Jan 13, 2017 | By Benedict

The Michelin Group and industrial engineering group Fives Group S.A. have spoken about their joint venture ‘AddUp Solutions,’ a metal 3D printing project. AddUp is developing a line of metal 3D printers, and will use 3D printed molds to improve Michelin tire performance.

Michelin is using its AddUp Solutions joint venture to improve tire performance

Michelin, the French tire manufacturer with the famous mascot and restaurant rankings, is collaborating with industrial engineering group Fives to develop 3D printing solutions that are viable market offerings in their own right, but which can also be used to improve tire performance for Michelin. The 3D printing relationship between Michelin and Fives goes back to September 2015, when the two companies joined forces with the aim of developing additive manufacturing equipment and production shops. By April 2016, that joint effort would have a name, "AddUp Solutions," and when formnext 2016 came around this past November, AddUp demonstrated its FormUp 350 DMLS 3D printer. Now, Michelin staff have explained more fully how the 3D printing project is coming along.

According to Pierre Robert, director of Michelin's research and development center in Ladoux, France, AddUp is currently focused on creating highly detailed molds which can be used to make Michelin tires. “With 3D printing, we are able to make molds with very complex features,” he told European Rubber Journal. “The idea is to have tread features that can regenerate throughout the life of the tire.” The plan is to create longer-lasting tires that can offer high levels of grip even at the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6 millimeters.

The FormUp 350 3D printer from AddUp Solutions

To create high-performance tires with its newly developed additive manufacturing equipment, AddUp has developed sculptures and mold features that make the tires’ performance more sustainable. “When you wear the tire, you have this complex feature and then you make a new sculpture feature appear throughout the whole life of the tire,” Robert said, adding that these features “will increase the grip and compensate the loss of tread depth.”

At present, AddUp’s only available 3D printer is the FormUp 350, a DMLS printer with a build volume of 350 x 350 x 350 mm. It can be equipped with either one or two 500W Yb fiber lasers, and offers a precision of around 35 µm and minimum layer thickness of 20 µm. And while Michelin is commandeering its FormUp printers for tire production, the system is purportedly flexible and adaptable enough to suit a range of printing applications. “In addition to the pre-configurations and production strategies available, all of the machine’s parameters can be adjusted to meet the needs and requirements detailed in the specifications,” AddUp says.

Could Michelin eventually 3D print its own tires?

Seeing Michelin’s progress in the field of additive manufacturing makes one wonder whether this speculative prediction about future 3D printed Michelin tires wasn’t as outrageous as it first seemed. AddUp states that further 3D printers in the FormUp range will be announced this year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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