In today’s world of viral marketing, another Silicon Valley tech company seem ready to reinvent the wheel every month or so. But if anyone actually might accomplish the feat, a tire manufacturer seems the likeliest choice and sure enough, fresh off a set of record-breaking Nürburgring sessions, French tire manufacturer Michelin has committed itself to what could be a novel, and ultimately effective, approach.
The company announced a vision of the future at an industry event called Movin’ On 2018, which includes a commitment to manufacture 100 percent recyclable tires by the year 2048, while using 80 percent sustainable materials. Now, that vision has received additional clarification, as the company turns a sharper eye towards the use of wood-based materials in their tires.
As reported by motoring.com.au, Michelin’s worldwide director of scientific and innovation communication, Cyrille Roget, revealed the optimistic goal of unveiling a prototype 3D printed tire constructed using wood materials by the year 2020. Alongside the wood concept, Michelin hopes to debut 3D printed tires made out of rubber compounds that are structured to negate the need for air inflation, a design that will allow the tires to be able to last the entire lifetime of the vehicles they are mounted upon.
While 2048 may seem like it's a long way off, Michelin’s plan is a step-by-step process, transitioning first to tires with a 60-10-30 petroleum to recyclable to a biosourced ratio by 2038. That will mark an impressive improvement over the 72-2-26 percent ratios in tires produced this year, though the final goal of 20 percent petroleum-based, 30 percent recyclable, and 50 percent biosourced by 2048 will require exponentially larger and faster improvements.
The process of infusing tires with wood aligns Michelin with helping to reduce waste within the wood and logging industry, as wood chips from mills worldwide will be used to form the elastomers required for smooth-riding, supple tires. With current technology, Roget still admits that 3D printing on a large scale is more like 10 to 15 years away, but hopes that developments in polymer printing and tire recharging should help to spur the growth that the industry so desperately wants to foment. Much like plugging an electric car into a charging station, the concept of tire recharging may help to extend tire lifespans indefinitely.