MONTREAL — Looking not unlike a lushly blue life form on James Cameron’s cinematic world of Pandora, the prototype of Michelin’s Visionary concept tire glowingly held center stage on June 14 at the tire maker’s Movin’ On global conference on sustainable transportation.
Michelin Group Executive Vice President of research and development Terry K. Gettys called the airless tire-and-wheel combination a long-term concept that represents nothing less than “a concrete demonstration of a system of solutions for the future of sustainable mobility.”
More specifically, it can be viewed as the sum of three key elements:
- First off, the Visionary concept is more than a tire — it is “a wheel with no air,” as Michelin put it. It’s designed to last as long as the vehicle with its “ultra-durability” coming from its honeycomb structure, which Gettys said was inspired by the natural forms of the growth process at work in the plant, mineral, or sometimes even in the animal world (coral being one example). It is also made of all-organic recycled materials and is engineered to be fully recyclable.
- Secondly, its tread can be "replenished" by a 3D printer — Per Michelin, the material used, which draws on cold-cure technology, delivers the same performances as a conventional tread. But with one notable difference— the tread is completely biodegradable. That means if the tread is worn or even of road conditions have changed - due to going off road or in winter weather - you can print the tread you need in “a matter of minutes.” Additionally, because 3D printing is an “additive technology,” it adds just the quantity of material that is necessary, where it is necessary, with no waste or loss.
- Finally, the Visionary concept is a connected unit — it communicates with the vehicle using it and vice-versa. Even from a remote location, an owner or manager can be informed of tread wear and then program a tread reprint, choosing the type of tread pattern need at that time, or simply follow the suggestion made by the embedded app, which detects the specific requirements necessary.