Korbach, Germany — Continental AG has started production at the high-performance technology centre (HPTC) located at the firm’s Korbach tire plant, built over the past two years at a cost of more than €45 million.
The 129,000-sq-ft “factory within a factory” is dedicated not only to producing tires in the 19- to 24-inch rim diameter range but also to developing advanced manufacturing methods, Conti said.
Annual production is expected to hit 350,000 ultra-high-performance tires at full capacity. The center is staffed by 80 employees.
“In addition to producing ultra-high-performance tires to meet the exacting requirements of high-powered sports cars, we will also be building test tires as we develop and trial new manufacturing processes in Korbach,” said Plant Manager Lothar Salokat.
“Using cutting-edge technology, we document every detail of our research and development projects so that our innovations can then be rolled out in Continental tire plants worldwide.”
Effectively, this means that Korbach will be acting as an “extended workbench” of the central research and development department at the Hanover-Stöcken, Germany, headquarters plant.
Conti said all of the machinery installed at the HPTC is networked via sensor systems and software adhering to the “Industry 4.0” concept, which allows every step in the process and the behavior of the materials during processing to be documented fully. This is the first plant in Continental’s network to be so networked, the company said.
“As a result, our tire-building experts, chemists and physicists are able to design cutting-edge processes and monitor every detail of their suitability for industrial-scale tire production,” said Georg Reichert, HPTC project manager in charge of construction in Korbach.
“This means that from now on we can carry out even ultra-short production-run testing on the conventional tire-making machinery used across Continental,” he said. “Changes to individual materials and production steps and to vulcanization temperatures and times can be simulated, and then their impact on the finished tire can be investigated in vehicle tests.”
The HPTC includes everything usually found in a tire factory, Conti said. Rubber compounds are produced on-site in line with their recipe; steel cord and textile cutters are available for producing the semi-finished products, as are extruders, various tire-building machines and hot presses for vulcanization.
While all the tire-building machines in use meet Continental's usual standards, the company said, individual segments of the green tire can be cured at different temperatures, allowing researchers to monitor in detail the chemical reactions that take place during vulcanization.
Speaking the facility’s opening this week, Nikolai Setzer, member of Conti’s Executive Board and head of the Tire Division, said, “HPTC emphatically underlines Continental's tight focus on technology and commitment to further development.”
“Reaching this technological milestone marks the completion of another major step in implementing our Vision 2025,” Conti’s strategic plan that includes expanding global tire capacity.
Under Vision 2025, Conti has invested roughly €2 billion worldwide since 2011 in production, R&D, job creation and new products, Setzer said.
Also attending the inauguration of the HPTC were: Lothar Salokat, Korbach plant manager, and Jörg Schönfelder, chairman of the works council at Korbach.
The first tire produced at the HPTC was a SportContact 6 super sports tire designed for luxury ultra-high-performance cars. Production of the SportContact 6 line began last August at the Korbach plant.
The 108-year-old Korbach plant is rated at 30,000 passenger, SUV and van tires a day plus undisclosed capacity for performance motorcycle tires and 185,000 meters of automotive hose a day. The plant employs 3,400.