Movin’ On with Tweels: Michelin Debuts 3D Printed, Biodegradable Smart Tire at Its Sustainable Mobility Summit

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Renowned tire company Michelin joined the 3D printing arena in 2015 when it entered into a joint venture partnership with Fives to manufacture metal 3D printers. This week, its parent company, Groupe Michelin, is holding its global summit for sustainable mobility, Movin’ On, in Montreal, and Michelin made a big announcement at the summit: the company used 3D printing technology to develop a new smart tire…or is it a tweel?

Michelin debuted the concept tire, dubbed Vision, at the summit; it’s actually a wheel integrated with a tire, or tweel. The project was launched by Michelin’s Corporate Innovation Board this past fall, and according to Tire Review, Michelin said that the goal of the 3D printed Vision was to make a tire that “represents the mobility of the future as well as being both sustainable and intelligent.”

It’s not the first time we’ve seen 3D printed tires, but they certainly don’t look anything like this one. The customizable Vision tire is airless, connected, rechargeable, and completely organic – some of the recycled, bio-sourced materials used to 3D print the tire include cardboard and tin cans, used metals, plastic waste and e-waste, bamboo and paper, tire chips, natural rubber, and even orange zest.

Using biodegradable materials to 3D print the Vision helps lower its environmental footprint, and 3D printing also made it possible for Michelin to use precise amounts of natural rubber, without having to waste any in production. According to Michelin, this biodegradable tread performs just as well as conventional tread.

Terry Gettys, the Executive Vice President of Research and Development for Michelin, said, “It’s inspired by nature with a very light, efficient structure.”

The honeycomb-like design for the tire mimics the structure of coral: it features a stiff center that gradually softens as it gets closer to the outer edge. This design is possible thanks to the alveolar interior architecture of the tire, which helps it support the vehicle, remain solid, and also guarantees safety and comfort. The structure was developed using advanced modeling, and since it’s airless, the 3D printed Vision is puncture-proof, so it can’t blowout or explode.

In order to lower its thickness, the rechargeable tread design for the tire is both optimized and depth reduced, making the use of materials, production, and operation more efficient. The tread can also be adapted for specific mobility needs, such as a seasonal change or the existing treads wearing down.

The connected concept tire includes embedded sensors, which monitor its condition in real time and provide information about the tire through integration with Michelin’s mobile app. Users could also use the app to schedule an appointment with Michelin so the tire can be recharged, have the destination changed, or update its tread design when necessary.

You won’t be seeing the 3D printed Vision tire on the roads anytime soon, as it is only a concept, and Michelin says that there are currently no plans for production yet, though it does offer a non-pneumatic airless tweel for golf carts, riding mowers, and skid steer loaders. Discuss in the Michelin forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources/Images: Tire Review, CCJ News, Fox News]

 

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