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Michelin begins commercial sales of Tweel

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GREENVILLE, S.C.—Eight years after debuting its Tweel non-pneumatic tire/wheel assembly in the U.S., Michelin North America Inc. has begun commercial sales of a version for skid-steer loaders used in the landscaping, construction, contracting, refuse/recycling and agricultural industries.

“This is a very exciting time for Michelin,” said Tim Fulton, head of Michelin Tweel Technologies. “Michelin captured the fascination of the world with the concept of the Tweel; now landscapers, contractors and other skid steer loader operators will have the opportunity to use this innovative technology in their everyday businesses and experience the advantages first-hand.”

The version that Michelin has launched commercially—the 12N16.5 X-Tweel SSL hub design—is described as universal and can be fitted on most skid-steer loaders. It is available in the U.S. and Canada as a “no-compromise” solution for users of skid-steers. More sizes are due out this year.

Initially the Tweel will be distributed by a limited number of dealerships, Michelin said, including: A&E Tire Inc., Bauer Built Tire, Colony Tire, East Bay Tire Co., Jack's Tire & Oil, Pete's Tire Barns Inc., Raben Tire Co. Inc., Service Tire Truck Centers, Snider Tire Inc. and Valley Tire Co. Inc. in the U.S.; and Kal Tire, Kirk's Tire and Tirecraft in Canada.

Introduced in 2005, the Tweel is a single unit replacing the pneumatic tire, wheel and valve assembly. It replaces the 23 components of a typical radial tire and comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear band by means of flexible, deformable poly-urethane spokes and a tread band—all functioning as a single unit.

Skid-steer loaders with pneumatic tires typically experience several flat tires per month, Michelin said. To reduce downtime from flats, many users fill their pneumatic tires with foam or replace them with solid tires, resulting in machines with inadequate traction, handling and ride comfort.

Michelin said the X- Tweel costs as much as twice that of competing systems, but key is “owner value”—that is, users can expect more productivity because of fewer repairs, fewer idle man-hours, lower equipment charges and fewer missed deadlines.

The hub design is universal and can be placed on most skid-steer loaders. The Tweel provides the advantages of no air pressure to maintain, easy mounting, damage resistance, increased operator comfort, reduced operator fatigue, improved productivity, longer wear life, no costly downtime, excellent traction and superior performance, according to the Greenville-based tire maker.

When Michelin unveiled the Tweel at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, the company showed images of the product on a variety of vehicles, including passenger cars. However the company maintained throughout the development phase that skid-steer applications offered the most promise short-term.

Michelin reports it has no OE fitments as yet for the Tweel, which is made in Greenville.
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