Michelin Reveals Another Airless Wheel/Tire Concept, But This One Is Biodegradable and 3D Printed
Aug 19, 2017
While gamers are losing their minds at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this week, Movin’On—formerly known as the Michelin Challenge Bibendum—is going down in Montreal. The global summit explores topics of sustainability, mobility, and how to effectively and efficiently blend the two. It was the perfect and obvious place for Michelin to unveil its new tire concept, the Vision, an airless, spongelike 3D-printed dream that Michelin claimed is “within reach.” Movin’On focuses on six central themes: changes in passenger and goods transport, energy efficiency and safety, digital technology and artificial intelligence, financial and regulatory tools, the circular economy, and “long shots.” Michelin thinks the Vision touches on each element. There’s probably a heavy emphasis on “long shot,” but, hey, Michelin eventually found applications for its Tweel, a formerly crazy airless-tire idea that also generated competition from Bridgestone. Michelin now sells Tweels for lawn mowers, golf carts, and utility vehicles.
Said to be inspired by nature, the Vision blends wheel and tire functions into one unit. It looks like a combination of fire coral, a sand dollar, neurons, and a Scotch-Brite scrubber, but that look is not just a look. It all feeds into the concept’s multifunctionality. The project, which began last year, starts by eliminating one of the biggest consumer tire issues: the need to maintain proper air pressure. The
Vision’s complex randomized 3D-printed design provides a flexible but hardy structure that will neither lose rigidity nor blow out. It is made of recycled organic material that is biodegradable and recyclable, so the environmental impact would be greatly reduced compared to today’s automotive tires, a second major goal of the project.
Recharge Your Tires The use of 3D printing allows the wheel/tire to be crafted in a way that is less wasteful but is customizable for varied uses and renewable. As shown in the video below, Michelin envisions a vehicle that works together with its tires, not one that simply uses them. In the company’s visionary future, consumers could choose which type of tire (winter, summer, all-season, slick) would best suit their lifestyle or that moment’s activities. Press a button, ride to a 3D-printing stand, and a machine will custom tailor a tread design. It could also be used to simply “recharge” the tire, or reapply tread once it wears down. Heading to a snowy mountain? There’s an in-car app for that! 3D printers would be capable of using just the right amount of material, thus reducing waste while maximizing the vehicle’s efficiency.
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