Mar 2, 2016 | By Alec

Over the last two years or so, 3D printed car pioneers Local Motors have proven that the bodies of cars can definitely be realized with large scale 3D printing – a concept that could change one of the biggest industries in the world dramatically. It’s becoming easy to imagine a manufacturing concept where the assembly phase consists of little more than plugging in the engine and electronics, and screwing on the tires. But even those might not stay the way we have known them for the past hundred years, thanks to 3D printing. At the Geneva International Motor Show, International tire specialist Goodyear has unveiled a concept for 3D printed spherical tires that could provide autonomous cars with the power to drive anywhere.

Goodyear, as everyone in the automobile industry will know, is one of the largest tire companies on the planet, with a massive 49 facilities all over the world, and two state-of-the-art innovation centers in Luxembourg, Europe and Ohio. Employing more than 66,000 people, they are an indispensable part of the automobile industry. A company of that size and stature is, of course, always looking towards the future. And arguably, the future of cars is autonomous driving. According to a recent study by Navigant Research, 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles can be sold annually by 2035, so it’s something all elements of the automobile industry are thinking about.

But autonomous driving certainly has its drawbacks, and according to a J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study, consumers are still apprehensive. Most people are especially concerned with ensuring safety, so the industry has its work cut out for them. And that’s exactly what these new Eagle-360 tires are all about. Goodyear revealed that these radically different, spherical 3D printed tires could greatly increase safety in uncertain weather conditions and roads.

It’s still nothing more than a concept, a vision for the future, but a very interesting one. “By steadily reducing the driver interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles, tires will play an even more important role as the primary link to the road,” said Joseph Zekoski, Goodyear's senior vice president and CTO. “Goodyear's concept tires play a dual role in the future both as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and as testbeds for next-generation technologies.”

So what does the shape add? The Eagle-360’s spherical shape, they say, could optimize maneuverability to match the demands of autonomous driving. As multi-orientation, all-direction tires, they could greatly improve a vehicle’s ability to avoid sudden obstacles, reduce sliding and ensure staying on safe paths. “In addition, the spherical shape of the Goodyear Eagle-360 provides a smooth ride by creating a fluid, lateral movement. This helps the car to overtake an obstacle without changing its driving direction,” they add. Crucially, it also makes 360 degree turns possible, not only making it easier to ‘escape’ from accidents, but also making parking a lot more efficient.

But there are other innovative advantages. For instance, Goodyear is looking at magnetic levitation to attach the spherical tire to the car. “The tire is suspended from the car by magnetic fields, similar to magnetic levitation trains, which increases passenger comfort and reduces noise,” they say. Combine that with a sensor packed tire concept that monitors driving and weather conditions in real time, autonomous driving could become a whole lot safer.

3D printing, meanwhile, could be used to optimize the treads of the tire to suit your driving conditions. By carefully monitoring tread wear, tires can be optimized for the region you live in. It also means your car is perfectly equipped to deal with any weather conditions you encounter. Like other innovative Goodyear tires, the treads will also feature hints of biomimicry. “The tread mimics the pattern of brain coral, and its multidirectional blocks and grooves help to secure a safe contact patch. The groove bottom has the same elements as a natural sponge, which stiffens when dry yet softens when wet to deliver adequate driving performance and aquaplaning resistance,” they say. “This texture also absorbs water on the road and ejects water from the tire footprint through centrifugal force to reduce the risk of aquaplaning.” Obviously, that will also be easier to reproduce with the help of 3D printing.

It’s a very interesting concept, but it is currently little more than that and there are no plans for adopting 3D printed tires any time soon. But we can dream, right? “We believe the Eagle-360 concept tire could deliver a safe and sustainable solution for our end consumer who is likely to drive or ride in autonomous cars in the future," said Jean-Claude Kihn, President of Goodyear EMEA. "We also hope it serves as inspiration for the automotive industry as we continue to find solutions for the future, together."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Nick wrote at 3/10/2016 5:06:06 AM:

Any reason to print something that can be injection molded? Other than throwing in a buzz word into a media headline?

quazgaa wrote at 3/5/2016 3:36:05 AM:

why bother with tires altogether? just use solid state drives and sky's the limit.

Anthromod wrote at 3/3/2016 8:05:20 PM:

To be fair the I, robot cars were a concept from the car industry anyway.

MDF wrote at 3/3/2016 6:02:12 AM:

looks like someone just rented the movie "I, Robot"

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