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The future of tire plants


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Jacob Peled, The executive chairman of the Pelmar Engineering Group was a featured speaker at the Future Tire Conference October 2014 in Brussels, Belgium.

Years of experience in the tire industry were carried at Jacob's keynotes speeches about Future Tire Plants at the Conference, providing key insights about the criterias upon tire plants will be built in the future, with respect to the major changes in the various tire production departments.

Published in: Engineering

The future of tire plants

  1. 1. Presented by: Mr. Jacob Peled Executive Chairman Pelmar Engineering Ltd. The Future of Tire Plants Future Tire Conference 2014 Brussels, Belgium October 2014
  2. 2. 2 INTRODUCTION If someone will thoroughly investigate the development of the tire industry, he will certainly find that there have been very few major changes or developments for the last 100 years or more. The last major breakthrough was radial construction, which at best can be described as evolution and not revolution. Improvements in performance, better raw materials, automation and various other advancements have all been very significant for the tire industry, but these continuous developments are happening at a very slow pace, if any. 1885 Benz Even by the early 1920’s, car tires were not far evolved from bicycle tires 1914 Cadillac CC BY-NC by rich701 Future Tire Conference 2014
  3. 3. 3 With very few exceptions, the tire industry has always tried in a very conservative manner to adapt itself to the increasing demands of the vehicle manufacturers and never the other way around. This is despite the fact that the most important part of any vehicle are likely the tires. Some people will argue, but everyone will finally agree that these 4 round black items are what is holding the vehicle to the road and allow it to transport passengers and/or cargo safely from one point to another. There is no other part in the vehicle that needs to adapt itself to extreme changes in weather, temperature, road conditions, speed and erratic situations caused by need for emergency stop or acceleration. At present, all tire parameters depend on one thing and it is air pressure. Future Tire Conference 2014
  4. 4. 4 CRITERIA What would be the criteria upon which future tire plants will be built? 1. Capital Investment 2. Safety and Quality 3. Environment 4. Recycling 5. Automation 6. Specialization 7. Outsourcing 8. Limited Space Availability 9. Geographical Considerations 10.Changes in Tire Construction Future Tire Conference 2014
  5. 5. 5 CRITERIA Tire manufacturers, car producers and equipment and services suppliers have all made tremendous capital investment over the years and would, therefore, fight every change that would make these investments superfluous. Normally this particular criterion would be placed at the end of the list. Unfortunately, I believe that this criterion will have a very major impact on the decisions of any existing tire company who shall decide to emerge “out of the box.” So what would be the criteria upon which future tire plants will be built? 1. Capital Investment: Future Tire Conference 2014
  6. 6. 6 The same applies to car producers who already find it most difficult to adapt and commit themselves to electric vehicles despite the distinct improvements in electric powerhouse. Also the fact that there is no one who doesn’t agree that in the future and as soon as possible, electric cars will be the only vehicles on the road. The pollution, the costs and amortization of combustion engines dictates the change, but it is not happening at the pace and in the form in which it should be. This particular criterion would lead tire companies to push for reduction in costs of new machinery (CAPEX) and increased automation. At the same time it would generate a strong movement towards upgrading and reconditioning existing equipment (a type of recycling). CAPITAL INVESTMENT Future Tire Conference 2014 Fully Reconditioned Comerio Calender
  7. 7. 7 Tire safety and quality cannot be compromised and demands will continuously increase. It will affect the decisions on what equipment, what material and where to produce modern tires. 2. Safety and Quality: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014 Tianjin Jiurong Wheel Cornering Fatigue Test Machine
  8. 8. 8 Environmental issues are going to play perhaps the most significant role in determining the shape, type and location of new tire manufacturing facilities. It is becoming increasingly clear that there will be no compromise on the continued pollution that a tire causes when they are produced, when they are used and when they die. 3. Environment: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014
  9. 9. 9 3. Environment: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014 The below table demonstrates the decreasing amounts of resources utilized for production as a result of improved environmental tools by Bridgestone. This company is investing a great deal of time, money and effort to achieve better results and in the process also save on costs.
  10. 10. 10 This is connected to Point 3, but I mention it separately since it is such a strong criterion that it will have a major effect on future tire production from all angles: raw materials, method of production and reuse of worn out casings. In the future, retreading will continue to be the No. 1 recycling method. However, since it is not a complete solution, additional systems would have to be developed, mostly pyrolysis, to regenerate the expensive products from which the tire is made. This is connected to Point 3, but I mention it separately since it is such a strong criterion that it will have a major effect on future tire production from all angles: raw materials, method of production and reuse of worn out casings. In the future, retreading will continue to be the No. 1 recycling method. However, since it is not a complete solution, additional systems would have to be developed, mostly pyrolysis, to regenerate the expensive products from which the tire is made. 4. Recycling: CRITERIA There is no doubt that new tires will use an increasing portion of recycled material to completely avoid any landfilling or burning of tires. The added value of incineration is minute, and perhaps even negative, in comparison to the energy, raw material, labor and engineering which is invested in every single tire produced. There is no doubt that new tires will use an increasing portion of recycled material to completely avoid any landfilling or burning of tires. The added value of incineration is minute, and perhaps even negative, in comparison to the energy, raw material, labor and engineering which is invested in every single tire produced. Future Tire Conference 2014
  11. 11. “However, to hope for a review of the tire as an assembly of more than a dozen components-some of them intricate and sensitive in detail, and many of them reluctant to stick together unless somebody very astute organizes it.” -Jack Setright 11 Even in countries where labor is readily available at low cost, automation will prevail. Producing such a crucial and sophisticated product cannot any longer be done by hand, nor can any part of the production be left to possible human error. The risks are too large and the benefits too small. 5. Automation: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014 The first ones to understand this were the Chinese, who, despite abundance of labor, have insisted on ordering and designing the most automated processes to avoid any manual intervention. These have not been applied completely in the Chinese plants, but it certainly indicates a direction. The Chinese have without doubt set a trend which is adopted now by Western tire industries, not the other way around as many seem or want to believe.
  12. 12. 12 Tire production is actually several manufacturing systems put together attempting unsuccessfully to coordinate and optimize their operation. Compounding, for instance, is a manufacturing process by itself and, without very major investments in inventories and processes, is extremely difficult to adapt itself to the changing requirements of tire component production, not to speak of curing. Curing is and will always be a bottleneck which dictates operations in other departments that are illogical or inefficient at best from an industrial and human resources point of view. People call it "flexibility," but the reality is "acrobatics.“ Simultaneously, off-take agreements will increase as part of the trend to specialize in certain types and sizes. 6. Specialization: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014
  13. 13. 13 As a result of and connected to Point 6, outsourcing will become deep- rooted and will touch every aspect of tire production. It is a normal evolution, but it will now become more significant. It is not many years ago, and some people may remember, that tire manufacturers were producing their own fabrics, dipping them and only then rubberizing. The same occurred with mold and drum production and even tire building machines, which a few still do. In fact, it was completely abnormal for any plant to outsource technical services, testing facilities, and even maintenance services. It is clear that this time is over and a modern tire manufacturing facility will concentrate on producing the final tire from many outsourced materials and components. 7. Outsourcing of materials, components, engineering services and maintenance: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014
  14. 14. 14 Since in most countries land becomes not only scarce but frightfully expensive, the size of manufacturing facilities will become a major consideration. To be competitive, a tire plant will have to be efficient and small. The time for huge, 200-acre tire plants is long gone, but some companies do not realize this yet. They continue either because they have this land or they believe they have the resources to purchase and develop it. It will only take a few more years before they will face reality. 8. Limited Space Availability: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014
  15. 15. 15 Tires today are being freighted all over the world and as a result they provide tremendous income to the shipping and trucking companies. Absurds like shipments of 57" tires from one part of the world to the other are not much different than shipments of thousands of container loads of truck tires from Asia to Europe, from Europe to the States, from the US to the Far East and vice versa. The cost and handling involved in hauling such products to such vast distances will change. Successful companies in India will cater to their own markets and the same in China, the US and Europe. The above somewhat contradicts the assumptions I have given in Point 6, Specialization. I personally believe that an equilibrium will be reached between these two antidotes. 9. Geographical Considerations: CRITERIA Future Tire Conference 2014
  16. 16. As mentioned in the preface to this presentation, tires have always been defined as “black and almost round”. The basic construction of beads, sidewalls, shoulders and treads has not changed in the last 100 years. Also the principle of tires being held firmly in shape by air pressure has also not changed. The introduction of tubeless tires was merely a replacement of the innertube by innerliner. I believe that this will be amended by different construction and different components, adapting tires to special requirements much more than is done today. 10. Change in Tire Construction: Bridgestone AirFree Concept demoed at the Tokyo Motor Show-Nov 2013 Michelin Tweel CRITERIA Mitas PneuTrac- Technology by Galileo Wheel Ltd. demoed at Agritechnica - Nov 2013 Future Tire Conference 2014 16
  17. 17. 17 In summary of all the above criteria, it is clear that the modern tire manufacturing facility will look different. It will be smaller, automated, specialized and meet strict environmental requirements. It will be able to deliver its product at a rate that would be suitable for its size and function. Its tires will be produced to meet a specific Market demand. The trend to first produce and then find a market is already gone in most places. (In France, they did not hear about it yet.) SUMMARY Future Tire Conference 2014
  18. 18. 18  No Mill Room including Storage  Vast Material and Compound Testing Facilities  Components Preparation without Calenders, Tread and Sidewall Extrusion Lines  Tire Building Fully Automated  Curing in Two Stages  Tire Testing Online  Storage and Forwarding Automated Systems The Future Tire Plant will consist of: STORAGE AND FORWARDING TIRE TESTING CURING TIRE BUILDING COMPONENTS PREPARATION ACCEPTANCE TESTING FACILITIES Future Tire Conference 2014
  19. 19. 19 A. No Mill Room New tire plants will have no compounding and mixing facilities whatsoever. It will be completely outsourced and will avoid the need of a major part of today's tire plant. The entire facility of weighing and charging carbon blacks, whites, oils, and the entire mill room equipment will disappear. These will be installed at companies specializing in custom compounding and supplying at least all the master batches, probably also the final batches and the strip stock, to the tire company. The absence of mixing and mill room facilities will decrease the size of the tire manufacturing plant by at least one third, will save a major capital investment and reduce the need for storage and handling of virgin raw materials completely. Future Tire Conference 2014
  20. 20. 20 NO MILL ROOM The compounding plants themselves will also change and in most cases large batch internal mixers will be replaced by continuous extrusion mixing facilities, which are not only more efficient, but require less space and energy. Carbon black, for instance, will be supplied, as already done today in a few cases, in pre-weighed, low-melt polyethylene/EVA bags to be fed directly to the mixers. In other words, please imagine a plant that has no virgin raw material acceptance and test facilities, no huge storage silos and charging systems, no small chemical weighing systems, no mixers, no batch offs, no stackers and not even people in the purchasing department in charge of raw material acquisition. Future Tire Conference 2014
  21. 21. 21 Generally the tendency will be to use as much as possible identical materials and reduce the variety, without compromising technical capabilities, but perhaps compromising price-wise by using more expensive, high-quality products for the sake of uniformity and consistency. NO MILL ROOM Cimcorp OYCimcorp OY Future Tire Conference 2014
  22. 22. 22 B. Material and Compound Testing Facilities Acceptance tests for batches arriving from the sub- supplier of compounds will be weighed and tested completely automatically and sent directly to their position within the components preparation department. Batches that will be disqualified will be stored separately for return to the supplier. This will be relatively easy because the same trucks or train will be used. Alternatively, a further test by the tire manufacturers' expert will be conducted manually. It is important to emphasize the significance of testing because of the automated production plant which by nature will not tolerate deficiencies or dimensional sub-standard. Future Tire Conference 2014 Alpha MDR2000
  23. 23. 23 C. Components Preparation This department will not include at all any tread or sidewall extrusion line, steel cord calender and certainly not band builders. There may still be room for a textile calender, but in the future even these will disappear as well, since rubberized fabrics probably already pre-cut to measure will be supplied by the fabric producers or by sub-contractors specialized in calendering. Personally I believe that calendering will eventually disappear, including innerliner calendering. Reinforcement will be done by overlaid strips as cap-ply rather than rubberized fabrics. Innerliner will be replaced by films, already supplied by EXXON and another major supplier. Cap-plies today are already being furnished by sub-contractors or are being produced by the tire manufacturers, but requiring a very considerably lower space, energy and manpower. It will be completely automated in the future. Future Tire Conference 2014
  24. 24. 24 D. Tire Building This process is already fully automated for passenger and light truck tires and very soon will be the same for truck tires. Companies like VMI in Holland and HF in Germany are quickly developing building machines which control themselves and without any human intervention and with capacities that could have not been dreamed of a few years ago. The new tire company would have a tire building department completely free of any personnel and with robotic loading and unloading of green tires. VMI MAXX®-Cycle time 36 seconds Future Tire Conference 2014
  25. 25. 25 As mentioned in the above Component Preparation, a film that replaces innerliner is not only lighter in weight but significantly more resistant to air migration and is applied automatically by the TBM. If the development work will succeed and films will become more heat resistant, then the need for curing bladders may be avoided in the curing process. This is especially true if the initial curing will be done without a tread. It is important to emphasize that part of the new tire building machines’ philosophy is to cope with the tendency towards lighter tires which is now an important mission of every tire company. Among other reasons is the decrease in rolling resistance and consequent fuel savings. TIRE BUILDING Future Tire Conference 2014
  26. 26. 26 E. Curing Department Curing is traditionally the bottleneck of every tire producer. Consequently, unlike other departments, this part of the plant will increase in size and in number of presses. The tendency is to avoid in as much as possible any change of molds and at the same time decrease the cycle time. Pressurized hot water system will disappear completely and methods will be sought after for curing at lower temperature and higher speed. Future Tire Conference 2014 Uzer Makina Hydraulic Press McNeil/NRM 66-1100 Press
  27. 27. 27 The life of curing bladders will be prolonged significantly by using materials which are heat resistant, combined with lower temperatures and shorter curing time. Anti-adhesives will be introduced to the bladders during compounding and they will slowly migrate to the surface to enhance release. On the mold side, there will be no release agents used. This will be achieved by the compounds' ability to resist adhesion and super-finish of the mold itself. Mold cleaning will be done by nitrogen/dry ice, as already done today, and robotically. The above would require probably the use of steel engraved molds rather than aluminum. There is research going on already of eliminating curing bladders altogether by increasing the heat resistance of the innerliner which will be made of different materials and by shortening the curing cycle. CURING DEPARTMENT Future Tire Conference 2014
  28. 28. 28 There is a tendency to split curing into two stages: 1. To cure the carcass 2. To cure the tread I believe that this system will eventually dominate the industry. It will enable to: A. Cure the carcass in a 2 piece mold rather than segmented. B. Cure treads in accordance with market requirements and thus reduce very substantially the stock of finished tires. Curing the carcass alone reduces the curing time by at least 30% and probably more depending on the tire type. It will enable to increase capacity and avoid the bottleneck which curing normally causes. CURING DEPARTMENT Future Tire Conference 2014
  29. 29. 29 Taking it even further, there is a tendency today to consider producing new tires with pre-cured treads which are produced and cured horizontally. Unlike in the past, the result of pre-cured tread retreading are similar and often better than new tires which causes many experts to completely reconsider tire production and curing methods. CURING DEPARTMENT Personally I can see this happening and believe that it will not only increase capacity, but also reduce costs and space and remove even the necessity of strip winding, which otherwise is required with every tire building machine. Precured Tread Press Future Tire Conference 2014
  30. 30. 30 Because of the increased automation, testing becomes even more important than before and will probably eventually be applied on 100% of production. Consequently, more efficient and faster uniformity and run-out machines will have to be employed. All the manufacturers of such equipment are working on it very diligently, to the best of our knowledge. This includes shearography and/or x-ray which in the future tire plant would be a dominant factor. Tests and sorting will be done automatically, as is already done in some plants today. Depending on the plant's philosophy there will either be no seconds or a repair department would have to be part of every plant for correction of blemishes and/or cosmetic faults. In my opinion, adopting the system of no seconds/DA's would be more economical and would avoid manual operation and intervention. It will also force the quality of the plant upward to achieve economic success. Michelin has embraced this philosophy from Day One. F. Testing Future Tire Conference 2014
  31. 31. 31 As already done today in many plants, storage and distribution will be fully automatic, governed by barcode or even more likely RFID. In many aircraft tires today already, information is stored within the tire itself for the entire life of the tire. This is of special importance with aircraft tires because of the large number of retreads these tire undergo on one hand and the huge responsibility and liability on the other. G. Storage and Forwarding In the future all tires would be able to communicate with the users' computer and its history and condition would be transmitted (smart tires). Professor Saied Taheri from the Center for Tire Research at Virginia Tech and his team have already advanced this subject significantly. Future Tire Conference 2014
  32. 32. 32 A change in tire production facilities is inevitable. There will be a lot of objections by existing tire manufacturers, vehicle producers and machinery producers. The previous points clearly indicate why. CONCLUSION Electric cars will have a significant impact on passenger tires but TBRs, Farm and OTR production would have to go through major changes and improvements as well. The changes will be dictated by markets, circumstances and particularly environmental requirements. STORAGE AND FORWARDING TIRE TESTING CURING TIRE BUILDING COMPONENTS PREPARATION ACCEPTANCE TESTING FACILITIES Future Tire Conference 2014
  33. 33. 33 Last but not least, tires will start to be adapted to the user's requirements, particularly in Agri and OTR. Already for the first time in a century a tire was invented whose sidewalls when blown deflect inside the tire rather than sideways. As was mentioned to me by the Chairman of Mitas, this tire could only be invented by someone who does not understand tires, which indeed was the case. When considering it further, there should be no reason to accept outside deflection as the axiom. When the sidewall under pressure deflects inside the tire they create a thicker sidewall and automatic protection for the shoulder and tread area in case of deflation. I believe that in the future most tires would look like this, which of course will also have a significant impact on the shape the future tire manufacturing facility. This, however, is the subject of another presentation which I will be making next year. CONCLUSION Future Tire Conference 2014
  34. 34. 2011 34 • The Tire and Rubber Industry Experts • Over 49 years of Continuous Activity in the Polymer Industry • International Presence Around the Globe • Engineering, Machinery, Technology, Raw Materials • Mergers and Acquisitions The Pelmar Group
  35. 35. Pelmar Engineering Ltd. would like to thank the following people and organizations for allowing Pelmar the use of their materials and information: 35 Thank You For Your Attention Cimcorp OY McNeil/NRM Uzer Makina Akar Makina And others CGS Group/Mitas a.s. Bridgestone Corporation Michelin Tire Group VMI Group Larsen & Toubro