Michelin North America Inc. has opened its $50 million Tweel Airless Radial Tire plant in Greenville, S.C.
"The Tweel being built here in South Carolina is yet another dramatic example of Michelin’s long-standing commitment to breakthrough innovation," said Pete Selleck, Michelin's chairman and president. "The Tweel concept was born at Michelin Americas Research Co. in Greenville, S.C., one of Michelin’s three global technology centers, and now the Tweel will be manufactured right here in the Greenville area to satisfy a growing commercial market."
The Tweel was first conceived by Michelin research engineers in the United States. The non-pneumatic tire is designed as one tire and wheel assembly with a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes.
Unlike conventional tires, the Tweel has no air, thereby solving what had seemed to be the unavoidable challenge of chronic flat tires that plagues the landscape, construction, contracting, refuse/recycling and agricultural industries.
The new plant gives Michelin
* the ability to boost output of Tweel SSL skid-steer tires, and
* begin production of the new Michelin X Tweel TurfTM, which is original equipment on the John Deere ZTRAKTM 900 Series line-up of zero-turn commercial mowers.
"The Tweel airless radial tire enables Michelin to enter new markets and expand its reach in existing business segments within the low-speed application category," said Ralph Dimenna, head of Michelin Tweel Technologies.
"The industry is hungry for solutions contributing to productivity, safety and bottom lines. Serving our customers is at the center of our strategy for success.”
The new 135,000-square-foot facility in Piedmont, S.C., represents Michelin’s 10th manufacturing facility in South Carolina and the 16th in the U.S.
Selleck had this to say about the possibility of Tweel usage on other vehicles: "One day, I can tell you the Tweel may even be on automobiles. But there is more exhaustive research and testing to make sure that it is right. Right now, we do not know when Tweel tires will be on passenger cars.
"We do know that the low speed applications are just the beginning. And we do know Michelin will always be the first. Michelin engineers can imagine that in some developing economies where bad roads dictate slow moving passenger cars, Tweel tires may be the answer, and that could lead the way to broader passenger car applications."