If you're going to compete, you have to move at the speed of innovation.
For the tire industry, that means leaning into tools and technologies that push your products to accomplish more. It means cutting costs, reducing time to market and finding innovative ways to meet new challenges.
This is where tire modeling can help, especially as engineers and scientists continue to push the limits of what those models can do. Those capabilities became the focus for the Tire Society during its 40th annual Conference on Tire Science and Technology, held virtually Aug. 28-Sept. 3.
On the final day of the event, a panel of industry experts discussed the opportunities that lie on the horizon. Mike Stackpole, founder and president of Stackpole Engineering Services, moderated the panel.
Ultimately, panelists said, the role of tire modeling is changing, moving quickly from analysis to development.
"It is very important for our tire models to kind of evolve from mere description—what are describing models—to development tools," said Michael Gipser of Cosin Scientific Software A.G. "The task for us will be to close this gap between design-based detail, finite element models and our simulation models, without necessity to perform measurements."
Vehicles, driven by new mobility technologies, demand a lot from their tires. So tire makers are stepping up their games to meet the needs of electric and autonomous vehicles. And they're doing it quickly.
The time to market for new tires—especially those selected as original equipment fitments—is short. Tire modeling, panelists said, can help shorten that development window further, especially as it's incorporated into simulation.
"I do not think that the outdoor testing will be completely eliminated, but I think the loop between the OEMs and the tire maker will be much faster," MegaRide S.r.l.'s Flavio Farroni said.
In the development phase, it's not just time that matters. The fiscal efficiency of the program matters, too. The more that tire makers and vehicle OEMs can work modeling into their development process, the more effective they can be with R&D dollars.
"We are moving toward a more centralized tire method," Siemens A.G.'s Willem Versteden said. "Of course, that change brings streamlining and cost efficiency if you really integrate the tire development into the vehicle development step, rather than having that as a separate, parallel step."
If this is going to work, though, tire modeling needs to be as accurate as possible. That's a challenge when necessary data may not be available or considered proprietary. And when OEMs and tire makers are looking for the most accurate models possible, tire modeling professionals get caught in the middle.
"That puts us in a situation where we have to have more and more measurements … to feature this and that," said Axel Gallrein of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM. "In parallel, the problem in the early development process (is) the physical tire may not be available."
Gallrein and his colleagues agreed that data sharing remains a major hurdle in the development of supremely accurate tire modeling software. Having access to as much data as possible is beneficial to all parties involved.
"There needs to be some closer collaboration between (two companies) to have a format or platform to exchange something on," Gallrein said. "… We need a model that enables the engineer to make connections to the root cause of the desired change in terms of tire construction or material properties so that he can be successful and fast, develop a variance based on the input of the driver."
Attention to detail
Ultimately, the panelists said, the ability of the modeling software to account for what appears to be—or what traditionally has been—regarded as periphery influencers to the tire's performance becomes critical with new vehicle technology and especially with the software used to develop it.
"It means pushing a lot on what concerns the small effects that were almost neglected about 10 years ago, but now become more and more interesting," Farroni said. "(This includes) the local microfriction effects, the rubberization of the road and the elasticity and the aging of the compounds during their (lifetimes) have become more and more interesting."
Versteden agreed, noting that simulation software will have to take into account those things that influence the driver as much as the tire's performance.
"I do think, like with the introduction of driving simulators, what we are targeting is to really represent that physical experience of the driver in the driving simulators," Versteden said. That means really focusing on "these subtle tiny details, which often at the full vehicle levels, are not even seen, but do influence the driver's perception of how a tire behaves. That is definitely a very focused point of attention there."
This evolution already has begun, according to Farroni, who notes that the true limitation of tire modeling software ability lies in the computational powers.
"One of the main reasons for which the tire modeling concept has changed so fast in the last year—and I think will change even faster in the next 10 years—is that the computational powers are increasing," Farroni said. "For this reason, we will be able to run models that were completely impossible to run in real time just a few years ago."
Once the computational abilities are up to speed, tire modeling systems will expand the limits of what they are able to do moving from the analysis and development spaces into everyday applications.
"Sensors in the tires can give us a lot of information," Farroni said. "I don't know if they will be used on the final vehicle, but they are useful for our future research."
Brandenburg University's Christian Oertel agrees that sensor technology can help improve tire modeling as well as the overall vehicle.
"(AVs) have no driver, no eyes on the road, so I hope the tire industry can play a major role with its products and further developing the tire in cooperation, maybe, with vehicle manufacturers as in intelligent sensors for vehicle control systems," Oertel said.