RAVENNA, Ohio-The pneumatic tire is obsolete. At least that's the opinion of officials at a polyurethane tire development company in Ravenna.
American Tire Corp., which opened in January, is in the process of developing a device that seeks to replace the air-filled (pneumatic) tire.
The Dynamic Steerable Spring (DSS) is a support system company officials believe will reduce downtime caused by tire disablements-essentially eliminating flats and time-consuming maintenance.
Instead of using air, the DSS will support the weight of a vehicle with metal springs that are connected to the rim of a wheel, stabilized with steel cord and encased in a polymer cap.
The polymer cap that covers and helps support and protect the springs will give the package the appearance of a traditional tire, said Gary J. Dalton, vice president of sales and marketing for American Tire.
``If you were a layman, from 20 feet away, you'd say it's just a tire,'' Mr. Dalton said.
The unique device-patent pending-has caught the interest of Hayes Wheels International Inc., one of the largest producers of passenger and light truck wheels in the United States. On Nov. 8, the two companies announced a joint development and technology licensing agreement that covers the prototype, development and manufacturing of the DSS.
Initially, the design will be applied to spare tires and restricted to passenger and light truck sizes, but eventually will be expanded to cover the bicycle, heavy truck and off-the-road arenas.
Hayes Wheels will make the wheel and spring system, which will then have the polymer cap applied at American Tire's factory in Ravenna, according to Dennis F. Chrobak, the product's designer and company president.
American Tire will finish development of its prototype by the end of November and, if all goes well, secure U.S. Department of Transportation approval for the DSS by the end of the year, Mr. Chrobak said.
Once approved, Hayes Wheels will begin manufacturing and marketing the product, Mr. Dalton said.