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3D printed tyres coming soon?

Goodyear non-pneumatic tires on a Local Motors Olli shuttle. Tyres have been 3D printed. Image credit: Goodyear

Four years ago, back in 2017, Michelin announced a prototype of 3D printed tyre (watch the clip) that was just awesome, promising to reinvent the whole business.

The 3D printing made possible to create a structure that was as strong as today’s tyres but lighter. Additionally, such a tyre would resist punctures (you’ll never again get a “flat” tyre) and it was easy to replace the outer rubber by just re-printing it on the old one. Since one could re-print the rubber it becomes possible to print it with the best shape to suit your driving style and weather condition: you would have a certain grooves pattern in winter and a different one in summer, another person might want to have a groove pattern suited for heavy rain (rain season) and a different one for the dry season.

Four years have gone by and I still use the same type of tyres on my car. I guess the problem, as it is usually the case with innovation, is how to move, in an affordable way, from the prototype to an industrial product.

Now I saw that Goodyear has announced the result of a three year testing of 3D printed non-pneumatic (airless) tyres. The testing has shown that this new tyres demonstrate the required durability, handling and cost effectiveness that can bring them into the process of industrial manufacturing.

However, it should be noticed that the tyre has been designed, and tested, to operate in a urban environment, that is a low to moderate speed. It may not be suited for the higher speed on highways.  This is why Goodyear and Michelin are not planning to see these tyres replacing today’s tyres anytime soon.

In urban transportation they can be useful, decreasing maintenance cost. A little bit more “futuristic” is the vision of Goodyear to fill the tyre structure with moss. As the car moves around the moss picks up CO2 and release Oxygen, that is why they have called their research project on the new tyre Oxygen.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.