SEOUL, South Korea — Like nearly every other tire company, Hankook Tire & Technology Co. Ltd. conducts tens of thousands of experiments every year for compound development, according to Hakjoo Kim, Hankook vice president of R&D material development.
"As we collected all of this data, an idea occurred to us," Mr. Kim said. "Wouldn't we be able to predict the properties if we made an artificial intelligence program that could learn the data?"
This is the provenance of Hankook's new Virtual Compound Design (VCD) system, which the tire maker claims will help it predict the characteristics of a tire compound through artificial intelligence analysis, eliminating the need for actual testing.
The upshot? Generally, it takes six months to three years to develop a new tire compound, but Hankook expects with the VCD system to cut that time in half.
Hankook realized by 2015 that it had the relevant data to create what eventually became the VCD system, according to Mr. Kim. The company launched the project in 2016, he said.
"March of 2016 was also an important milestone and the driving force behind this project," he said. "It's when Lee Se-dol, the professional Korean 'Go' player and world champion (at the Chinese board game), was beaten by AlphaGo. That victory gave us confidence in the power of AI."
Hankook spent the next three years preprocessing the data, developing the AI model and upgrading and deploying the model, according to Kim.
The program got a boost early in 2019 when Hankook joined with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) to create the HK-KAIST Digital Innovation Center.
The purpose of the center was to adapt data in the field to AI and lead the digital transformation, he said. Since then, the accuracy of data analysis has been greatly improved, Hankook said, exhibiting an increased reliability of more than 95%.
"It's a win-win for both parties, as Hankook Tire has the latest AI technology and KAIST can secure well-refined, up-to-date manufacturing data," Mr. Kim said.
"The VCD system is only one of the results of this synergistic partnership, and we expect the project to continue with even more results that are mutually beneficial to both Hankook and KAIST," he said.