Vision: a 3D printed, customisable, biodegradable, airless car tire

No more flat tires, no more changing summer tires when it becomes winter, and a large reduction in waste material in the tire industry. Car tire producer Michelin has big plans to pretty much change the car tire as we know it. They came up with Vision, a concept of an airless wheel and tire in one, which is 3D printed, thus customisable, and made of biodegradable material.

The idea of the tire was born from discussions with various people, according to Michelin “from city motorists to race drivers, from farmers to airline pilots, from engineering equipment drivers to children barely old enough to ride bikes.” From these discussions, the most important needs were identified, including that of sustainability. However, safety should not suffer, and grip in all weather conditions and effective braking in all circumstances were high on the list.

To make the tire environmentally friendly and minimize the carbon footprint, they use bio-sourced and biodegradable materials, thus limiting the use of petroleum-based products. Michelin aims to use materials derived from wood chips, straw, sugar residue, and orange peels. The natural rubber of the tire can only come from environmentally responsible rubber farms. At the end of the tire’s lifespan, they can be used to extract alcohol.

The 3D printed structure of the wheel also ensures less waste material. The wheel is designed in such a way that the interior architecture is capable of supporting the vehicle and ensuring the solidity of the wheel. Its structure was based on nature, being solid in the centre and flexible on the outside.

Because there is no air, the tire cannot puncture of blow. The tire can also easily be ‘recharged’ if it is worn, through 3D printing. Sensors will tell you via an app when it is time to do so. It should also be possible to change the profile, for instance if it becomes winter, using as little rubber as possible. However, whether it is possible to remove the added rubber or if you just have to wait until it’s worn out, is unclear.

The idea is to have a ‘Print&Go’ at Michelin’s, printing the tires while you run an errand.

While Vision still just a concept, Michelin stresses that they based the tire on existing technologies, so these environmentally conscious and sustainable tires are certainly within reach.

For more airless tires, click here.

Photos: Michelin