EDMONTON, Alta – Michelin North America is launching the most aggressive drive-axle tire it has ever produced this August, aiming to meet the extreme conditions of oil field and logging fleets. And the inspiration for the tire – the Michelin X Works Grip D – came from the same place where the tire was launched: Alberta.
Fleets and dealers in the Grande Prairie area were at the heart of the customer-centric process, which included in depth discussions to drive the design process followed by input on 2D- and 3D-tire prints. Coming to market with the X Works Grip D took about 20 months.
“The customers in this market (Alberta’s logging and oil field fleets and the dealers serving them) are very knowledgeable. They know exactly what they want so the path was very clear,” said Kamal Adhikari from Michelin’s Greenville, SC office.
Nor were these fleet customers and dealers shy about telling Michelin when it missed the mark as they felt it had with the previous offering for this market segment, the EX2. Dealers were losing sales and pressing Michelin to either bring back the predecessor to the EX2, the EX, or come up with a new solution.
Michelin chose the second option, explained Adhikari, who was directly involved with the new tire development process all the way to the tire launch in Edmonton’s historic Fairmont hotel June 19th.
“This is not an evolution of what we previously offered for this segment of the market. We started from a blank sheet. We started new,” Adhikari said.
In designing the X Works Grip D tire Michelin focused on three key performance attributes: traction, casing durability and uptime.
Traction was addressed through the combination of an extra-wide tread, which provides more biting edge across the ground, and improving the rubber-to-void ratio. Staggered shoulder blocks provide lateral grip to handle slippery conditions and sawtooth lugs with more than 800 serrated edges boost grip on ice and snow-packed surfaces.
“We wanted to design the tire so that every rotation brought traction,” said Adhikari.
Casing durability was addressed through four separate features, which in combination help prevent casing damage.
Stone ejectors placed around the center block to fight stone retention and drilling. They were strategically placed in the center because that’s where stones usually get trapped and then drill into the steel belts in the heart of the tire.
Shock, impact and road hazard protection through four steel belts at the crown of the tire. That’s one more belt than the next leading competitor, Adhikari pointed out. “Customers can’t see the inside of the tire and that’s an easy area to cut costs. Steel and rubber are not cheap. But it’s important to do the right thing even when customers are not looking. Four layers of steel protect against rocks that do go through.”
Sidewall protection realized through extra-thick sidewalls, which protect the tire in extreme conditions from chipping and scaling.
Co-Ex Technology for a cool-running tread rubber that reduces temperatures in the crown area and preserves the casing, increasing the ability for the tire to be retreaded.
To maximize uptime, Michelin redesigned the housing of the tread and the positioning of the shoulder blocks, allowing for a quick installation and removal of snow-chains, a reality for many of the fleets serving this segment of the market. Specifically, the X Works Grip D was designed with a large enough notch between the outer lugs to accommodate most tire chains.
“Putting on and taking off tire chains is a pain point. It’s critical to drivers. If a driver doesn’t like (how easy it is to place a chain on a tire) you’re done,” Adhikari said. “The challenge is to make the notch just big enough that the largest chain would hold and the smallest chain won’t wiggle.”
The MICHELIN X Works Grip D tire is available in the United States and Canada in 11R24.5 size and load range H. To learn more about truck tires and services, visit www.michelintruck.com