A Tire Business report
Greenville, South Carolina- Seven years after debuting its Tweel non-pneumatic tyre/wheel assembly, Michelin North America Inc. has begun commercial sales of a version for the for skid-steel loaders used in landscaping, construction, contracting, refuse/recycling and agricultural industries.
"This is a very exciting time for Michelin," said Tim Fulton, head of Michelin Tweel Technologies. "Michelin captured the fascination of the world with the concept of the Tweel; now landscapers, contractors and other skid steer loader operators will have the opportunity to use this innovative technology in their everyday businesses and experience the advantages first-hand."
The version being launched commercially, the 12N16.5 X-Tweel SSL hub design, is described as universal and can be fitted on most skid steer loaders. It is available in the U.S. and Canada as a "no-compromise" solution for skid-steer owners.
Initially the Tweel will be distributed by a limited number of dealerships, Michelin said, including: Jack's Tire & Oil, Snider Tire, Colony Tire, Valley Tire, in 16 US states and Kal Tire, Kirk's Tire, Tirecraft and Midway Tire in six provinces/territories in Canada.
Introduced in 2005, the Tweel is a single unit replacing the pneumatic tyre, wheel and valve assembly. It replaces the 23 components of a typical radial tyre and is comprised of a rigid hub, connected to a shear band by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes and a tread band, all functioning as a single unit.
Skid-steer loaders with pneumatic tyres typically experience several flat tyres per month, Michelin said. To reduce downtime from flats, many users fill their pneumatic tyres with foam or replace them with solid tyres, resulting in machines with inadequate traction, handling and ride comfort.
Michelin said the X Tweel will costs as much as twice that of competing tyre/wheel systems, but key is "owner value" - ie there will be fewer repairs, fewer idle man hours, lower equipment charges, fewer missed deadlines and more productivity.
The hub design is universal and can be placed on most skid steer loaders. The Tweel provides the advantages of no air pressure to maintain, easy mounting, damage resistance, increased operator comfort, reduced operator fatigue, improved productivity, longer wear life, no costly downtime, excellent traction and superior performance.
When Michelin unveiled the Tweel at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, the company showed images of the product on a variety of vehicles, including passenger cars. However the company maintained throughout the development phase that skid-steer applications offered the most promise short-term.