LOUISVILLE, Ky. So-called ``smart tires'' containing micro chips for tracking their performance by computer still are evolving, Jim Winsor, executive director of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, told attendees at an industry forum on this and other topics April 17 during the World Tire Conference & Exhibition. Speaking at the International Tire and Rubber Association-sponsored Louisville gathering, Mr. Winsor said micro chips, in combination with the necessary computer software for reading them, can greatly streamline and expand the otherwise laborintensive data-gathering process.
Several tire makers, including Goodyear, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Michelin North America, are now marketing such systems or have them under development.
Embedded into the tire during manufacturing, the chips must perform over the tire's complete service life, including standing up to the heat-imposed rigors of retreading and repair.
The ultimate goal not only is to identify each tire, but also record and transmit such information as internal pressure and mileage. The chips transmit such data via radio waves to either a hand-held receiver or a drive-by scanner, which relays the information to a computer database.
Mr. Winsor said he is hopeful automated systems for gathering data in this manner will become a commercial reality by the year 2000.
Goodyear introduced its first computerized ``Tire-Vehicle Tracking System'' two and a half years ago. According to Mr. Winsor, it is currently offered by the tire maker for $150 and is in use by about 450 fleets.
While Goodyear developed its prototype chips some time ago, the technology for producing them continues to change and the company's developers ``have not yet locked in on the final design for mass production,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Bridgestone/Firestone, which also is working on such a system, will begin marketing its tire-tracking software in June, Mr. Winsor said.
It will come pre-programmed with data on BFS products, such as tire designations, tread patterns etc. However, data for other brands also may be added by users.
Mr. Winsor said BFS has been field-testing its system for the past year and will evaluate the performance of as many as 1,000 such tires by year end. However, it has no intention of releasing the product until convinced that ``it works, is reliable and cost-effective,'' he said.
While Michelin North America is not currently marketing a computerized record keeping system of this type, Mr. Winsor said he believes it has one under development and will be debuting it in the not-too-distant future.
He said the Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker has sold 27,000 micro chips to Joplin, Mo.-based Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI) which has installed such tires on trucks hauling freight in and out of Mexico.
Mr. Winsor said he believes CFI uses the chips to locate and identify its tires should any of them turn up missing. The chips supplied to CFI, he explained, do not have the capability of registering tire inflation pressure.
Meanwhile, on the floor of the conference trade show, Brighten, Mich.-based Nova Technologies also debuted its Nova Tire Tech 2000 tire-tracking system. Designed to run on the IBM Windows platform, it comes pre-loaded with data on most tire manufacturers' products, Mr. Winsor said.
H.D. ``Mac'' McCuistion, president and CEO of Robbins Inc. and chairman of the Retread Industry Technical Committee, gave attendees an update on the newly revised Industry Standards for Retreading and Repairing.
tives of the International Tire and Rubber Association, National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, the Tread Rubber and Tire Repair Materials Group and the Rubber Manufacturers Association-completed the latest set of standards revisions in September 1995.
He likened the committee's prolonged labor in revising the 20-year-old standards to ``giving birth to a baby elephant,'' explaining that this was the most extensive of the seven revisions carried out to date on the standards.
Work on the standards dates back to the late 1960s when Mr. McCuistion was asked to convene a committee to evaluate the adhesion pull test as a means of measuring the quality of retreads. Proponents hoped such a standard would prove retreads could equal new-tire performance.
However, after what was termed ``a tremendous amount of research and testing,'' he said the committee found the adhesion pull test as unacceptable to determine quality.
Accordingly, in 1975 the committee opted for a processing-type standard, which when combined with a public relations program, might provide the image of sophistication which the industry needed. Mr. McCuistion's Industry Technical Committee again was assigned the job of drafting such a standard.
Subsequently, the first industry standard for retreading was issued Aug. 15, 1977. Twelve years later, in 1989, the committee issued a similar industry standard covering tire repair practices.
This latest version of the standard, he said, tackles ``some very touchy issues''-such as zipper ruptures-that were not covered in previous editions.
Also included in the revised document are the criteria for selecting light and medium truck tires for steering axle applications-including local regulations in California and other states that restrict the
use of retreads in such wheel positions.
The Tire Retread Information Bureau is handling the sale and distribution of the document, Mr. McCuistion said, adding: ``We all need to become familiar with the standards for our industry.''
California's regulations pertaining to