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Sumitomo creates tire production technology

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Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. has completed the development of NEO-T01, a new manufacturing system “created in the pursuit of ultra-high precision tire production technology,” the company reports.

“NEO is an acronym formed from the words ‘Next (Generation),’ ‘Elaborate’ and ‘Orb.’ The letter ‘T’ represents ‘Taiyo (Sun),’ ‘Technology’ and ‘Tire,’ while the ‘01’ stands for the ‘first iteration’ of our next generation manufacturing system,” the company says.

Sumitomo reports it manufactured Japan’s first domestically produced automobile tire in 1913. In 1996, it embarked on the development of “Taiyo (Sun),” a new manufacturing system that achieves both fully automated production and space-saving production facilities. Its Taiyo system has since undergone repeated evolutions and expansions to produce a total of over 36 million tires since its inception.

"Our company has worked tirelessly to advance the state of tire production technology over the course of a century. Nevertheless, with the progress of motorization showing no end in sight, we anticipate that tire performance demands will continue to grow ever higher in the future,” Sumitomo reports. “Therefore, our company undertook a new project in 2008 with the aim of developing a new manufacturing system, one that would surpass Taiyo to achieve ultra-high precision. This project has recently culminated in the development of our next-generation manufacturing system, NEO-T01.”

NEO-T01 incorporates three key technologies: the Metal Core Process, Fully Automatic Connected Control and High-Rigidity Structure.“

Among these, the Metal Core Process can be called the greatest feature of NEO-T01,” the company says. “In conventional manufacturing systems, tires are formed using a cylindrical drum -- each of the components of a tire is affixed to this drum and joined together to form a tire. By contrast, in order to achieve ultra-high precision for NEO-T01, we have developed the Metal Core Process, a tire manufacturing process in which the various components of a tire are affixed to a metal former (core) that has been made in the exact shape and size of an actual finished tire’s interior.

“The second of these key technologies, Fully Automatic Connected Control, achieves significant weight reductions by allowing for optimal distribution of weight among tire components. This is made possible through the use of a computer control system that manages every step of the tire-forming process -- from the formation and processing of strip components to their affixation to the metal core -- with high precision, accurate to 0.01mm.

‘The third of these key technologies, High-Rigidity Structure, allows for the use of harder stiffening materials than those that have been usable in conventional tire manufacturing systems. This is achieved by performing the entire tire production process, from formation to vulcanization, around a metal core that has been made to match the exact shape and size of the tire’s design. With this innovation, we have succeeded in significantly reducing tire deformation during high-speed driving,” the company says.

“Combining these three key technologies, NEO-T01 produces higher performance tires, achieving a 70% improvement in terms of high-speed uniformity, a 10% weight reduction and a 50% reduction in deformation during high-speed driving compared with conventional tire manufacturing systems,” says Sumitomo.

For ITS first commercial product based on the NEO-T01 manufacturing system, Sumitomo is planning to release a next-generation run-flat tire “that provides an excellent balance between lightness, safety and driving comfort in 2014.”

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