Giant new RDT tyre rides out the COVID bumps

The development and testing of a giant new tyre for rigid dump trucks has proceeded in India despite obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, while a technology partnership is enabling tyre intelligence to be incorporated into autonomous heavy vehicles.
Ancillary Equipment / April 6, 2021 5 mins Read
By Liam McLoughlin
BKT’s giant new EARTHMAX SR 468 OTR tyre for RDTs
BKT’s giant new EARTHMAX SR 468 OTR tyre for RDTs

Off-the-road (OTR) tyre manufacturer BKT has announced the giant EARTHMAX SR 468 57” (144.78cm) product which is designed to fit rigid dump trucks (RDTs). So far, the prototype has been made in the 40.00 R 57 size and is ready to be tested in the coming months by BKT engineers.

There is an interesting background to the development of EARTHMAX SR 468 as the new machinery to make the tyre reached the Indian plant in Bhuj last January, just before the lockdown.

Due to the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the machinery which reached Bhuj was not immediately installed. Only after a temporary shutdown of BKT’s manufacturing facilities, which was necessary to implement a rigorous safety plan for all staff, did activities finally return to full operation - including the installation of the new machinery for the EARTHMAX SR 468.

“Despite the pandemic and the extreme difficulties caused by the situation, in BKT we achieved the impossible: going ahead very determinedly but with a similar focus on people, who for us are the company’s real assets,” says Rajiv Poddar, joint managing director of BKT.

“With this giant 57” tyre, the prototype of which has been made thanks to the extraordinary determination of my fellow workers, we wish to send a positive message to the market, to our partner distributors and to our end users. In BKT, research & development into new products which help the company evolve but also the whole sector has not stopped.”

Goodyear is outfitting a Caterpillar 725 articulated dump truck with SafeAI autonomous software to monitor tyre health
Goodyear is outfitting a Caterpillar 725 articulated dump truck with SafeAI autonomous software to monitor tyre health

Dilip Vaidya, president and director of technology at BKT, said the EARTHMAX SR 468 will now be subject to rigorous testing through to spring 2021 to achieve the highest possible level of quality and reliability before the tyre is launched.

EARTHMAX SR 468 joins the other products in the EARTHMAX family, a range of radial tyres used on off-road vehicles and equipped with an all-steel structure which provides greater resistance to the casing and therefore limits damage. A major feature of the EARTHMAX SR 468 is the special tread design and the compound, created to limit the heat generated. The E-4 depth of the tread provides extreme resistance in highly challenging conditions.

BKT says of the unique circumstances surrounding the new tyre’s development: “At this critical time it is, above all, necessary to protect ourselves and protect others, but it is also necessary to think in a creative and ‘different’ way to face this incredible challenge.”

Meanwhile, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has partnered with autonomous heavy equipment technology provider SafeAI to incorporate tyre intelligence into the programming of autonomous heavy equipment vehicles.

Through an integration with the SafeAI autonomous ecosystem, the companies say their strategic relationship will exchange site data to protect tyre health, eliminate downtime and contribute to smarter and safer standards. Tyre intelligence from Goodyear’s TPMS heavy-duty rim-mounted sensors will be deployed at an active construction site in Cupertino, California.

Through the collaboration, Goodyear will outfit a Caterpillar 725 articulated dump truck, retrofitted with SafeAI’s autonomous software, to capture pressure and temperature data and monitor overall tyre health. These sensors can identify and communicate adverse conditions before they cause maintenance issues and derail a project. Cat 725 vehicles are used by quarry operators, as well as on construction and mine sites.

Goodyear says that traditional construction and extraction sites are rife with inefficiencies, fuelled in large part by costly unplanned downtime rates as high as 20-30%, resulting in missed timelines and increased budget – and COVID-19 is exacerbating these challenges. It adds that tyre intelligence can help mitigate these challenges by identifying early or potential problems, such as underinflation, before they cause unexpected delays – bolstering efficiency, safety and return on investment.

“No matter the vehicle – automobile, freight truck or dump truck – tyre intelligence can help elevate safety, performance and efficiency,” said Chris Helsel, Goodyear senior vice president and chief technology officer. “Through our work with SafeAI, we will not only empower site operators with greater visibility and efficiency, but also gain invaluable performance data to inform our future innovation in autonomy and heavy equipment.”

Continental’s Taraxagum sustainable tyre project produces natural rubber from dandelions
Continental’s Taraxagum sustainable tyre project produces natural rubber from dandelions

Bibhrajit Halder, founder & CEO at SafeAI, added: “At SafeAI, we strongly believe in a collaborative approach to deploying autonomy in construction and mining, at scale. We have purpose-built an interoperable autonomous technology that enables us to work with industry leaders like Goodyear and set the standard for autonomous heavy equipment.”

Germany-based multinational Continental has set out a new strategic programme for its tyres business area, with a focus on sustainability and digital solutions to differentiate itself from competitors in a fast-changing market environment.

The ‘Vision 2030’ strategy is concentrated on the systematic customer-centric alignment of the organisation and all its business activities. In addition, Continental’s tyres business area - which encompasses products for trucks and passenger vehicles - is targeting further profitable growth.

 The manufacturer is particularly looking to expand its share of the growth markets of Asia and North America. In the passenger and light truck tyres segment, the focus will be on growing the global business with tyres for electric vehicles and ultra-high-performance tyres.

In the truck and bus tyre segment, Continental says its Conti360° fleet services offering will be a key driver across all regions.

“Excellent tyres are and will remain our DNA,” said Christian Kötz, head of the tyres business area at Continental. “They have made us one of the world’s largest tyre manufacturers. Now, with our ‘Vision 2030’ strategic programme, we are setting the stage to build on what is already a position of strength. Going forward, smart digital tyre solutions and the realisation of ambitious sustainability goals will be decisive for our success and as differentiators in the marketplace.”

Continental says its previous ‘Vision 2025’ strategy had seen the tyres business area drive substantial expansion of the company’s worldwide market share. It claims to already be the world’s third-largest manufacturer of passenger tyres and the fourth-largest truck tyre manufacturer.

In recent years Continental has pursued the targeted expansion of its worldwide production network. The company says that innovations at its production plants, such as fully automated tyre warehouses and the cross-company rollout of a global digital manufacturing system, will support even more efficient and environmentally compatible production in the future.

As a major global supplier of electronics, sensor systems and software in the mobility industry, the company says it has a decisive competitive edge in this respect. At the same time, the tyre manufacturer says it is also systematically entering development partnerships with customers and other technology firms.

Michelin has launched two new sizes in its CrossGrip tyre range for loaders
Michelin has launched two new sizes in its CrossGrip tyre range for loaders

Through this approach, Continental adds that the tyres business area aims to become the global leader for service-based digital solutions by 2030.

The company already offers smart tyres that permit customers to monitor their condition with the aid of sensors and software. In pilot projects, Continental says it is currently demonstrating the added value that it will create for its customers going forward by networking tyres, sensors, telemetry data, algorithms and the cloud. The manufacturer says the resultant smart digital solutions will help to ensure that, in the future, tyres are serviced or replaced precisely when necessary.

Continental is also pursuing ambitious goals in the sustainability sector, aiming to become the most progressive manufacturer in the tyre industry by 2030.

In April 2020 the company brought all the relevant projects and activities worldwide under the umbrella of the newly-created sustainability department. Efforts here are centred around the strategic topics of climate action, low-emission mobility, the circular economy and sustainable supply chains, thus embracing all phases of the value chain.

By 2050 the manufacturer is aiming to gradually transition to 100% sustainably produced materials in its tyre products.

As part of Continental’s current Taraxagum project, the tyres business area already produces natural rubber from dandelions, opening up an alternative source of raw material.

Continental has also expanded its ContiOnlineContact digital online dealer portal, which now lists the entire OTR and agricultural tyre portfolio. The company says this enables dealers and customers from a range of sectors including quarrying, agricultural, industrial, earthmoving, ports and airports to order tyres flexibly and on demand.

Michelin has introduced two new sizes of its multi-purpose, all-season CrossGrip tyres for operators of backhoe loaders, skid-steer loaders, telehandlers and small tractors.

The new 440/80 R34 and 480/80 R34 CrossGrip fitments expand the range to 12 dimensions, available on both the original equipment and replacement markets.

Gordon Brookes, Michelin’s customer engineering support manager, says: “The CrossGrip has proved a popular choice for customers since the first tyres were launched in 2018. Expanding the range with these two key new sizes will widen its appeal even further.”

CrossGrip tyres form part of Michelin’s Compact Line range and offer a high load capacity and special rubber formula designed for year-round use. Its non-directional tread pattern is designed to ensure excellent precision for the driver when manoeuvring, in either forward or reverse gear, while the optimised tread pattern – with multiple biting edges – delivers traction.

In 2021, Italy-based OTR retread tyre specialist Marangoni says it will focus even more on quarry and mining applications and devote greater efforts to support end-users, utilising the company’s technical knowledge and long-standing experience. Another goal is the strengthening of the partnership with Westlake, thanks to which Marangoni can offer customers a complete new+retread solution.

Marangoni uses a shearography machine to inspect the inner structure of OTR tyre casings
Marangoni uses a shearography machine to inspect the inner structure of OTR tyre casings

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marangoni says shipping costs from Asia have jumped dramatically along the routes to Europe. New tyres are no exception, and the increase in prices is already substantial. For this reason, Marangoni says it expects the retreaded tyres business to benefit during 2021 from the current market conditions.

Container availability has been disrupted by full containers being stuck in distribution centres and congested ports of entry, with logistics slowed down because of workforce shortages. Marangoni says that, in contrast to this, the tyre retreading short circular supply chain has proven to function even during the chaotic beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

In particular, Marangoni says it takes advantage of its efficient European logistics network and can leverage good availabilities in finished products and also a wide stock of casings.

The manufacturer adds that, in order to meet all customers’ requests, it keeps improving the quality and the extensiveness of its product portfolio for all dimensions and applications. New treads, like the M4D and the MTXL, have been recently introduced on the market and the R&D department, based in the company’s headquarters at Rovereto, is continuously working on the development of new patterns, not only on most-used sizes but also on bigger tyres (for example 29.5).

This year will be greatly influenced by the European Union “Green Deal” objective of reaching a climate-neutral economy by 2050, and Marangoni believes that the tyre retreading sector has all the characteristics to thrive again in this environment. It says this is the reason it is supporting the Recircle Awards, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the circular economy by rewarding. The Awards provide prestigious recognition to the commitment in this area by operators in the recycling and tyre retreading sectors.

“For our company, it’s flattering to be among the Recircle Awards nominees,” said Matthias Leppert, Marangoni Group coordination operating officer. “But what matters most is that more and more businesses are considering tyre retreading as one of the best ways to preserve natural resources.

“The challenges we’re facing, both from a sanitary and environmental standpoint, need to be seen as a great opportunity to improve our future. Marangoni has always been working to reach this goal together with its customers and partners.”

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