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Sumitomo touts new Sun manufacturing system

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The sun -- as in the Sun System -- is now shining at Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd.'s passenger tire plant in Rayong, Thailand.

A group of tire dealers from North America gained an up-close look at Sumitomo's new, heavily automated Sun tire building process during a tour of the plant, held yesterday.

The Sun System will enable Sumitomo to eventually produce 100,000 tires a day in Thailand, revealed Yutaka Kuroda, president of Sumitomo Rubber Thailand.

Sun consists of three components, he explained:

* a jointless strip winding process, which "eliminates joints and makes tires fully round;"

* computer controls, "which enable us to wind the rubber strip quickly and accurately;"

* process coupling, which "eliminates long tread and sidewall extruding lines."

Sumitomo's Thai plant is the first Sumitomo manufacturing facility to use the system, which has the potential to build tires up to 22 inches in diameter. At the moment, the maximum size it's producing is 18 inches.

Sumitomo has four plants in its home country of Japan, plus tire manufacturing facilities in China and Indonesia.

"Pirelli has MIRS (Modular Integrated Robotized System), Bridgestone has it BIRD (Bridgestone Innovative & Rational Development) system...compared with these systems, our Sun System is very competitive."

Sumitomo's Thai plant currently builds 3,000 passenger tires a day for the company's Falken Tire Corp. subsidiary. A second manufacturing module is being built next to that factory that is scheduled to be up and running by the end of 2007. Sumitomo says it will ultimately manufacture 100,000 tires a day out of the combined complex.

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