Washington, June 29 : A company is designing and testing the installation of a prototype airless tire that can withstand extreme punishment, even those meted out in military combat zones.
The tire is being developed by Resilient Technologies, LLC, along with the UW (University of Wisconsin) - Madison Polymer Engineering Center and the US Department of Defense, to boost the security of vehicles in combat.
The research will aim to develop a non-pneumatic tire for use on heavy-grade military vehicles such as Humvees.
The project could literally be a lifesaver for the military.
For example, in many situations in Iraq, tires have proven to be weak links in Humvees that enemies target with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
"You see reports all the time of troops who were injured by an IED or their convoys got stranded because their tires were shot out," said Mike Veihl, general manager of Resilient.
The company has made remarkable strides in just over two years of operations, cycling through literally hundreds of prototypes, developing subscale airless tires for lawn tractors, and finally the featured product.
In April, Resilient installed a set of its creations on a Wausau-based National Guard Humvee, where it is undergoing rigorous on- and off-road tests.
The Wisconsin design breakthrough, first developed by Resilient's in-house design and development team, takes a page from nature.
"The goal was to reduce the variation in the stiffness of the tire, to make it transmit loads uniformly and become more homogenous," said UW mechanical engineering professor Tim Osswald. "And the best design, as nature gives it to us, is really the honeycomb," he added.
Osswald and graduate students Nick Newman and Eric Foltz ran tests and simulations that helped Resilient confirm the quality of its unique design concept.
The patent-pending Resilient design relies on a precise pattern of six-sided cells that are arranged, like a honeycomb, in a way that best mimics the "ride feel" of pneumatic tires.
The honeycomb geometry also does a great job of reducing noise levels and reducing heat generated during usage.
According to U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., "Developing tires that will allow vehicles to continue to roll no matter what is thrown at them, even roadside bombs, is a real priority for the military and could be the difference between life and death for our troops in the field."