RAVENNA, Ohio—Smithers Rapra will expand the range of tires it can assess with a new test system, installed as part of a new expansion at the Smithers Tire and Wheel Test Center in Ravenna.
The new system requires a 10,000-sq.-ft. building expansion at the Ravenna laboratory, as well as addition of up to 10 people to support the new technical capabilities. The partnership helps fund the expansion, and supports the installation of the MTS Flat-Trac system. The project is expected to be complete by July 2018.
Six of the top global tire manufacturers—including Bridgestone Americas, Continental Tire, Cooper Tire, Goodyear, Hankook Tire and Michelin—partnered with Smithers to introduce a new MTS Flat-Trac CT Plus Tire Test System.
The cost of the project and the partners' share of the cost was not disclosed. Smithers expects to generate additional revenue by leasing time to companies other than the six partnership firms.
Tire size increases and the expansion of the use of virtual tire models were part of the decision to install the Flat-Trac system, said Jim Popio, vice president of North America for Smithers.
"This common need across tire companies sparked conversation between Smithers and our partners. Everyone was asking for the same requirements at the same time, and capacity in the industry was at a premium," he said. "Recommendations on specifications were made from all parties, and Smithers worked with suppliers to find the best match from a technology standpoint."
The Flat-Trac system generally can handle passenger car and light truck tires, with the machine's specifications detailing a maximum outside diameter of 910 millimeters. The new system pushes the range on longitudinal capabilities from 2,000 nanometers to 6,000 nanometers, with electric motors and three times the torque of previous machines, a company spokesman said.
"The benefits of this include the ability to respond to data requirements for complex control algorithms that today's vehicles utilize. Enhanced characterization of the tire's contribution to advanced stability control systems differentiates the new system," the spokesman said.
The Ravenna lab has been the hub for Smithers' tire testing offering since 1970, and covers a large number of different tire testing techniques, Popio said.
"This was simply the logical place to build the addition and add the new Flat-Trac CT Plus machine. It also allowed us to include some additional space for new offices and future testing technology expansions," he said.
The expansion also will add meeting spaces and room for tire storage, he said.
The original Force and Moment partnership, which was created by Smithers and tire manufacturers, was established 30 years ago, Mike Hochschwender, Smithers Group president and CEO, said in a statement.
"Sharing costs and access to the new machine allows all partners to benefit both technologically as well as economically," he said.
Smithers Rapra, one of six Smithers Group units, operates laboratories in North America, Europe and China, covering a wide variety of testing and consulting services from material chemistry and product durability testing, to tire, wheel and winter testing.