Tokyo--Bridgestone has lifted the veil on its latest production system, BIRD, just a little bit. Bridgestone has confirmed a newspaper report saying the system will be on stream from January 2005. The manufacturing cell-based BIRD (Bridgestone Innovative and Rational Development) system is closer in concept to Pirelli's MIRS than the integrated solution adopted by Michelin with C3M.
Bridgestone says BIRD operates with a kind of manufacturing cell, comprising about 10 stations, none of which is higher than a metre or two. The total area of this single cell is some 30m x 20m, with a daily output of 500 - 700 tyres. The cell produces green tyres which are then transferred to curing presses by a robotic arm.
Bridgestone currently has just one cell operating within Bridgestone's plant in Kodaira on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Masaharu Oku, a Bridgestone vice president responsible for tyre production technology, said the system can take a tyre from raw materials to a finished tyre in less than an hour, and has the flexibility to make different sized-tyres, "one by one in succession." This approach is similar to Pirelli's MIRS and unlike Michelin's C3M.
According to the report, the work cell comprises a number of stations linked by conveyor belt in a U-shape. Depending on the construction, the BIRD cell may comprise more or fewer stations for each aspect of the tyre's assembly. Bridgestone says the tyres are wound around a circular drum as they progress from station to station, and that this drum can easily be expanded or shrunk to permit manufacture of different tyre sizes. Apparently, the design of this drum is a critical aspect of the BIRD production system.
Bridgestone has invested Â¥26000 million ($250 million) on this single line, but capacity will be up to 12 000 tyres per day by the year, 2007, implying that the company will build around 20 such lines by that time.
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Nikkei (Japan) story (Subscription to Nikkei required)