It can communicate with the vehicle, and has tread that can change to suit varying needs.
— Montreal, Quebec
Tires aren’t sexy. There, I said it. But we all know this don’t we? Maybe that’s why Michelin’s Visionary Concept tire unveiled at the Movin’On Conference was colored blue and shown under some very sexy lighting.
So what is the Visionary Concept exactly? It’s Michelin’s idea of what a tire could be, the way it believes it should be. A tire that uses no air, made possible by a honeycomb structure throughout, which as the company describes is a “generative design: a form that mimics the natural growth process at work in the plant, mineral or sometimes even animal world, such as in corals, for example.”
The tread on the tire can be “replenished” as it were, using a cold cure 3D printing technology. In the video above, the company envisions these tire printers as something vehicle owners could simply drive up to, select an option in-car, and have the machine print new tread onto the tires in real time.
Speaking with media, Michelin Executive Vice President of Research and Development Terry Gettys pointed out that the company is still in the very early stages of this research and that the durability of 3D printed tread is yet to be verified.
A technology that isn’t too far away, the smart tire, is also part of the Visionary Concept’s tech repertoire. The tire is capable of sending treadwear information to the vehicle, and request a tread reprint depending on where the vehicle is traveling to.
Speaking on the smart aspect of the Visionary Concept tire, Gettys mentions that we can expect to see connected tire tech show up for passenger vehicle and light truck use in the next two or three years. Much of the other technology, however, has projections for the next 10-20 years.
He also speaks about how the future concept tire will be optimized for comfort and low noise as autonomous vehicles become more prevalent, diminishing the need for handling-focused tires.
Michelin says the tire will be made of a wide variety of biodegradable recycled materials and that it will be completely recyclable at life’s end. Because of the reprintable tread, the life of each tire is said to be that of the vehicle it’s attached to. Oh, and yes, the wheel is part of the tire structure.
The Visionary Concept tire is more an exploration and idea of what the future of rubber on the road could look like rather than an actual product for today. And while some of the tech seems farfetched, it’s still an intriguing look into what the future of transportation could look like.
Photos: Kanishka Sonnadara / Motor1.com
Gallery: Michelin Visionary Concept tire
MICHELIN VISIONARY CONCEPT
"Because we believe that mobility is essential for human development, we innovate passionately to make it safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly"
To which we could add: pleasanter, more accessible, more practical, more connected and so on. For over a century, this business purpose of ours has led us to bring to market innovations that improve mobility. It also compels us to constantly project ourselves into the future so that we can imagine what mobility of the future might look like!
Imagine a future in which your tire is also a wheel: puncture-proof because there is no pressure. Its ruggedness comes from its biomimetic structure, as if it had been created by Nature... A wheel made of recycled materials and which is completely recycled at the end of its life, after having covered thousands and thousands of kilometers - as long as the vehicle itself.
Now imagine that you don't have to worry any more about keeping your loved ones safe when you travel, because road conditions and bad weather don't matter any more: your tread instantly adjusts to your driving conditions, whenever necessary, using just the right amount of materials. A tread that can be modified and replenished at will, without wasting any resources, time or money, and which protects the environment for the generations to come...
This mobility solution... Michelin has imagined it. And even a bit more than that: the prototype of the MICHELIN Visionary Concept unveiled on the Michelin stand at Movin'On in Montreal (June 13 to 15) sparked intense curiosity among experts and the international press.
What is the MICHELIN Visionary Concept?
Think of it as a combination of three parts:
1) First, a wheel with no air, designed to last as long as the vehicle. Its ultra-durability comes from its honeycomb structure, which is inspired by natural models (we call it generative design: a form that mimics the natural growth process at work in the plant, mineral or sometimes even animal world, such as in corals, for example). It is made of recycled materials and it is fully recyclable.
2) Next, a tread with a very distinctive feature: it can be "replenished" by a 3D printer. The material used, which draws on cold cure technology, delivers the same performances as a conventional tread. But with one notable difference: it is completely biodegradable. And what is the advantage of this? Maybe your tire's tread is worn or maybe your road conditions have changed (you're driving off-road or in rain, snow, heat, etc.), but you can print the tread you need in a matter of minutes! What's more, 3D printing is an additive technology, which means that it adds just the quantity of material that is necessary, where it is necessary, with no waste or loss.
3) Lastly, MICHELIN Visionary Concept is connected: it communicates with your vehicle and your vehicle communicates with it. Without getting out of your car or even leaving your home, you can be informed of the wear on your tread and program a tread reprint, choosing the type of tread pattern you need at that particular time for your intended tire use, or simply following the suggestion made by the embedded app, which detects your requirements.
Michelin's vision of future mobility is also based on a vision of the entire economy that guides our Research and our innovations. A circular economy capable of protecting the planet's resources by reducing, reusing, renewing or recycling the materials required to manufacture our products, and avoid leaving a negative impact on the environment. This approach has been dubbed the "4R Strategy" at Michelin, for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Renew. We bear in mind that, for mobility to have a bright future, it will have to be ever safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.