A new R&D facility has been created at the tire maker’s plant in Korbach, Germany on the 12,000m² shop floor. All the necessary tire components can be produced to an extremely high level of precision, on newly developed machinery at the High Performance Technology Center (HPTC).
“In addition to producing ultra-high-performance tires, we will also be building test tires as we develop and trial new manufacturing processes in Korbach,” explained plant manager Lothar Salokat. “Using cutting-edge technology, we document every detail of our research and development projects so that our innovations can then be rolled out in Continental tire plants worldwide.”
In a first for Continental, all HPTC’s machinery is completely networked via sensor systems and software as per Industry 4.0. This enables every step in the process and the behavior of the materials during processing to be fully documented.
“As a result, our tire-building experts, chemists and physicists are able to design cutting-edge processes and monitor every detail of their suitability for industrial-scale tire production,” reported Georg Reichert, HPTC project manager in charge of construction in Korbach. “This means that from now on we can carry out even ultra-short production run testing on the conventional tire-making machinery used across Continental. Changes to individual materials and production steps and to vulcanization temperatures and times can be simulated and then their impact on the finished tire can be investigated in vehicle tests.”
The research department on the shop floor includes everything typically found in a tire building plant: rubber compounds required for components can be produced consistently in line with the recipe; steel cord and textile cutters are available for producing semi-finished products; extruders, various tire building machines and hot presses for vulcanization are available; and individual segments of the green tire can be cured at different temperatures. This kind of ‘multi-zone’ heating can be used for testing, for example, to enable detailed monitoring of the chemical reactions that take place during vulcanization.
June 16, 2016