NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A German company has introduced a non-destructive laser shearography tire-testing unit it said can provide a clear, computer-generated image of interior damage in a tire in less a minute. This means a high-volume retreader could inspect hundreds of casings each day to determine their suitability.
The Intact 1200, manufactured by Steinbichler Optotechnik GmbH of Neubeuern, Germany, made its North American debut in May at the World ITRA Expo in Nashville.
The unit shown at the ITRA Expo was to be transported to several sites around the country for demonstrations before being installed at Bandag Inc. in Muscatine, Iowa, said Manfred Adlhart, sales and marketing representative for Steinbichler.
A Bandag spokesman confirmed this unit will end up at the company's facilities in Muscatine.
Bandag personnel will evaluate the capabilities of the Intact 1200 and compare it with Bandag equipment. "This is not an unusual thing for us to do," the spokesman added.
In February, Bandag introduced the Insight 7400 Casing Analyzer that the spokesman said Bandag developed on its own.
Principal owner Hans Steinbichler founded business in 1987, and the firm has been developing tire testing equipment since 1990. Steinbichler has sold about 100 other types of tire-testing units worldwide—half of them in North America.
Major tire makers, including Goodyear, Group Michelin, Bridgestone Corp. and Continental A.G., use Steinbichler tire testers, Mr. Adlhart said.
Inside the examination chamber, the Intact 1200 can complete shoulder-to-shoulder testing of each tire in about 45 seconds. Including loading and unloading by conveyer belt, the process takes about one minute per tire.
The unit's computer control automatically determines a tire's dimensions as it enters the chamber. It can process tires ranging from a 13-inch inner diameter to a 48-inch outer diameter. The maximum cross-section can be no greater than 18 inches.
When the chamber's doors are closed, the atmospheric pressure inside is reduced by about 50 millibars, expanding the bubbles caused by separations inside the tire and making them easier to detect.
The measuring head records images of nine different sectors of the tire, and the operator can view an image of the whole tire or the individual sections.
The tire's computer-generated image also is recorded for later reference.
"The part that requires the most training is examining the images," Mr. Adlhart said. A technician can be trained to operate the unit and change the laser bulb in one to two days.
Mr. Adlhart said Steinbichler is working on the 1200's software to make it possible to adjust the level of analysis to different tolerances.
The first prototype of the Intact 1200 was tested in May 1999. "A surprising number of people in the field of shearography and tire testing provided positive feedback about the design," Mr. Adlhart said.
Production began in January and, as of May, two units had been delivered and another five were being built for clients in England and Brazil. The Intact 1200's computer is equipped with a built-in modem so the factory can perform software diagnostics and maintenance by remote control. The list price of the unit is about $130,000.
Steinbichler's next product in development is a machine called "Treadmapper" designed to provide a three-dimensional profile of a tire's tread. This would allow tire development experts to compare a new tire tread with the same tread at different mileage increments to determine the effects of wear.
Goodyear's European tech center in Luxembourg is testing a prototype, Mr. Adlhart said.