(From the Oct. 1, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
CLEVELAND—Mark Byerley spent more than a little time during the International Tire Exhibition & Conference trying to sell machinery from a van in the parking lot at the IX Center.
That's because the vice president of engineering for BPS Engineering L.L.C. was showing off his firm's BPS XHR (extreme high range) belt and tread drum for tire building machines out of the back of the van the Greenback, Tenn.-based firm rented for the week.
BPS opted to show the relatively new development to select ITEC attendees rather than have it on display at the booth the firm shared with affiliate Herbert Maschinenbau GmbH & Co., according to Byerley. He said company officials didn't want the XHR drum available to be photographed—and the design potentially stolen—while in the open at ITEC, held Sept. 18-20 in Cleveland.
The new belt and tread drum is an improvement on a design Byerley said he made in 1994 while working at Wyko Group. He said that drum had 7 inches of range in diameter while this one has 12 inches.
BPS started development on it about 11/2 years ago and currently has two patents on it, with others pending, he said. “It's a long process of development. It's a very simple drum, but again it's double the range.”
The machinery firm worked in conjunction with some of its tire maker customers in developing the XHR. He said the tire companies gave a wish list of what they wanted in a new belt and tread drum, and foremost among these was the expanded range. The drum also requires no additional spacers or add-on decks to cover the extra range and can be cycled via pneumatics or push/pull rod.
“The prototype was pretty much the finished product,” he said. “We had very little modifications that we did to these drums.”
Byerley said if the shape of the deck showed up as an imperfection, it would have needed to be changed.
“But it doesn't. If you have the range, that's great, but if you impart an error in the tire then you've got problems,” he said.
Premium price, short payback
Byerley said the XHR costs about 20 percent more than traditional belt and tread drums, but offers a payback on this initial investment in about six months. The drum—manufactured at the BPS facility in Greenback—hit the market earlier this year and so far has gotten a good response, he said. Most of the units currently in use are at North American tire plants, and a few are in Asia.
BPS has gotten a lot of orders for the XHR for the rest of 2012, following a period when many in the tire industry weren't buying much tooling and doing little service work inside the plants, he said. It also has helped that the equipment is now in actual operations, he said, as many customers don't want to be the first one to buy something new.
“Now you've got the tire plants open to it,” Byerley said. “They know they can get a payback pretty quick, so now the big orders come.”
BPS also expects business for the XHR down the road in South America, where the firm's name is known. “They will wait to get results from their sister plants in the U.S., and once you get it in the plant for about six months on a device like this, then they're more comfortable in ordering it.”
The XHR drum can be used on either new machinery—he said some equipment makers are asking about it—or can be retrofit onto existing tire building systems, Byerley said.