HANOVER, Germany—Machinery maker Steelastic Co. L.L.C. has been a bit cryptic in its marketing efforts in recent weeks.
The Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based producer of equipment used in tire component preparation has been urging its customers and perspective clients to "Think Small" or "Go Calenderless."
Steelastic, part of the Heico Tire & Rubber Group, started the campaign in conjunction with its unveiling of the firm's Extruded Textile Body Ply System.
The company launched the system at the Tire Technology Expo, and said it is the first option on the market that can replace the textile calender and offline cutting equipment that currently is used to produce all textile body plies, according to Steelastic President Ian Dennis. He discussed the new offering during the expo, held March 5-7 in Hanover.
Steelastic also said the new extruded textile body ply system is the last piece in the puzzle that would enable tire manufacturers to open up smaller, more flexible tire plants that would not need costly calendering and auxiliary equipment. The other Steelastic options that can be used in lieu of calendering equipment include its extruded steel belt equipment, which was recently upgraded; an extruder to produce innerliner and single compound components; and an extruded textile cap strip line, needed only for production of some higher performance, low-profile tires.
"If you build a tire plant with all of this calendering equipment for the reinforcement layers, there's a reason there's no tire plants making fewer than 4 million tires a year," Dennis said. "That's because you cannot get this equipment and get a return on your investment unless you make that many tires."
He said there are some players in the tire manufacturing industry that are looking for an option that would make it feasible to build a smaller tire plant that would allow for quicker changeovers and production of a wider variety of stock-keeping units. Such factories could be located in the markets where the tires would be sold.
The problem until now is that there was no alternative to produce the textile body plies.
"When I came into the business I said if we had this option you could go full calenderless," Dennis said. "Then a tire plant could put down a million tires a year. You could start with a million and grow by 500,000 tires at a time by implementing this small flexible equipment that's very versatile, has low operator input, is easy to change over and is highly flexible."