The winners of this year’s Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence have been announced at a ceremony during Tire Technology Expo 2019 at the Deutsche Messe, Hannover, Germany.

The prestigious, learned panel comprises 31 judges who include Kevin Kefauver, Technical director at the National Tire Research Center, Maik Brinkmeier, Principal development engineer of Mechanics & Simulation at Continental, Anke Blume, Chair of Elastomer Technology and Engineering at the University of Twente and Gregory Smith, Senior engineer at Goodyear.

Tyre Manufacturing Innovation of the Year – HF Group – TBM One

Environmental Achievement of the Year – Bridgestone – HSR

Tyre Technology of the Year – SRI – Sensing Core

Tyre Industry Supplier of the Year – Test World (Millbrook)

Tyre Manufacturer of the Year – Michelin

Young Scientist Prize – Chidambaram Subramanian

Lifetime Achievement Award – Rudi Hein

The 2019 Tyre Manufacturing Innovation of the Year award went to HF Group for the TBM One, the company’s multiple-types tyre building machine (TBM). It is the only TBM in the market that provides the flexibility to produce tyres with inflated or flat turn-up, as well as standard tyre designs such as SOT/TOS, wide BP turn-up and ply up/down constructions. In addition, changing between the carcass drums takes only 20 minutes, which is comparable to a normal code change.

“HF Group has systematically improved the quality and flexibility of their TBMs,” says judge Romain Hansen, director of global tyre performance science, Goodyear. “The newest generation responds very well to a trend in the tyre industry of lower batch sizes and increasing numbers of stock-keeping units. It helps to manage the increasing complexity in the industry.”

The recipient of the Environmental Achievement of the Year award was Bridgestone for its newly developed HSR (High-Strength Rubber) polymer, the world’s first polymer to bond rubber and resins at a molecular level. It has a crack resistance five times higher than natural rubber, as well as higher tensile strength and abrasion resistance. It could potentially lead to a 50% reduction in the amount of material used in a tyre (less tread depth, less polymer needed in production) and could reduce rolling resistance without affecting durability. Applications include future EV tyre development and a number of potential uses outside of the tyre industry.

“This high-strength rubber is the result of decades of in-depth R&D at the molecular level,” says judge Patrick De Keyzer, managing partner at DeKeP. “This new polymer will drastically reduce the consumption of raw materials and energy.” Toshio Nishi, emeritus professor at University of Tokyo and Tokyo Institute of Technology, adds, “This is a new approach to high-strength rubber, and will be extremely useful in the future.”

The Tyre Technology of the Year was awarded to SRI for its Sensing Core development. This cutting-edge technology can detect road conditions, tyre load and other information without the use of direct sensors. Unlike camera or radar sensors, Sensing Core can calculate and detect friction, which is useful when confronted with hazards such as black ice and hydroplaning risk. A number of vehicle OEMs are showing interest in widespread application of the technology, and it could be integral to future autonomous vehicle functionality.

Judge Gert Heinrich, senior professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering/Institute of Textile Machinery and Textile High Performance Materials Technology, Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, says, “Sensing Core is a technology that not only contributes to greater safety for drivers and passengers, but will also play a role in the rapid advancement of autonomous vehicle technology in the near future.”

TheTyre Industry Supplier of the Year award went toTest World for its all-year-round tyre and vehicle winter testing facility. Opening in 2012, it was the world’s first indoor winter tyre test facility offering snow and ice traction and braking, with snow handling added in 2015. Following investment by Millbrook to meet industry demand, the facility was extended in 2018 and now offers indoor wet and dry braking and longitudinal aquaplaning. Test World is the first in the industry to offer natural snow, ice, and wet and dry asphalt in one location, 365 days a year.“Test World is the first to offer the possibility of testing in all adherence conditions, from ice to dry, at the same location, 365 days a year,” says judge Jean-Claude Fauré, R&D executive fellow, passenger car and light truck tyre at Michelin. “This multi-service offer is welcome because the issues of efficiency and quality are enormous.”

This year’s Tyre Manufacturer of the Year was awarded to Michelin for, among many things, the company’s environmental initiatives over the past 12 months. Michelin is one of the few tyre OEs to commit to 2048 sustainability targets, and its many product innovations include RF-free resin, for which the company spent nine years and 35 patents researching and developing replacement chemicals. “Michelin has been driving the market with innovations and sustainability concepts for years,” says judge Klaus Baltruschat, tyre expert for TÜV Süd. “Their environmental initiatives such as micronised rubber powder and clever tread pattern design that still delivers good performance even when close to being worn out, are just a few examples that can be cited here.”

This year’s Young Scientist Prize was awarded to Chidambaram Subramanian, a graduate research assistant at the Centre for Tyre Research, Virginia Tech, USA for his research paper on road surface classification using intelligent tyres.

Mark Fenner, conference director for Tyre Technology Expo said, ‘Chidambaram’s work on intelligent tyres, vehicle dynamics and race vehicle simulations could potentially increase the safety of autonomous vehicles and promote the future growth of AV technology.’

The final award of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year was presented toRudi Hein. This prestigious honour was awarded in recognition of his incredible 32-year career in special project teams at BMW, in particular his work on runflat tyre systems, and the decade spent with Bridgestone as executive advisor standards and regulations. Recently retired, he has worked on wheel and tyre concepts and design for his whole career, and was made an honorary chairman of the German Association of the Automotive Industry in 2014.

‘Rudi has been a great ambassador for the tyre industry over the years,’ says Mark Fenner, conference director for Tire Technology Expo.‘From his time at BMW to the present, he has been instrumental in bringing all the various elements of the industry together.’