Tyre Development

The invention of the wheel was obviously so long ago that nobody can trace it. The rubber tyre, by contrast, can be traced back to two historical events. In 1888 John Boyd Dunlop made an inflatable rubber tyre for a child’s tricycle, found that it was effective and pursued an interest in using rubber tyres for bicycles and light transport. He had trouble later when his patent on the idea was declared invalid; an earlier inventor named Robert William Thomson had had a similar idea in 1846, had produced a leather and rubber tyre and successfully used it with a horse drawn carriage. Unfortunalty, the idea had been held back by the lack of suitably thin rubber.

Vulcanization of rubber, which was discovered in the 1840s only just before Thomson’s tyre, proved invaluable for tyres. Prior to this all rubber was sticky and easily deformed. Vulcanized rubber, which has had sulphur or other substances added during a heating process, contains multiple cross-links in its chemical structure. It can be moulded into various shapes, and though it is flexible it will return to its moulded when stress is removed. The tyres used for heavy vehicles, which require considerable durability and load bearing qualities, required vulcanized rubber; without this process tyres would have been limited to bicycles and light vehicles.

By the 1920’s synthetic rubber had been invented, and within a few years the rising price of natural rubber made synthetic alternatives an increasingly viable alternative. Synthetic rubber had an additional advantage is how it could be custom made to suit various applications; natural rubber could be modified, but only to a limited degree.

The idea for radial tires, where the supporting plies in the tyre are arranged across the tyre at an angle 90degrees from the angle of travel, was patented in 1915, but it was not till the mid-1940s that practical manufacture proved feasible. Nonetheless, the superiority of these tyres was recognized, their only slight disadvantage being the change they gave to the suspension and handling of a car. Modifying the car’s suspension reduced this effect while still retaining the tyre’s superior performance. Radial tyres gave less internal friction, reducing wear and allowing improved fuel economy.

Improved car and tyre performance goes hand in hand with improved brake performance. ICER Oceania produce brake pads for all makes of cars including European and other foreign makes.

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