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Tire Innovation: Rubber – More or Less – Meets the Road

Posted on May 17th, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

Hankook Future Tire Concept

By HankookTyre Australia [Content on YouTube], via YouTube

With the seemingly constant flow of new product launches in the consumer electronics and software industries, it’s easy for consumers to lose sight of developments in the products they rely upon daily, like automotive tires. Fortunately, forward thinking ideas from engineers at Hankook prove more than just a retread on an old classic.

How often do you think about tires? If you’re like me, it’s only when the tire pressure warning light illuminates on your car dashboard or just before your annual state vehicle safety inspection. (Now where did I put my last U.S. penny?) After all, the automotive tire has remained largely the same since the pneumatic tire’s invention in 1847 and the DuPont company successfully industrialized synthetic rubber in 1931.

So it was exciting – and inspirational – to see the innovative conceptual work coming out of the Hankook Technodome, the company’s state-of-the art R&D center. The four concepts highlighted in the entertaining video below include dramatically new product approaches at improving extreme cornering, ride comfort, off-road traction, and fuel efficiency.

Each concept is apparently the result of engineers thinking functionally about the physics or environment involved in the tire’s operation. For example, the Hybrid tire features a concave section in the center of the tread reducing road contact area. This reduces rolling resistance for greater fuel economy at normal speeds, but having the appropriate spring coefficient, the section could flatten at higher speed to provide greater traction during times of performance.

Thinking functionally is a topic I frequently discuss and is a great technique for engineers and designers to broaden ideas for consideration and breakthrough innovation. Have a closer look at the four Hankook concepts to see if you can identify the physical or environmental phenomena they were trying to address. Who knows, you just might find inspiration from something as mundane as a tire – think about it.

What functions are at play in the products your company produces? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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