As construction equipment has grown in the last couple of decades, in terms of size, power, weight and speed, so too has the need for off-the-road (OTR) tires that can keep up with the increased demand.
“Tire manufacturers have developed more enhanced compounds and design characteristics to adapt to a jobsite’s specific environment,” explains Johni Francis, global OTR product manager, Titan International. “If necessary, tire manufacturers will work with contractors to develop custom tread compounds.”
This is in line with predictions coming from many of the market reports today. For instance, ResearchandMarkets suggests the OTR tire market is projected to grow in construction. One big trend cited is that due to the advancements in construction and mining equipment, such as automation and electrification, fleet operators use the equipment in multiple shifts. This has led to decreased tire replacement duration, leading to increased demand for aftermarket tires.
At the same time, the transition to bigger and faster equipment has also led to advances in tires, both in the tires themselves, as well as the technology associated with the tires.
Advances in tires for equipment
Throughout the years, various tread designs and solutions for tires were born out of the need to address flat tires, traction, productivity, driver comfort, longevity, and cost of ownership. Often, the goal is to increase productivity and decrease maintenance costs.
“Tires are being relied on as a more critical part of the equipment,” explains Justin Brock, B2B construction segment manager, Michelin North America. “Equipment is advancing at a rapid pace. Tires must also advance with the equipment. It is the connection the machine has to the ground.”
As such, the tires for the construction equipment are advancing in several fundamental ways in recent months to help meet the needs of the industry.
• Solid Tires: Many construction companies are looking for a solution that prevents flat tires and the downtime associated with changing out a flat tire, especially in remote locations, according to Brock. Enter solid tires, which became a solution for some in these circumstances, but many times with a tradeoff of decreased operator comfort, traction, and an increase in equipment stress when compared to a pneumatic tire, says Brock.
• Radial vs. Bias: The production of bigger and faster equipment has led construction to shift to predominately using radial tires, explains Francis of Titan International. However, he says, while radial technology outperforms bias in many instances, bias tires, when used in proper application, can provide significant cost savings and performance benefits.
• Tread Siping: Another growing trend is tread siping, which is a feature that helps with head dissipation and even wear across the tread base. Francis explains that when siping first became popular, most sipes were deep and large designs, but today they have evolved into smaller, narrow strips, which based on tread design may take the form of a zig zag or straight line pattern.
• Airless: Airless technology will continue to play an important part of the evolution of tires, according to Brock of Michelin. One example is the MICHELIN X TWEEL airless radial for skid steers, which has the ability to offer the benefits that a solid tire provides in flat protection, but also provides great traction, operator comfort, and longevity due to its airless radial design.
• Multipurpose Tires: Today, machines are being used in multiple applications every day. One of the reasons for this is the growth of the rental segment in which the equipment is rented to different customers to be used in various applications, according to Brock. “The end users in the construction segment face an array of different environments. Many times the equipment is used on hard surface one moment and off road the next moment,” he says. “These application changes mixed with the various environmental conditions are driving customers to seek a more versatile/multipurpose tire solution.”
• Low Sidewall Technology: This is a concept inspired by the automotive market, with larger rim diameter and shorter sidewall, which allows for less sidewall flex, ultimately easing stability concerns and improving breakout force. Francis says this has proven successful in agriculture and mining and is currently being tested in smaller construction equipment applications.
• Accelerate Change Technology: This wheel technology eliminates the need for the outside wheel to be removed when changing the inner tire. All the bolts stay on and there’s no need to torque the wheel. This reduces downtime associated with tire changes and rotations by up to 50 percent, according to Francis.
Tire monitoring technology
One of the biggest advances for tires in recent months is the use of tire management software and tire pressure monitoring systems. Technology is more often-keeping track and managing tires for the operators.
“As the top wear-part expense on the fleet, tires offer one of the greatest opportunities to reduce costs, but only if properly managed,” says Francis of Titan International.
There are a few key ways that technology and connectivity are aiding in the management of construction tires.
• Tire Management Software: One way fleet managers can reduce tire costs is by using tire management software. Most fleets already have access to technology that can improve their tire management practices. Telematics and fleet management software are two staples in aggregate and mining operations, according to Francis.
• Tire Pressure Monitoring System: This system monitors real-time inflation pressures and internal operating temperatures and is installed internally on the tires and set to integrate with the machine’s telematics system. The benefits include: longer lasting tires, less variances in tread wear, increased stability, and the ability to retread a tire if necessary. According to Market Research Future, this is expected to grow seven percent through 2023.
• Intelligent Tires: In general, tires are becoming more intelligent, as they become connected. Goodyear recently unveiled an intelligent tire prototype, which will connect fleet operators to the tire. This will allow for continuous connectivity and real-time data sharing. The end result is safer and more cost-efficient mobility and maximized uptime.
Equipment used in the construction industry is constantly evolving—with new technological and innovative advancements for the jobsite. As Brock of Michelin explains, “As the demand of these machines increases so do the requirements of the tires.”
Source: Conexpo-Con/Agg 365