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Old September 4th, 2001, 08:35 AM   #1
Magic Mtn Dan
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Ever wonder why tires are made using only rubber?

Ever think about having tires in colors (that match your car)?!

Goodyear pursues cheaper, recyclable rubber replacement

September 4, 2001

AKRON, Ohio -- Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. has entered a partnership to develop polyurethane tires for cars and trucks, resurrecting a rubber replacement that tiremakers abandoned in the 1970s.

The new tires would be less prone to tread separation and blowouts, said Richard Steinke, whose company, Amerityre, invented the raw material Goodyear will use. He also said Thursday that urethane tires are cheaper and easier to make, longer-lasting and recyclable.

A joint development agreement with Amerityre that was signed Wednesday makes Akron-based Goodyear the first of the top three tire companies to announce it will try to bring such a product to the marketplace in three to four years.

"The urethane tire has been the holy grail of the tire industry for decades," said Joe Gingo, Goodyear senior vice president for technology and global products planning.

U.S. spokesmen for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. of Japan and French manufacturer Michelin said they were looking for information on urethane research at those companies.

Those tiremakers have made no announcement about a return to urethane, said Dan Zielinski, a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Like rubber, urethane is made up of a tightly knit three-dimensional lattice that is flexible and durable, said Stephen Carr, associate dean of engineering at Northwestern University.

But unlike natural and synthetic rubber, urethanes are made simply by mixing two chemical building blocks that react quickly to form the interlocking chains. The substance also doesn't require heat for hardening.

"It's easily shaped," said Carr, a professor of materials science, engineering and chemical engineering. He said rubber handles "like cold chewing gum, even when it's hot."

Goodyear and other manufacturers started experimenting with urethane tires in the 1950s, but abandoned the effort in the 1970s because the tires didn't provide as much traction or puncture resistance as rubber tires.

"(Amerityre) has materials that are better than what we had 30 years ago," said Rick Vannan, Goodyear's director of advance product and process technology.

"The whole industry is doing everything they can to increase durability" and urethane might be the answer, he said.

Goodyear and Amerityre have negotiated the partnership since October.

Amerityre, of Boulder City, Nev., uses urethane to make bicycle tires, lawn and garden tires, skate wheels and athletic shoe soles.

Steinke, its founder and chief executive, said he needed Goodyear's manufacturing and retailing expertise. He said he chose the company because it is U.S.-based and he has worked with its engineers before.

Amerityre developed four sets of prototype tires and has driven 2,000 miles with them on pickups and other vehicles, he said.

"We drive around with 30 holes in each tire," Steinke said.

The one-piece design, unlike the layering in rubber tires, should prevent tread separation, and the ability to run with no air will eliminate blowouts, he said.

Goodyear will use Amerityre's material but its own design, Vannan said.

"It feels just like rubber," he said. "It doesn't smell as bad."

Vannan said any product will need two years of internal testing before it hits showrooms. It would take another 10 to 15 years of converting factories before urethane replaced rubber completely.

Urethane can be made in any color. Vannan said this means that someday, a car's tires could match its paint job.
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Old September 4th, 2001, 08:37 PM   #2
Craig Oka
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Thanks Dan. Very interesting article...

Now my car can have wheels like my skateboard and roller blades (wink)" WIDTH=15 HEIGHT=1
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