Reinventing the Wheel

Reinventing the wheel is generally discouraged on principle. And yet, if one can create a wheel with enough properties that are superior to what is being used, at an affordable price, one stands to make a lot of money.

It is estimated that more than 3 billion tires are dumped every year, worldwide. Is it possible that there is a better wheel to be found?

Hankook NPT Consumer Airless Tire

Hankook NPT Consumer Airless Tire

Instead of pressurized air as a shock absorber that can also support the weight of the vehicle, airless tires (also called non-pneumatic tires, or NPTs) use deformable solid materials (usually rubber) to achieve the same effects.

…. There are already airless tires in production: Michelin sells the Tweel for agricultural vehicles, and Polaris has been offering an ATV with NPTs since late 2013. What’s new is Hankook’s announcement that it has been aggressively testing its NPT for applications that require more than low-speed ruggedness. Among them is the passenger vehicle. The series of “rigorous tests” that the company is putting its tires through are meant to prove their durability, hardness (efficiency), stability, ability to take high-speed turns (slalom), and ability to maintain their integrity at high speeds (up to 130 kilometers per hour). Hankook says that “the impressive results in all five categories demonstrated that the NPTs could match conventional tires in terms of performance.” __ IEEE Spectrum

Hankook is headquartered in South Korea

The fundamentals of the wheel have literally not changed in over 5,000 years. It began round in shape and made it easier to move something rather than dragging it over the ground. Then someone added the axle‚ and that was that. ___

Europe and Mesopotamia were locations of the earliest wheels and depictions of wheeled vehicles. It is likely that wheels have been used for practical purposes by humans for over 7,000 years.

Evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the second half of the 4th millennium BC, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia (Sumerian civilization), the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe, so that the question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle is still unsolved.

The earliest well-dated depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here a wagon—four wheels, two axles) is on the Bronocice pot, a c. 3500 – 3350 BC clay pot excavated in a Funnelbeaker culture settlement in southern Poland.[3]

The oldest securely dated real wheel-axle combination, that from Stare Gmajne near Ljubljana in Slovenia (Ljubljana Marshes Wooden Wheel) is now dated in 2σ-limits to 3340-3030 cal BC, the axle to 3360-3045 cal BC [4] __ “Wheel” Wikipedia

Africa, pre-Columbian America, and Australia had to wait for the importation of the wheel by more inventive peoples.

Michelin Tweel Airless

Michelin Tweel Airless

Michelin announced the opening of a $50 million US plant in South Carolina, for exclusive manufacture of airless tires — the Tweel — , in November of 2014.

According to Michelin, the Tweel lasts three times as long as conventional tires. Unlike conventional tires, the tread can be replaced without having to replace the entire unit, so there is less waste of material. In addition, since the design doesn’t need to retain air, it can be made to shed water quickly, which reduces hydroplaning. The company says that the Tweel is easy to install, damage resistant, and provides increased operator comfort.

… __ David Szondy via Telegraph

Bridgestone Airless

Bridgestone Airless

Japanese tire company, Bridgestone, did research of their own and as recently as 2011, they released their own non-pneumatic tire concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. The construction of their version mimicked the Tweel almost exactly, with the exception of using inner and outer spokes that run in opposite directions, as opposed to the Tweel’s V-shaped spokes. Their claim was that noise and vibration for their version was a non-issue. Bridgestone’s strong showing is also a boon to environmentalism as the materials are far easier to recycle than standard synthetic rubber, hence the interesting green and black color scheme, most likely. __ Design Spotlight Airless Tires

Convertible Hybrid Tire Pavement to Soft Ground to Amphibious Paddlewheel

Convertible Hybrid Tire
Hard Pavement to Soft Ground to Amphibious Paddlewheel

… Amphibious Hybrid concept vehicle – is a case of Bond meets the Transformers with its automatically adjusting tire design that morphs to ensure maximum grip on any given terrain including ice and water, where it becomes a kind of three wheel paddle boat. __ Source

Omniwheel All-Direction Movement for Warehouse and Factory Forklifts and other Tight-Space Vehicles

All-Direction Movement for Warehouse and Factory Forklifts and other Tight-Space Vehicles

Designer and Developer of ATX 3000 Omni-Directional Lift Truck

More examples of “reinventing the wheel” from Al Fin, here, and here.

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3 Responses to Reinventing the Wheel

  1. jccarlton says:

    Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    I keep seeing these airless car tires about every other year or so. I have yet to see any of them on a car being driven down the street.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Quite right. There is a good reason why: L-A-W-S-U-I-T-S .

      Tire companies, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, pharma companies, medical institutions and providers, etc. are all quite exposed to lawsuits — some of which could potentially put them out of business.

      New wheel and tire designs are being tested in agriculture, industry, the military, and other off-the-beaten path places where legal liability can be better managed.

      New drugs, tires, medical products, and airplanes have to be well tested and proven before being exposed to lawsuits from a society that is marinating in excess, unscrupulous lawyers.

      • jccarlton says:

        Yes I know. You would not believe how much time in engineering gets spent on stupid liability and regulatory requirements. ROHS is four letter word.

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