Research and technological innovation projects

  • PTSM (Twin Screw Mixing) is the new process for preparation of compounds
  • Next Mirs™ is an integrated, modular robotic system for making tyres
  • CCM (Continuous Compound Mixing): improves the quality of the produced
    compound

In the context of the framework agreement for creation of the Settimo Torinese Technology and Production Centre for the production of “green” tyres, Pirelli Tyre and the Turin Polytechnic have pursued joint research and technological innovation projects dedicated not only to minimising the impact of the new industrial site but especially further innovation of the most advanced processes and products of Pirelli Tyre research.

Following the PTSM and Next Mirs processes, installed at the New Centre, the CCM process has also been presented.

The PTSM process

PTSM (Twin Screw Mixing) is the new process for preparation of compounds and is the result of a combination of traditional batch mixing with continuous CCM technology. It offers high levels of quality, reliability and efficiency, developed specifically for the production of compounds used in the new Pirelli green tyres. This technology makes it possible to realise major improvements in terms of compound uniformity, reduced dispersal of ingredients and a 30% reduction in energy consumption as compared with traditional techniques.

The PTSM process has optimised the silanization reaction of silica based compounds (“green” tyres). This has made it possible to significantly reduce tyre rolling resistance, which directly translates into vehicle fuel savings. The TSM technology streamlines production efficiency, guaranteeing productivity increases of at least 300% as compared with the previous continuous CCM technology. During execution of the PTSM project, special attention was also dedicated to definition of the layouts, in order to significantly limit the final size of the plants and reduce their industrial impact.

Next Mirs™ process

Mirs™ is an integrated, modular robotic system for making tyres. It has a very high degree of flexibility due to its ability to optimise modularity and logistics. Tyres are fabricated around a heated drum that is tailor-made for a particular tyre model. The drum is continuously rotated by a robot under an extrusion device that distributes rubber over the surface. The drum rotation and compound feeding movements are coordinated to provide the correct distribution of materials to create the specific tyre model.

Compared to traditional, large-scale tyre-building systems with their exceptionally high production rates, designed for customers in different geographic locations, the Mirs is a compact production “island,” flexible and easily programmable for extremely rapid adaptation to the production of new models. This system represents a real improvement, in terms of both technology and logistics, as it can be easily located near the manufacturing process that it serves. The use of robotics in the production process makes it possible to realise extremely high product quality, due to the geometric distribution of the rubber fibres that is constant for each model.

The Next Mirs represents a huge technological leap in the tyre fabrication process after Mirs. It expands its scope of flexibility to different lines characterised by families of different materials and permits the fabrication of products for the most diverse uses in terms of performance requirements: highway and racing supercars.
The contribution made by Next Mirs to eco-compatibility is based on three principal aspects.

  1. Vulcanisation process
    As part of the Next Mirs project, Pirelli has developed a new concept that will lead to a more uniform degree of vulcanisation between the different parts of the tyre. This will make it possible to improve the production efficiency of the vulcaniser up to 30%, resulting in:
    • a proportionate reduction in the number of vulcanisers and moulds, and thus a reduction in CO2 emissions during production;
    • a considerable reduction in the energy used, mainly for the energy dispersed by the vulcanisers and thermal plants serving them.
  2. Extrusion process
    In contrast with the Mirs project, the Next Mirs process has adopted a new “cold,” i.e. low temperature extrusion system, with consequent reduction in heat use. The efficiency of extruder screws has also been improved. All of this translates into improved product performance, especially in terms of maintaining the original characteristics of the compounds during use.
  3. Next Mirs product
    With the Next Mirs technologies, it is possible to realise semi-finished products that are more exact in terms of weight (the variability of weight is about 1/3 compared with NP) and more complex. Due to the combined effect of these two peculiarities, the weight of the specific products can be significantly reduced by this process (about -4/5%) and, therefore, aside from an equivalent reduction in raw materials used, a significant reduction will also be realised in the rolling resistance base load of the product in use.

Due to its high flexibility, optimised modularity and logistics, the Next Mirs truly represents “an incubator of process technologies.” In future, certain will be applicable to normal Pirelli production, with consequent improvement of the green performance of production processes. In 2011 tests will be conducted for extension of the Next Mirs vulcanisation process to traditional processes, in order to assess the benefits that can be achieved in regard to product, process and the environment.

The CCM process

In addition to what has been developed and introduced at the Technological Centre, the CCM (“Continuous Compound Mixing”) process is particularly significant. This process uses a 100% computer controlled pneumatic distribution system to transport the ingredients from their storage silos to the twin-screw extruders that operate continuously.

The CCM technology was designed to manage the complexity of the process deriving from the large number of ingredients required to produce the compound, and it improves the quality of the produced compound, and consequently the quality of the finished product. By means of a specially designed capture and recycling system for solid materials, CCM technology has reduced dust levels in production areas to extremely low levels.

The CCM process also saves energy, enabling a reduction of approximately 20% in energy consumption per unit of product.