tire, he said, as the innerliner is a bit thicker, but there is no penalty in terms of rolling resistance or tire life.
The main drawback of the system is that the material is relatively difficult to handle during manufacture, Denimal said, as there is less dimensional stability than most other tire components and assembling the new innerliner with the other tire components requires a change to the tire-building equipment.
Before Michelin can introduce the technology on a wide scale, it needs to adapt its tire-building infrastructure, he said.