The month of May used to be a month with lots of warm pre-summer weather, barbecues, and swimming. Well, this year’s May is indeed wet … but grey and cold. In this wet weather with slippery roads, it is important to have well-profiled tires under my car. How does AM work for tire manufacturers? If you look closely at a tire, you can see a complex structure of lines varying in width, depth, and height on a three-dimensional surface. The pattern it creates must make sure that the water on a surface while driving with considerable speed is drained (or pressed away) so that the car tire remains its grip on the road. Since I am not a car or even a tire expert, I can imagine that with each different weather condition, vehicle (whether it is a car, racing car, truck, motorcycle, or bicycle), or the position of the tire on a vehicle itself, a tire needs other requirements. With AM, the ability to produce extremely complex structures of high quality is feasible. As well as the short production times guarantee significant time savings compared to conventional tire mold making. Instead of milling away a large section of material, with AM, there is an obvious efficient material usage and better cost-efficiency. I have found some nice examples of 3D-printed tire molds to show you what is done now.
What you see here are five 3D printed segments of a Marigo tire mold insert on an EOS printer bed. Due to the limited space inside a 3D printed tire mold must be 3D printed in separate segments. However, thanks to the repeat of the tread and the segments you can easily replace worn parts with newly 3D printed parts when needed.
Hankook Precision Work, a division of Hankook Tire Group, a Korean car tire manufacturer, uses 3D printing to manufacture sipes and other parts for tire molds. The 3D printed parts on this printer bed are the base of a tire mold insert.
Here you can see the 3D printed tire mold inserts placed into an aluminum outer ring providing the required strength, stability, and roundness to support the inner 3D printed profile. These 3D printed parts are from Herbert Maschinenbau GmbH, a German manufacturer of tire molds (also top image).
I would like to end this blog post with two 3D printed examples of Michelin. From 2000 Michelin started looking into AM to produce their tire molds. According to their website already in 2014 Michelin 3D printed 1 million parts per year. In 2016 Michelin created AddUp, a joint venture with Fives, an international industrial engineering group. On the image, you see a printer bed with 3D printed sipes. Thanks to AM, Michelin can improve their tire tread designs with more complex and smart parts to improve safety on the road.
The other amazing example of Michelin is the Vision tire. The biodegradable tire is 3D printed, needs no air and it designed to last as long as the car itself. The follow up of this concept is UPTIS, a puncture-proof, airless tire, which treads can be restored via 3D printing. A huge improvement, since it is estimated that 20% of tires are scrapped prematurely due to a puncture or irregular ear caused by pressure loss. The ambition of Michelin is to make UPTIS accessible to the public by 2024.
Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.