GREENVILLE, S.C.—The co-inventor of Michelin's Tweel airless tire has won an award.
Engineering News-Record gave its 2014 Award of Excellence to Tim Rhyne, a senior research engineer with Michelin Americas Research and Development Corp. and co-inventor of the Michelin Tweel—a non pneumatic tire/wheel combination.
The Tweel comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear band by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes and a tread band, all functioning as a single unit.
“We see vehicle manufacturers and drivers really don't like the idea that tires go flat,” said Tim Fulton, head of Michelin Tweel technologies. “In commercial applications, it costs commercial operators a lot of money. That very notion of Tweel is an idea that's very seductive to the market.”
Rhyne said he and Steve Cron, a fellow engineer and co-inventor of the Tweel, developed the idea of exploring alternatives to the pneumatic tire. The inventors ultimately sketched a radial tire that didn't require any air.
In 1997, Rhyne said Cron had the Eureka moment, which involved replacing the air pressure with a beam. Rhyne sketched the picture, and the idea had legs.
“It was a lot of serendipity after we drew the picture. We didn't really understand how good it could be,” Rhyne said. “It was just kind of luck, but it's taken a long time to develop the idea and prove it out.”
The Tweel concept tire/wheel combination was introduced in 2005. Michelin started small with its new product, developing the first commercial Tweel to supply the iBot wheelchair.