Troy, Mich. — Did you know that the wheel was invented more than 5,000 years ago?
It is uncertain exactly what culture invented the wheel, but it is believed to have been first used in the late Neolithic period (3500 B.C.) in ancient Mesopotamia primarily for spinning pottery.
It wasn't until around 300 years later that someone figured out it would be good to use on wheelbarrows and then chariots.
Since then, technological advancements have been made in the design of wheels, and stone has given way to wood, steel and aluminium since Roman technicians were probably filing numerous workman's comp claims for back injuries every time they had to change a stone wheel.
By comparison, the tire is a relatively new invention.
Just 173 years ago, in 1844, Charles Goodyear invented vulcanization to produce rubber tires, and in 1846 Scottish engineer Robert William Thomson invented and patented his pneumatic tire design.
Unfortunately, his idea was well before its time and not a commercial success. (Everyone thinks that John Boyd Dunlop invented and patented the pneumatic tire in 1887, but in 1891 this patent was invalidated in favor of the earlier Thomson patent.)
In 1888, Michelin Tire Co. was launched in France. In 1890, Dunlop began production of pneumatic tires in Ireland, and in 1898, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was founded in Akron.
Since then, the pneumatic tire has continued to evolve to the technologically advanced product it is today, but essentially it has remained at its foundation essentially the same: made of vulcanized rubber, pneumatic and black and round.
If you had to design a tire and wheel assembly from scratch today, what would it look like?
Forget rubber. Forget pneumatic tire design. Forget it having to be individual wheel and tire components.
Think outside the box. How would you design a tire/wheel assembly that is capable of carrying heavy loads, operating at high speeds, is long wearing and provides good ride and traction but is totally different from tires that we know today?
Well, if you are stopping to think about it now, it'll be years before you finish reading this article.
Fortunately, someone else with way more smarts and education has taken on this challenge and done the innovative thinking for you and me already, and the idea he has come up with is quite novel and exciting.
In fact, it could revolutionize the whole tire industry as we know it.