This is one of those topics that I like even if it is not a DIY. It is not topical, since it has been talking about this type of airless wheels or non-pneumatic wheels for a few years, I think since 2002 approximately.
If you have never seen a wheel of this style it will impact you especially when you watch some videos and discover what they are capable of withstanding. I leave one for you to enter into matter. It’s from Michelin Tweel wheels.
We can all think that the advantages of airless wheels are many, we avoid punctures, breakdowns and maintenance. Less oil is spent on tires, even those from ERW ensure that vehicle performance is improved. But if they are all advantages, why are they not commercial? I have never seen cars, or bikes, even in heavy construction machinery that is where its use is most common.
You have recently seen a ray of hope for non-pneumatic wheel lovers with the Polaris announcement of your Quad Sportsman WV850
Inspired by military vehicles. It seems that the wheels are a product of theirs and that they have not taken them either from ERW or Michelin. They call them Terrain Armor, and they work with hexagonal rays, very deformable.
With this movement it seems that it is being commercialized to the general public and not only in niches such as heavy machinery and miracle vehicles.
When you start to inform yourself, discover that all the big companies (Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone) have some related project, although some remain in concepts and prototypes. Right now the ones that carry the singing voice are the Energy Return Wheel (ERW) and Michelin wheels with their Michelin X Tweel
Energy Return Wheel
Designed by Brian Russell, inventor of ERW (Energy Return Wheel /Rueda de Retorno de Energía)
Made of carbon fiber and kevlar. The structure is made of carbon fiber and acts as “springs” absorbing impacts, the tire is stretched on this structure. They claim that efficiency is increased and fuel consumption is reduced, but I have not found evidence or studies to prove it.
The bike is very cool and is very spectacular, but you have to see the wheels of this military vehicle with its hexagonal structure, I do not want to imagine the tons that will be holding, deforming without breaking.
Ruedas de bicicleta sin aire de Energy Return Wheel
The ERW guys have made a commitment to open the market with bicycles taking out a spectacular wheel, and I would love to try it.
Yes, what you see is empty wheels. Forget about punctures once and for all 😉
Made of carbon fiber to reduce weight and with adjustable rubber tension and reinforced with carbon nanotubes.
You can see it running through the mountain 😉
Michelin X Tweel
Michelin’s airless wheel is the Tweel, a true engineering marvel.
Here we can see an outline of its structure.
The video of the wheels working is the same as the one at the beginning of the article, I also leave it here to have everything ordered in case in the future we are updating the article.
And the latest model is a Bridgestone prototype, announced just a few months ago.
Bridgestone with its second generation of non-pneumatic wheels the Free Air Concept promises to reduce resistance and thus reduce CO2 emissions.
And make no mistake, despite the fact that the structure is very important, the pneumatic rubber that covers it is also important, so much so that some like Polaris like them.
As I said, the airless tires, airless tires, non-pneumatic tires, began to look over 2002, but looking back we see that the large multinationals have not been as innovative as it seemed in the first instance.
Already in 1938 we see the concept of Wheels without air by J.V Martin
And there are patents of Martin himself with related issues since 1931, specifically they attract my attention 4
- Elastic Tire de 1935 y presentada en 1931
- Tire and wheel combination de 1941
- Safety tire de 1942
- Lightweight resilient tire de 1946
But also recent patents abound. We met with
- Non-pneumatic tire de Michelin de 2008 parece la patente de la Tweel
- Non-pneumatic survivable tire mounting system for conventional wheels de Boeing Company de 2013
- Tension-based non-pneumatic tire de Resilient Technologies 2012
And let’s stop because we could continue citing patents and more patents.
And what about the Makers?
And we little Makers, hackers, what can we do with these wheels? In principle, there is little to do until it falls into our power. At the moment I follow the advances of these technologies in case we can reproduce it on a small scale for our robots or home projects.
If someone in 1931 designed and patented some wooden and rubber wheels, I think that almost 100 years later we should be able to reproduce it on a small scale ….. or not.
The folding wheel – Reinventing the wheel
It is not new, the patent dates from 2008 but I just met him. It is a folding wheel that allows us to transport it much more easily.
It may seem silly but for people with wheelchairs it can be a great help. Let’s see a bit about this patented invention, winner of the 2013 Best Design Award by Design Museum.
If you are curious to see how the idea arose and the different phases through which the design has gone through you can see the video, it is very interesting.
We can also see the patent that leaves us much more technical information about the wheel and the mechanisms used for its construction. In addition we have attached it in pdf format at the end of the article.
- 24 “wheels
- Folded 81.3cm x 31.8cm
- maximum weight that supports 136kg
- Weight of each wheel 3.4 kg
Folding detail, we can store it in a bag and transport it much more easily.
Wheelchairs and bicycles look like their main application, we will see if it has a commercial future.
NASA superelastic Tire
This is another airless tire NASA has presented recently.
Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research center have developed a game changing, non-pneumatic, compliant tire. This innovation, called the Superelastic Tire, was developed for future Moon and Mars missions, but is a viable alternative to pneumatic tires here on Earth.
Comprises a non-pneumatic, compliant tire utilizing shape memory alloys (mainly NiTi and its derivatives) as load bearing components.NASA TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER PROGRAM
You can see more information on their website even download the patent.