A Look Back At The Evolutionary Past Of Tyre
The wheels on the bus go round and round.
round and round.
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town!
I am sure these lyrics must’ve taken you back in time when you were a little kid or when you played this track to your little ones to keep them amused and make them feel good. Keeping that in mind today I will let go of my love for quotations and post a you tube link of this song. It is a reggae version of this much loved nursery rhyme and will make both you and your kids happy. Let me urge you to spare are a couple of minutes and travel back in time. It will be worth your time. I Promise. So here is the youtube link.
As the title suggests today we will turn back the time and take a look at what was probably the most important yet unacknowledged in a way that it should have been; Wheel/Tyre. Ask anyone on the street ‘what according to them has been the most influential and important invention in the history of the mankind?’ 99.9% of people will name anything but Wheel. I am ready to bet the wheels on my car on that number. The fact that I have just started writing this article and am already getting upset I believe I will stop my cribbing on this particular issue and rather move on with the history of wheels which, after all is the reason I am writing this article. Still, before I move on with this article, let me leave you with a thought. Just imagine a world without wheel. Please do remember that gears and cogs also follow the same rotating principal as wheels. Would it be wrong if I was to put them in the same category as wheels? Let’s see the world you might find.
The modern tyre we take for granted is very different from when it all started; this will be an overview of the key points in the history of tyres and tyre development.
The earliest form of tyre was a simple band of leather& Iron wrapped or placed on a wooden wheel & was primarily used in wagons & wheels. An example of which can still be seen on horse carts and wagons if you were to make your way to one of the tier 2 cities in India. The manufacturing process of the tyre in the early years was quite straight forward wherein, a tyre (band of leather and iron) would be heated in a forged fire and then wrapped around the wooden wheel & by quenching it the metal would contract and fit tightly on the wheel. The tyre maker at that time was called a wheelwright and would be the only person entrusted with making tyres.
The moment of evolution came when a Scottish inventor who went by the name of John Boyd Dunlop (Yes! Dunlop) who, actually worked as a veterinarian in Belfast made the first ever pneumatic tyre to be used on his Son’s bicycle in 1887. John then went on to file a patent application in Dublin in the year 1893 which was then rejected citing prior art from one Scot Robert William Thomson. Even though Dunlop is credited with the idea of having rubber to be used as tyre, the Vulcanisation of natural rubber is something that was invented by Charles Goodyear who, is rightfully credited for the same.
Below is a brief on the history the evolution and the timeline of the key points as they occurred in the evolution of tyres:
Origin of the name ‘Tyre’
Looking back in history at first only craftsmen known a wheelwright were the ones considered skilled enough to forge the bands of iron & leather used to tie the wheel together. The name tyre originated from there. Since the leather and iron bands were used to tie the wheels together it became a tyre or tyre as more popularly spelled in the Europe.
- Rubber tyre development
One Charles Macintosh was once experimenting with the sap found in a special tree in the Amazon in south America. The produce was called Latex. The latex was discovered when some explorers on one of their voyages found Indians using sheets of rubber for water proofing their homes. The rubber sheets however, perfect for waterproofing had some qualities such as being affected by heat or cold were not deemed good enough for making tyres. In 1893, Charles Goodyear came out with the solution to that and the solution to the problem was to add sulphur to the melted latex which then eliminated the stretchable quality of the rubber making it stronger and less prone to hot or cold temperatures. At first this vulcanised rubber was used in cushioning tyres for carriages and bicycles.
- The pneumatic rubber tyre
John Dunlop, a veterinarian from Belfast invented the first pneumatic tyre while trying to make his son’s bicycle more comfortable to ride on. However another inventor who went by the name of, Robert Thomson, had already patented the idea of pneumatic rubber tyre. Later the Dunlop Rubber Company was established and won a legal battle with Thomson for the patent of the pneumatic rubber tyre. In 1891, Michelin brothers invented the first detachable pneumatic tyre that included a tube which then was bolted on to the rim of the tyre.
The next revolution in the tyre industry came in the year 1915 when, the Palmer Tyre Company which was based out of Detroit made the first cord tyre by pioneering the rubberised cord fabric technology. In manufacturing the cord tyres all the strands of the metal cord were laid down parallel to eqach other and then were pressed into a sheet of rubber. The sheets of cord material were used to make the tyre casings and each ply was separated from the other by rubber coating. This was the birth of the cross ply.
By 1937 use of steel cord became a norm in the manufacturing of tyres .
In 1948, Michelin developed the first radial tyre and this became the most revolutionary development in the tyre Industry as steel-belted radial tyres were used. The advantages of radial technology included longer life and increased mileage for the vehicle.
In 1947, the B.F Goodrich Company of Akorn, Ohio announced that it had developed a new breed of tyres called tubeless tyres. This was the technological achievement in the tyre industry which later became a safety norm for vehicles.
After a few years of successful testing Goodrich finally won the patents for various features of tubeless tyres in 1952.
According to an article that was published in The New York Times in December 1954, “If the results of tests…prove valid in general use, the owner of a 1955 automobile can count on at least 25 per cent more mileage, easier tyre changing if he gets caught on a lonely road with a leaky tyre, and almost no blowouts.”
And the History was updated.
The future of tyre
Since the introduction of tubeless tyres some heavy development in tyres and tyre making technology has taken place all around the world, none more than in motor sport. However, we are yet to see anything as revolutionary as Radials or Tubeless. There have been concepts, with a major one being the Bridgestone Air Free, first announced in 2011.
Timeline of the key points in the history of tyres
1840’s: Vulcanised rubber invented by Charles Goodyear and vulcanised rubber pneumatic tyre patented by Robert William Thomson.
1880’s: Pneumatic tyres for bicycles invented by John Dunlop.
1890’s: Design of a wheel rim and outer cover with inextensible lip patented by CK Welsh & Andre Michelin uses pneumatic tyres on an automobile.
1903: Tubeless tyre patented by Paul Weeks Litchfield who, later became the chairman of Goodyear in 1940.
1904: Mountable rims were introduced.
1908: Grooved tyres with improved road traction were invented by Frank Seiberling.
1910: B.F. Goodrich invented tyres with longer life by adding carbon to the rubber
1911: The first successful automobile tyre was invented by Philip Strauss. A combination tyre and air filled inner tube these tyres were marketed by Strauss’ company the Hardman Tyre & Rubber Company.
1937: First synthetic rubber tyres were invented by B.F. Goodrich who also patented a substance called “Chemigum.”
1948: Michelin patents the radial tyre.
1954: First O.E.M tubeless tyre fitted to the now defunct Packard.
1974: wide radial tyre was introduced by Pirelli.
2011: Bridgestone announced its first Air Free concept tyre.