KOBE, Japan—Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. has developed a highly automated tire manufacturing system it claims will enhance the precision of its production process, providing for increased uniformity and casing integrity with reduced weight.
The Neo-T01 system is an evolution of the automated Taiyo system Sumitomo put into service in 1996.
By combining three key technologies—metal core process, fully automatic connected control and high-rigidity structure—Sumitomo claims tires produced with the new system have 70-percent better high-speed uniformity and a 50-percent drop in deformation during high-speed driving, and also weighing 10 percent less.
Sumitomo said it intends to use the new system for the "development of ever-higher performance tires," starting in 2014 with what it's calling a "next-generation run-flat tire that provides an excellent balance between lightness, safety and driving comfort."
NEO is formed from the words "Next (Generation)," "Elaborate" and "Orb." The letter "T," represents "Taiyo (Sun)," "Technology" and "Tire," while the "01" stands for the "first iteration" of this next-generation manufacturing system, SRI said.
Sumitomo said it has used the Taiyo system to produce more than 36 million tires since its inception 15 years ago. The company's been developing NEO T01 since 2008. It did not say how much it's invested in developing the system.
The most visible change from conventional manufacturing systems, SRI said, is the use of metal formers—the metal core process—made in the exact shape and size of a finished tire's interior.
The second key technology—automatic connected control—achieves significant weight reductions by allowing for optimal distribution of weight among tire components. A computer control system manages every step of the tire-forming process with high precision, accurate to within 0.01mm.
The third key technology—high-rigidity structure—allows for the use of harder stiffening materials than previously possible, allowing for a closer match to the exact shape and size of the tire's intended design.
This last innovation allows Sumitomo to reduce tire deformation during high-speed driving.