Japanese tire makers Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. have begun using an ``innovative, seamless'' production system to make ``high-precision'' passenger tires for Toyota Motor Corp.
The tire companies recently announced they are producing tires for Toyota using technology developed by Japanese tire materials supplier Fuji Seiko Co. Ltd.
The four companies have been working together to promote the development of the new system via Fuji Seiko's process technology strengths, the tire makers' production know-how and Toyota's tire performance evaluation expertise, according to a Yokohama statement.
The new method employs a compact, seamless production system directly connecting the processes involved, Toyo said. Fuji Seiko also improved its rubber and metal processing, making them simpler and more compact compared with current systems, Yokohama said.
This methodology allows for the production of high-precision tires with low distortion, Tokyo-based Yokohama said. The tires will be delivered on a ``just-in-time'' basis, said Earl Knoper, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Toyo Tire (U.S.A.) Corp.
The benefits of the new system are numerous, according to the tire makers. The tires made are lightweight, highly rigid and top quality, providing driving stability, comfort and extra quietness, the companies said.
The technology also features a reinforced composition and accurate shape control, as well as new materials-including a new rubber compound and steel and textile cords. The technology and space saving are estimated to cut manufacturing costs in the 20-percent range, Mr. Knoper said.
The new technology apparently involves building the tire in its final, inflated shape by assembling it around a core, before sending it to the curing process, according to Toyota President Fujio Cho, in informal comments to reporters attending a recent company reception. In the traditional method, tires are built flat.
A spokesman for Yokohama Rubber confirmed that his company and Fuji Seiko, Toyota and Toyo Tire have worked jointly on the new tire, with Toyoda Machine Works Ltd. responsible for providing the equipment for the new manufacturing method. He did not elaborate.
The four-company group also plans to further improve the new system, continuing research and development to help bring a ``groundbreaking change to the tire production of the 21st century,'' Yokohama said.
Osaka, Japan-based Toyo was planning to add a separate line for the process at its Kuwana, Japan, tire factory-located near a Toyota assembly plant-sometime this summer, Mr. Knoper said.
While the majority of the Toyota cars with the new tires will be driven in Japan, some will be exported to other parts of the world, especially the U.S., he said.
Toyota does not intend to make tires itself, nor will the company seek to have Toyota brand tires made for it, Mr. Cho said. Toyota has, however, thought of opening its own tire-wheel assembly facility near its auto manufacturing operations and enhancing just-in-time delivery.
As for Yokohama, it is continuing R&D of its own tire production system. While it didn't detail the technology it's working on, the company did say it considers ``both systems to become basic systems for producing next-generation tires.''
James B. Treece, Crain News Service, contributed to this article.
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