The Michelin VISION concept tyre was the result of a global challenge issued by Michelin to its design and engineering teams to utilise innovative technologies and design capabilities to better serve users, the environment and future mobility needs
There are many ways to stimulate the creative process. For Michelin designer Mostapha El Oulhani, three key elements came together in a stunning way to create the Michelin VISION concept tyre presented at the Movin’On sustainable mobility event held in Montreal in June, 2017.
The first key element in the process was human-centered design research that identified user’s desires for sustainable mobility. Approximately 80% of the materials in a current tyre are still viable when the tyre is completely worn. Michelin issued a global challenge to its design and engineering teams to utilize innovative technologies and design capabilities to better serve users, the environment and future mobility needs.
The second key element was the inspiration provided by biomimicry. El Oulhani and his team started to work on a number of interesting possibilities with nature as a strong influence. Their inspiration came from examining the structure of coral and how it is formed.
“The team started to work on interesting possibilities in the ideation process. We thought, what if instead of building or shaping the finished design, the design was to create a seed, a starting point that would unfold and grow in an organized fashion?” said El Oulhani.
“We used biomimicry to guide us in the process to better understand how nature generated its shape to get lightness and durability. As we went through the different evolutions, we needed the design to integrate the exact shape of the different performances required and be designed to roll.
“We worked with fractals – the third key element – because we needed different densities in different areas. In some areas, we needed more materials for agility and other areas with less material for lightness and flexibility. It was essential that we have the right inputs. We had to picture a lot of things happening.
“One challenge was to print in real scale. We were not just undertaking an exercise to create a tyre with a natural look, it must be linked to the peak performance needed.”
The result is an airless tyre directly inspired by nature.
Connectivity and Renewal
The VISION concept is a connected and rechargeable tyre and wheel, embedded with sensors integrated with the vehicle electronics to inform users of treadwear and to schedule a tread reprint. “It’s a tyre that is connected with a vehicle that is connected with drivers that are connected,” said Terry Gettys, executive vice president of research and development at Michelin Group.
The VISION tyre permits reprinting of a new tread while retaining the underlining structure. Michelin foresees 3D printing stations capable of quickly replenishing or changing the tread pattern, which can be optimized for snow or high-performance as needed. As the tyre features an airless design, the loss of mobility due to puncture or loss of air is eliminated.
Reduce, Renew, Reuse and Recycle
The Michelin VISION tyre concept is aligned with Michelin’s ‘four Rs’ for sustainable mobility, which are ‘Reduce’, ‘Renew’, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Recycle’.
The resulting design is an airless lattice made from bio-sourced and bio-degradable materials including natural rubber, paper, wood and plastic waste, bamboo, wood chips, straw, sugar byproducts, and orange peels. The tyre itself is completely recyclable.
A Realistic Dream
“It’s a long-term concept which brings together our vision of all the elements of a sustainable mobility. It’s a very realistic dream. All the components are current research initiatives at Michelin,” said Gettys.