KORBACH, Germany—Continental A.G. has inaugurated production at the High Performance Technology Center located at the firm's Korbach tire plant, built over the past two years at a cost of more than $50 million.
The 129,000-sq.-ft. “factory within a factory” is dedicated not only to producing tires in the 19- to 24-inch rim diameter range but also to developing advanced manufacturing methods, Conti said.
Annual production is expected to hit 350,000 ultra-high-performance tires at full capacity. The center is staffed by 80 employees.
“In addition to producing ultra-high-performance tires to meet the exacting requirements of high-powered sports cars, we will also be building test tires as we develop and trial new manufacturing processes in Korbach,” Plant Manager Lothar Salokat said.
“Using cutting-edge technology, we document every detail of our research and development projects so that our innovations can then be rolled out in Continental tire plants worldwide.”
Effectively, this means that Korbach will be acting as an “extended workbench” for the central research and development department at Conti's Hanover-Stoecken, Germany, headquarters plant.
The tire maker said all of the machinery installed at the HPTC is networked via sensor systems and software adhering to the Industry 4.0 concept, which allows every step in the process and the behavior of the materials during processing to be documented fully. This is the first plant in Continental's system to be so networked, according to the company.
“As a result, our tire-building experts, chemists and physicists are able to design cutting-edge processes and monitor every detail of their suitability for industrial-scale tire production,” said Georg Reichert, HPTC project manager in charge of construction in Korbach.
“This means that from now on we can carry out even ultra-short production-run testing on the conventional tire making machinery used across Continental,” he said. “Changes to individual materials and production steps and to vulcanization temperatures and times can be simulated, and then their impact on the finished tire can be investigated in vehicle tests.”
The HPTC includes everything usually found in a tire factory, Conti said. Rubber compounds are produced on-site in line with their recipe; steel cord and textile cutters are available for producing the semi-finished products, as are extruders, various tire building machines and hot presses for vulcanization.