Record-breaking Tire Technology Expo held in Germany
Europeans consider the Tire Technology Expo held in Cologne, Germany, every February one of the world’s most prestigious events in the tire and rubber industries. This year’s show was no exception. In fact, it has already been confirmed that a record 220 companies exhibited, plus (according to pre-registration), there also was a significant increase in visitors. This was probably instigated by the prospect of a feast of innovative tire technology and the three days of business seminars and courses.
Over the three days an ongoing series of conference presentations were delivered from an international cross-section of speakers including Kozaburo Nakaseko, chief of Sumitomo Rubber Industries research and development, who spoke on the latest innovations in tire design along with Charles Yurkovich, senior vice president for global R&D at Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., who discussed other future developments in the international tire market.
When it came to handing out the tire industry’s equivalent of the “Oscars” at a special awards ceremony, the Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year accolade went to Apollo Vredestein B.V. for its new tandem mixer for ultra-high performance tire compounds while the award of Tire Industry Supplier of the Year was captured by Versalis (Eni S.p.A.’s chemical company) for a new SSBR polymer. Tire Technology of the Year was given to the Michelin Group for its Evergrip innovation and Environment Achievement of the Year went to Lehigh Technologies Inc. for its Micronized Rubber Powder.
Making the rounds
As in previous years, Netherlands-based tire production machinery manufacturers VMI Group presented one of the largest and most attractive booths.
When I spoke with President and CEO Harm Voortman, he explained that at the moment, VMI is developing a lot of new automation innovations and looking at the future of tire processing as a whole.
This was the message being put across to a constant stream of visitors to the booth, but Voortman also told me, “VMI is universally recognized as a market leader, and we constantly excel in sales performance. But in marketing skills, the company admits to lacking the ability to promote our products and services at the highest level. Therefore, our other objective at this show is to start making the tire industry aware of our status as the most successful tire manufacturing equipment producer and designer who is in business to really help our global customer base and work with them and thrive on their future innovative production ideas.”
Another company that seemed to have a constant stream of visitors packing its booth was MESNAC, the China-based tire machinery manufacturer whose primary aim at the show was to update the tire and rubber industry of its very latest futuristic developments which completely revolve around Smart technology (“Smart factory, smarter future”) which has accounted for the company’s major achievements during the past 12 months.
I chatted with Linda Xu, MESNAC’s vice director for strategy and marketing, who explained that the Smart technology program “is an international cooperation project designed to help all MESNAC customers, and we are currently working on a Smart Factory Project where absolutely everything is robotically operated with no human control.
“In effect, this futuristic machinery has been specifically developed to ‘communicate and talk’ to each other and if a production problem occurs, then it can be automatically detected and the machinery immediately halted.”
Other equally important developments include a new type of open mill operation and a Smart mixing procedure. Plus Xu also pointed out that MESNAC will be further expanding its business interests to an even wider scope in the future incorporating additional comprehensive product packages to its ever-increasing customer base. With established R&D facilities located in China, America, Slovakia and the UK, MESNAC is firmly placed to maintain their ambitious future growth objectives.
Black Donuts technology
Another company from Finland that I have to admit caught my immediate attention was Black Donuts (purely on the name!) which was promoting its highly innovative engineering services to tire manufacturers including the very latest tire plant technology, turnkey solutions, material and product development and tire testing facilities.
I spoke with Ilkka Lehtoranta, Black Donuts’ development manager, who explained that the company consistently provides new solutions for all leading tire manufacturers in a series of developments from the manufacturing process to intense tire testing facilities for PCR, TBR and OTR tires. Looking to the future, Lehtoranta informed me that upgraded product and manufacturing process performance will remain a key element for Black Donuts.
I also spoke with InterEuropean S.r.l. Machinery from Italy who was making its debut at the show to promote its expertise in the design and manufacturing of machinery and equipment for the tire and rubber industries. They were particularly showcasing the introduction of a new generation of uni-stage tire building machines which provide a fully automatic solution for manufacturing high performance passenger and light truck tires.
And now from North America
Finally, I noticed that North America was “flying the flag” at the event with several U.S. companies taking booths. The most formidable belonged to Data2 Corp., and I spoke with the company’s Business Development Manager John Ingerslew who pointed out that Data2 was further promoting its well-established barcode solution for individual tire identification and traceability.
It also was interesting to note that the 2015 Tire Technology Expo was the last time the event would be held in Cologne where it has been staged for the last 16 years.
I spoke with the show’s organizers, UKIP Media, who confirmed that this year’s event had proved highly successful and was a perfect “’springboard” for relocating the 2016 exhibition to Hanover in Germany where the exhibition hall will be 25% larger. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services, which caters to business media clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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