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Show review 2012

There was a wider variety than ever of hot new tire development and manufacturing technologies on show at Tire Technology Expo 2012- here are some highlights

Compiled by Graham Heeps


TBM launched

At the 2012 Tire Technology Expo in Cologne, the Dutch VMI Group launched
the Exxium car and light-truck tire building machine. Tire manufacturers have shown strong interest in the new TBM, an operator-run machine that VMI describes as “the workhorse of the industry”. First deliveries of the Exxium are scheduled for the second half of 2012.

This new machine follows on from the successful VMI Maxx tire building machine launched in 2009, a hands-off/eyes-off, ultra-high productivity machine. The Exxium, however, requires operator involvement. Complex tire designs with additional full rubber components such as runflat strips or steel and/or fabric chafer strips call for careful operator inspection for quality assurance. Ergonomics, accessibility and safety are optimized for these operator tasks. Hands-off production is possible, but the loading of the apexed beads on the Exxium has to be done by the operator. These fundamental differences led to the requirement for a different machine – a second platform – hence the appearance of Exxium.

Both the Exxium and the Maxx use a single-stage building process, and in both cases the belt and tread drum moves to static applicator conveyors. The machines feature the latest servo technology for the best possible accuracy, which results in improved green tire quality. Both can produce tires for rims up to 24in in diameter, and feature the bladderless VMI mechanical building and shaping drum.

Tire producers may choose a mixture – Maxx machines for larger series, and Exxium machines for the more complex designs. Tooling is interchangeable and maintenance and operation are similar.

A typical cycle time on the Exxium is 44 seconds, which still just matches the required operator tasks, including bead loading and green tire removal. A daily production of 1,500 tires can be achieved.

On the Maxx, cycle times as low as 36 seconds can be achieved, enabling daily production of up to 1,900 tires. The Maxx tire building machine has been further improved for even higher productivity, full hands-off/eyes-off production, with automatic splice checking systems, a robot for green tire removal, connection to a green tire transport system, and apexed bead unstacking and loading. It also requires special VMI bead apexing and stacking equipment. On the Maxx machine, both drums move, while all component applicators conveyors, as well as the belt and tread package transfer, are static.

Composite liner
With pressure on raw materials prices, Milliken has been working on reinforcement products that reduce the amount of in-house manufacturing required. The goals are: reduced rubber consumption, waste and inventory costs, and higher productivity. Its products can go straight to the TBM, with no calendaring or slitting required.

One of several new products at the show was the new Composite Liner. Developed to meet customer requirements, Milliken says this multilayer, 0.6-0.7mm-thick product is built to provide stiffness and strength to support rubber profiles and sheets with minimal liner-edge droop or drop. A PE/PP coating offers a smooth surface and excellent release properties. In addition, the Composite Liner has very high tear-resistance, and is said to be wrinkle-free with better dimensional stability. It’s available in different colors for foolproofing, and customers can customize the width, color, and print pattern to their requirements.

Tomography breakthrough
CyXplus’s CyXscan system for cross-section analysis was launched in 2011. It’s applied in destructive inspection of tires from motorcycle to truck, and has had good feedback from the market, according to Frédéric Isnard, the company’s deputy general manager.

Isnard reveals that the next step is tomography – the reconstruction of a 3D volumetric measurement or a 2D slice from a number of x-ray images. CyXplus was involved in a three-year research project into ultra-fast tomography which was completed at the end of 2011. The outcomes were demonstrated on a pharmaceutical device, but Isnard explains that the results are equally applicable to tire applications. As part of the project, the time taken for image acquisition, reconstruction and detection was cut from two minutes to less than 10 seconds, which means the process can now be moved from labs to production lines.

Isnard cites a number of advantages for using tomography: it’ll address problems that can’t be seen by a classical x-ray like 3D inspection and measurement of internal parts of the sample; it could replace some destructive testing operations, thereby reducing some testing costs and time and product-loss costs; and by bringing this system to the plant as a regular inspection process, it’ll make testing more important than it is today at key times such as the early stages of the production process for prompt identification of defects. The next stage of the project will be to validate the principle with manufacturers and see if someone might be ready to implement it.

Suspension Tester
Developed in partnership with a German OEM, ZF’s brand-new Suspension Tester is designed to reduce the amount of track time required to develop new suspension parts, but can also be used by tire makers to develop handling behavior without the cost, time, and risk that track testing brings.

The rig can be programmed with a drive file from, say, the Nordschleife, to run a suspension corner through a test drive. The suspension links are attached to an instrumented metal plate suspended vertically from an overhead arm. The plate is actuated in highly precise, vertical movements to simulate road inputs, while the tire runs on a drum at up to 250km/h (150mph). Torque from a driveshaft can simulate brake loads; camber and slip-angle adjustment is also possible.

Meanwhile, ZF is expanding its production facilities for test systems with the opening of a new, €7 million (US$9.2 million approx) facility providing 8,000m2 of space, so that up to 45 rigs can be assembled at the same time. Its turnover from test systems rose to €4 million (US$5.3 million approx) in 2011, with a further 20% growth expected in 2012, fueled by success in new markets such as the USA and China. In the former, a sales and service facility for test systems will be set up at ZF’s existing North American headquarters in Northville, Michigan, with further expansion steps – for example, local assembly – possible in the future. In China, ZF staff are heading to Shanghai to establish a sales and service network there, too.

X-ray improvements
For many years, the key technology parts of x-ray machines were changed only occasionally, and the major changes seen with other technologies did not reach x-ray inspection. There was always a costly trade-off between speed and image quality; higher speed meant lower image quality.

Now, Yxlon has developed a new x-ray detector for tires – the Y.UScan 3 – which brings significant advances in both speed and image quality. The tire can be scanned at 75m/min and still achieve excellent image quality in a typical truck tire application.

Visitors to the Tire Technology Expo 2012 were able to see this difference at Yxlon’s booth, as well as the shiny new lead-free casing. The new detector adds value in all applications that require higher cycle time, contrast, or resolution. This is especially useful in areas where current-generation detectors cannot provide consistent testing quality. Some typical anomalies of this class are defects behind many layers of steel, missing material, blisters, or foreign objects. As a consequence, the testing decision has higher repeatability and is less prone to interpretation. This means that the quality of the testing process improves.

Yxlon is one of the leading suppliers of industrial x-ray inspection and computed tomography solutions, and finished tire x-ray inspections. The company says
that its Y.MTIS family of x-ray tire inspection systems (pictured), together with the Y.TireAXIS automatic defect recognition software, enables safe and reliable testing


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