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What's new? Bridgestone tire printing

Bridgestone presented a colorful display of its brightly painted, eight unique tires at Geneva 2012, in an effort to show-off its all-new tire painting process technology


Geneva 2012 saw Bridgestone present one of the show’s more colorful displays. Adorning its stand was a brightly painted Toyota iQ, flanked by eight unique Bridgestone tires – each as vibrant as the city car.

The reason for this was to showcase Bridgestone’s all-new tire-printing technology. Colored tires are nothing new; the advent of whitewalls supersedes this technology by a good few decades, but what Bridgestone is championing is the process involved.

Using a custom compound, the color is added directly to the rubber, without the need to add additional rubber – and ultimately weight – to the tire body. This process occurs after curing and it is then covered in an additional protective layer to seal the pattern and provide resistance against brake dust and anything else that might discolor the patterned sidewall.

Bridgestone is under no illusion that this is nothing other than
an exercise in aesthetics. “What we wanted to do was create a product that, while retaining its performance attributes, adds something special,” explains Todd Uchida, general manager, brand development, Bridgestone. “It’s something for the customers, as each individual has different tastes, different lifestyles, and so forth. So we wanted to give them something they can customize.”

Previous iterations of colored tires have involved adding additional colored rubber to the tire body. With Bridgestone’s new process, rolling mass and weight remains the same as a standard tire – addressing concerns such as fuel efficiency and overall mass.

By allowing the colored patterns to be added after the tire is cured, the end result is that customers are able to create personal and individual sidewalls. “The idea is that the tire gets customized at the dealership,” explains Uchida. “To carry out this process at the factory and to then get it to the end user would be very difficult logistically. So we are hoping that this can be done at dealerships.”

Despite the obvious novelty of colored tires, Bridgestone predicts more serious applications for the printing. “Perhaps in terms of integrating the forthcoming tire labeling… it’s a little bit different from that,” explains Uchida. “But we can foresee a warning sign being put on the sidewall; that can definitely be done. Or perhaps even some sort of tread-block wear indicator. Those are two possibilities.”

At present, the process is merely a concept – albeit a well-developed one. However, Bridgestone states that it is currently working toward a perfected protective outer skin, and is aiming to bring the technology to market soon.



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