ERJ staff report (RPN)
By Miles Moore, Rubber & Plastics News Staff
Hilton Head, South Carolina -- Executives from three startup companies-two with innovative tyre designs, another with a plan to make tyre-grade guayule rubber in commercial quantities-sought backers for their businesses at the Clemson University Tyre Industry Conference in Hilton Head 18-20 April.
Avishay Novoplanski, founder and chief technical officer of Israeli firm Galileo Wheel Ltd, said his company's patented â€œCupWheelâ€ tyre design offers a substantial advance in performance and durability over traditional pneumatic tyres.
â€œBias and radial tyres are both a kind of envelope filled with a volume of air,â€ Novoplanski said. â€œThe main role of a tyre is to absorb shock. If a tyre is flexible vertically, it's also flexible sideways, a tradeoff all tyres suffer from.â€
However, the CupWheel design obviates that tradeoff, eliminating some of the boundaries of traditional tyre design, according to Novoplanski. â€œWe are breaking design limits where shock absorption and ride comfort no longer contradict side stability,â€ he said.
Airless tyre offering
Meanwhile, SciTech Industries of Boca Raton, Florida, has worked for years on a completely airless tyre, and is very close to having it ready for commercial production, said Michael Moon, SciTech vice president of engineering.
SciTech bases its design on the work of Gyula Subotics, the former research and development head of the now-defunct Taurus tyre company in Hungary, Moon said.
Ten years of development work has produced a radical, patented new tyre design with supports made from a thermoplastic glass fibre composite never before used in the tyre industry, he said.
A tyre made from the SciTech design was moulded at a contract tyre factory in Eastern Europe and tested successfully, on a standard rim, at a lab in Ohio, according to Moon.
SciTech believes its tyre will improve vehicle fuel economy by as much as 2 percent, thanks to less sidewall flex than pneumatic tyres, according to Moon. The tyre never runs hot, and the absence of air eliminates slow leaks, spare tyres and tread separations caused by underinflation, he said.
The company also has successfully retreaded the airless tyre, using both pre-cure and mould-cure technologies, Moon said.
Michael Fraley, president and CEO of Arizona-based PanAridus llc, has spent more than 20 years developing successful agribusiness companies.
However, a 2004 meeting with old guayuleros-agronomists who worked on government programs to extract commercial quantities of rubber from the desert shrub guayule during World War II and again in the 1980s-gave him the impetus to work on commercialising guayule himself, he said.
In 1910, guayule provided 50 percent of U.S. natural rubber needs and 10 percent of the world's, Fraley said. However, the only guayule plants grew wild, and the inability to cultivate them caused the guayule business to die out, he said.
PanAridus, whose new website will go live in mid-May, has the largest team of agronomists in the world and has developed the world's largest germplasm bank, Fraley said.
The company already has done substantial work in guayule, he said. â€œWe extracted kilograms of guayule from our plants-the first time that's been done in 25 years,â€ he said. â€œThe guayule rubber meets or exceeds all ASTM/ISO standards.â€
However, the per-acre yield of guayule has to be increased to make the rubber viable on a global basis, Fraley said. â€œWe are cognizant of receiving diminishing returns with conventional plant breeds,â€ he said. â€œBut time is money, and we have the technology to grow rapidly.â€
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