BDE’s tire-development effort, meanwhile, employs advanced software, analysis, research and testing techniques. Typically, the goal is to reduce tire weight and rolling resistance and help clients – including those based in emerging Asian countries – to do very well in the world’s most respected independent tire tests.
To deliver such projects, BDE employs around 50 engineers with expertise in tire manufacture, design and testing. They mostly operate out of Tampere, though BDE is also establishing a network of satellite offices – in China, India, North America, south east Asia and Europe.
BDE carries out projects in all world regions including, up to last year, a large proportion in China. This level slumped after the US imposed tariffs on Chinese tires but is now recovering, the company boss reported.
But projects are kept under wraps as they are covered by strict non-disclosure agreements, which are extra stringent where transfer of IP to the client is involved.
So, for example, while BDE is involved in a project in Saudi Arabia that could become one of the world’s biggest tire plants, the company cannot give details of the client or location
“They are talking about 12-15 million PCRs and maybe… in steps something like 6 million TBR tires,” Hauvala did say at a recent BDE press conference near Helsinki. A feasibility study, he added, has been done and “the pre-design phases are waiting for financing.”
To explain how BDE operates, its president set out: “We help establish the most efficient tire plant with [tire] products on a turnkey basis. Clients only need money, we can take care of the rest.”
Project costs start at around €0.5-1.5 million but a plant design can be 5% of the investment cost or up to 7%, where particular technology elements are involved. They typically take two to three years, depending on how soon prototypes meet requirements and how much fine-tuning is needed, for example with compounds.
In practice, a team is sent to the customer’s facilities, making experimental moulds, tread patterns and compounds in the lab on a collaborative basis. A different BDE team then progresses things: making production-scale compound, extruded profiles and tire-building.