At its International Mobility summit, Movin On, French tire manufacturer Michelin unveiled a new concept tire that is both airless and created with a 3D printer.
Announcing the tire this week in Montreal, Canada, Michelin proposes a design for the future of sustainable mobility. The tire is rechargeable, biodegradable, complete with sensors for real-time monitoring, and claims to be completely 3D printed.
Michelin demonstrated its pursuit of 3D printing technology recently having teamed up with fellow french company Fives to produce metal 3D printed tire molds. It seems Michelin is now aiming to bypass the traditional mold-based manufacturing process with its new 3D printing concept.
Gif shows the proposed recharging process. Images via Michelin.
As a result of the new design, Michelin explains the tire is ‘rechargeable’ in that its tread can be reprinted with “just the right amount of rubber.” Rather than refilling tires with air, Michelin foresees a future of reprinting tires by the roadside. This concept is referred to by Michelin as a ‘Print&Go’ station and users would book appointments via mobile app.
Additionally Michelin envisages that not only can the tire’s lifespan be elongated in this way, the tire can also adapt its usability. Swapping out summer and winter tires would be a thing of the past with the ability to reprint the tire’s tread and repurpose them.
Michelin explains the tire removes the need for air by “relying instead on an interior architecture capable of supporting the vehicle.” Interestingly, Michelin refers to this interior design as based on an alveolar structure – i.e relating to the small air sacs in the lungs. Such a structure would be impossible to create without using a 3D printer for the intricate internal geometries.
Smart biodegradable tires
The tires depend on sensors which allow drivers to monitor performance via an application. As shown in the concept video, the driver can choose to reprint the tires at the press of a button.
Since the Movin On summit focused on sustainability, Michelin was also proud to present the tires were biodegradable thanks to the ‘bio-sourced’ materials which were used in production.
Future of tires within reach
Although, the design is currently a concept – designer and head of the VISION project, Mostapha El-Oulhani, explains it “is a showcase of our expertise as well as a promise of the future.” He explains the concept is not as far-fetched as it may seem,
We wanted VISION to be realistic since no purpose is served by designing objects or services that we know pertinently are unrealistic. On the contrary, VISION is possible since it is based on R&D know-how and we can already see the future applications, on which the Group is now working. It’s a promise that is within reach.
Michelin currently holds 19 patents relating to the VISION tire which, according to the company, protect all aspects of its design, process and materials. Rival tire company, Goodyear has also presented its own vision for the future of tires with the 3D printed spherical tire last year. While different in design, it seems the two rival companies similarly view 3D printing as central to their plans.
Featured image shows the VISION concept tire. Photo via Jimmy Hamelin/Michelin.