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posted Jan 28, 2015, 9:12 PM by
Resilient Technologies, a Wisconsin based company, has created a tire that can't go flat.

Fig. Airless tyre.

The word ‘TiRE’ has been derived from the verb ‘ TIE”.  What has a wheel to do with tying?  For carts and carriages,  the wheels were made of wood. The radials (spokes) had to be tightened with a heated iron girdle that would contract on cooling. The ring that tightened became the ’tire’.
Sometimes in order to reduce noise and vibrations due to rolling on cobble paved roads leather covers were used,  They were not sufficiently spongy and did not last long.

A man whose hobby was playing with rubber was spending a jail term  for non payment of debts. He got his wife to get some gum elastic (raw rubber) and a rolling pin. He used to roll the rubber on a marble plate given by the officials and mastered the art of making various product  His name was Charles Goodyear who lived from  1800-1860. He wore a rubber coat , a rubber cap and carried a rubber purse which was empty.

Early products made of ‘tree gum’ / gum elastic/ India rubber/ became tuff and rigid in winter and too soft and sticky in summer. Goodyear was determined to improve the qualities of it.  After a great effort, sacrificing his health and wealth, working along with his wife and daughters he achieved his target in 1844. His end product which was made by heating rubber and sulphur to a particular temperature, maintained the desired rigidity and flexibility in any weather. The process has been described as ‘vulcanisation’.

Fig. Charles Goodyear kneeding rubber in his cell.

He made a decent income through his royalties, but he had to pay his lawyer  who defended his legal battles filed against the infringement of his patents  an enormous sum that ultimately landed him where he started.
In 1846 Robert William Thomson patented the design for an air filled (pneumatic) tyre but failed to exploit it.  (He had a few more discoveries to his credit including a self filling fountain pen) . 

Thirty years after Goodyear’s death in 1898,  Frank Seiberling started the Goodyear Rubber Company in honour of the man who spent his entire life engaged in rubber research.  The time was right. Bicycles were becoming popular and the demand for rubber was ascending.

John Boyd Dunlop (Scot) 1840 – 1821, was a veterinary surgeon,  He noticed that his son was finding it very uncomfortable to ride his tricycle on the cobbled streets of Belfast. He cut a few pieces from a garden hose, and made  loops around the wheels of the tricycle. The loops were sealed and contained pressurised air that cushioned the rider. This was first instance of using a pneumatic tyre on a vehicle if you consider the tricycle as a vehicle.

He patented the pneumatic tyre in 1887 and started using it on bicycles. Cycles fitted with such tyres won most of the races and the gimmick caught on.  After four years his patent was invalidated in favour of Thomson’s  but the Dunlop pneumatic tyres continued to be made. Although the demand grew he could not make much of a fortune.

It was Andre Michelin,  and his brother of France that developed a pneumatic tyre for motor cars.  In 1891 he devised the detachable tyre and tube.
The tubeless tyre was the next milestone in the progress of tyres. Although several people had obtained the patents for this , the product of the Goodyear company stood the test of time. The secret was the use of synthetic rubber. This became the standard tyre since the fifties.

Radial tyres created by Michelin in 1948 gave a tremendous boost to the tyre trade. They had steel cords embedded in the rubber radiating away from the rim. They were found to be more flexible yet hardy.

Since the introduction of the pneumatic tyre punctures became the headache of the motorists. Although partial solutions were found such as self-inflating tyres.  They did not last long. 

Now the latest news is that a, a Wisconsin based company, Resilient Technologies,  has created a tire that can't go flat. It has no pressurized air to leak. The space usually filled with air is filled with a crisscross design of rubber partitions. The adopted pattern is taken from a honeycomb imitating nature.