Sumitomo Rubber unveils its Taiyo automated tire production system

May 12, 2003

Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. has unveiled its fully automated tire production system called Taiyo, which means "the Sun" in English, in operation at its Shirakawa plant in Fukushima, Japan.

The new production system was developed to automate tire manufacture, improve production flexibility and enhance tire uniformity, says the company. Taiyo integrates production processes from component preparation to tire curing in one compact cell and produces tires with no joints of components, the company reports.

Sumitomo Rubber started the development of the prototype system at its Nagoya plant in 1996 and began production of tires with the prototype in 2000. That plant has produced 500,000 passenger car tires which are sold in the Japanese replacement market.

Taiyo was completed and started production at the Shirakawa factory in July 2002. The company says:

* high-speed uniformity and balance of tires is increased by 50% with the Taiyo process compared with tires manufactured by the conventional method.

By controlling optimum rubber thickness with high accuracy, tires also become lighter by 5% and assure higher rigidity.

New material sidewall rubber compounded with micro-fibers also contributes to higher rigidity and lighter weight, reports Sumitomo Rubber.

* Taiyo provides freedom in design and production of various tires -- from conventional to construction -- while improving performance and safey features.

Sumitomo Rubber is now mainly producing passenger car tires with Taiyo and will manufacture SUV tires and next-generation runflat tires in 2004. The company also plans to utilize the system to make motorcycle tires and radial truck tires in the near future.

* Taiyo boasts high productivity and flexibility. It can produce 1,000 tires of eight different sizes daily.

Integrating component preparation processes, the production facility is downsized and intermediate inventory is greatly reduced. The energy consumption is also reduced by 35%, compared with the conventional production method.

"With such comprehensive superiority as production facility, the capital investment payback period is shorter than conventional equipment," the company says.

Sumitomo Rubber is now developing the second generation Taiyo to be used at the Shirakawa plant beginning in August.

The company is also developing the third generation Taiyo to produce SUV and runflat tires next June. It will be installed in the Izumi-ohtsu factory of Ohtsu Tire.

"In line with the needs for an increase of the group’s production capacity, Sumitomo Rubber expects to have opportunities to introduce Taiyo in its plants at home and abroad in view of tire types, quality requirements and investment efficiency," says the company.

In the states, three companies are using fully automated manufacturing systems -- Continental Tire North America Inc. (the EST system in Charlotte, N.C., and Mount Vernon, Ill.); Michelin North America Inc. (C3M in Greenville, S.C.); and Pirelli Tire North America Inc. (MIRS in Rome, Ga.)

Goodyear is extending the use of its IMPACT tire-building system, which decreases the number of steps involved in the tire-building process, and Bridgestone Corp. is developing its BIRD tire manufacturing system in Japan.