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Michelin wants to make wood tires

Michelin wants to make wood tires

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It’s true. Although I wrote the headline that way on purpose, Michelin really do want to make tires out of wood. They are planning to replace oil products as much as possible and use wood fibre in its place. That and 3D printing look to change the way we view tires forever.

Michelin is a French tire company that has never been afraid to do things differently. One of the oldest tire companies in the world, they have a wealth of experience and ideas under their belt. While this one may sound a little out there, it actually makes some good sense.

Wood, when produced sustainably is a very green product. The rubber being used in tires is also making big leaps to true sustainability. Initially, Michelin are looking at wood chips which are a by-product of manufacturing. It is experimenting with using this waste product in future tire types and is confident that around 50% of a tire will be made up of these sustainable products within 20 years.

Printed tires
A little closer to the present, the company is doing work on 3D printing for tires. Their idea is that a car will be sold with a single set of tires and they will last the lifetime of the car. When the tread wears down, companies will 3D print the tread like re-treading of old. That way, there will be far fewer waste tires being sent to recycling or landfill.

The actual printing part of the idea is already in place. All Michelin need to do is be able to scale it up for global manufacturing. It’s a good idea but people will definitely take some convincing. After years of telling people that retreaded or re-capped tires are not as safe as we would like and that new is the only way to buy your tires, this idea is initially going to be quite the hard sell.

Other tire manufacturers are also looking at more sustainable or recycled materials in their products. It’s a global movement that seems to be gaining traction with the increased awareness of sustainability and better technologies for achieving it. So in the not too distant future, we could all be driving around using wooden tires or on printed ones!

It will be interesting to see if drivers can detect the different ride characteristics of traditional rubber-based tires, wood-based ones and 3D printed treads. I see some road testing in our future once the technology becomes available!

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