NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tires could very well be the Rodney Dangerfields of the trucking world; they simply don’t get the respect they deserve. They may seem simple and utilitarian but the science that goes into their construction is considerably sophisticated.
That much is quickly made evident as one listens to Guy Walenga, director of engineering for commercial products and technologies, Bridgestone Americas. Walenga has a wealth of knowledge about tire design and during the company’s Media Boot Camp held here this week he shared it with transportation industry journalists.
That “simple” truck tire with a basic four-belt construction actually includes 14-15 different rubber compounds, each chosen for a specific set of properties, not to mention a series of agents to help the rubber cure faster, resist oxidation, etc. Each of these compounds cures under a certain temperature, time and pressure yet they must all cure at the same time to produce a tire.
That’s just the basics of course. As Walenga showed, tire design has taken on a great deal of sophistication over the years. For example, Bridgestone’s focus is on a total tire solution. Its new Ecopia lineup, first introduced to the market at the Mid-America Trucking Show in the spring, includes five new tires (steer, drive and trailer positions) and is married to four new tread designs in the Bandag FuelTech line (drive and trailer positions). The idea is to provide a fuel efficient solution from the original tire through to the retread.
Bridgestone believes the tires can save up to 29% in total tire wear cost when retreading an Ecopia casing with Bandag FuelTech.
Walenga walked through several of the enhancements built into the new tires.
Within the tire tread, Bridgestone is using a patented polymer technology called NanoPro-Tech. Using this technological advancement, quality carbon black is dispersed more uniformally within the rubber, better controlling particle movement and thus reducing energy loss. Why this matters is because the end result, according to Walenga, is improved fuel economy through lower rolling resistance.
The company has also turned to a proprietary sidewall compound to reduce heat generation, which reduces rolling resistance and improve fuel economy without compromising protection for the tire. The sidewall of the M710 drive radial and the R197 trailer Ecopia tires also contain less bead filler volume as a way to lower tire weight and improve fuel economy. Walenga said about two pounds have been removed from the tires through this design enhancement, which had been used in the Japanese market for about six years before being tried in North America.
“You can barely see the difference but if you touch the tire you can feel it,” Walenga said.
The company’s line of wide-base singles, called Greatec Ecopia, include a patented Waved Belt design to improve durability and create a more retreadable casing, particularly when paired with a Bandag FuelTech product.