Tire Technology Expo 2018

Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence 2017


The jury has returned its verdict, the votes have been counted, and the winners have been announced!

For the tenth time, the presentation of the Tire Technology International Awards for Innovation and Excellence – the world’s biggest celebration of endeavour in the field of tire development and manufacturing – has been made at Tire Technology Expo in Hannover, Germany. Trophies were presented in five main categories during a gala dinner in the spectacular Kuppelsaal at the Hannover Congress Centrum, with the winners chosen by an independent, international panel of 27 tire industry experts (see below)

The awards are coordinated by Tire Technology International magazine, which is published by UKI Media & Events, the organiser of Tire Technology Expo. The full list of winners is below – click on each one for more information!

The Winners

Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year - Bridgestone – Examation
In recognition of scientific and technological excellence in tire manufacturing
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Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year

In recognition of scientific and technological excellence in tire manufacturing

Winner: Bridgestone - Examination

Bridgestone’s revolutionary tire assembly system, Examation, scored a landslide victory in this year’s Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year category. The equipment, which has been installed at the company’s Hikone plant in Japan, combines specially developed ICT with artificial intelligence to greatly improve quality and enhance productivity in the factory.

It employs technologies based on Bridgestone Intelligent Office and Bridgestone Intelligent Device (BID), which incorporate algorithms developed using analysis of big data collected in manufacturing. BID introduces a unique AI that enables automatic control of production processes and quality assurance, which was previously dependent on human analysis. This helps achieve an extremely high level of manufacturing precision and reduces human error. The data collected will also be used to improve processes across Bridgestone’s factories.

Bridgestone EMEA’s head of R&D, Emilio Tiberio, commented, “We are very proud that the Examation tire assembly system has been recognised with this prestigious award. We believe that the application of our ICT and AI to our production systems will provide great benefits.”

Jury member Shunichi Yamazaki, president of the Intelligent Vehicle Research Institute in Japan, agreed that the technology is a game changer, and not just for the tire industry: “In Japan, a generation of highly skilled workers have reached retirement age and it can be difficult to fully transfer their skills to younger colleagues. However, this system is a useful substitute, preventing human error and improving efficiency and production quality. It measures 480 quality points and carries out automatic control in real time by AI so that a tire may be assembled in optimal conditions. It is expected that this type of intelligence technology will become an epochal system across all manufacturing industries.”

Examation has already been installed at Bridgestone’s Hikone plant in Japan; further machines are being installed in plants in Hungary and Russia as part of a global roll-out.

Also shortlisted:
Bartell Machinery Systems – BeadView
Kobe Steel – Librota-GS Tire Uniformity Machine
Mitsubishi – MR-EX Intermeshing Mixer
ROmiLL – NSR Preheater


Environmental Achievement of the Year - Versalis/Genomatica – Renewable butadiene research
In recognition of environmental advances in the tire industry
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Environmental Achievement of the Year

In recognition of environmental advances in the tire industry

Winner: Versalis/Genomatica – Renewable butadiene research

In order to address concerns around a potential future butadiene shortage and/or price increase, in 2013 Versalis and Genomatica established a technology JV to explore renewable sources. After some early success, progress accelerated in 2016. In a demonstration run, several kilograms of renewable butadiene were prepared starting from commercial sugars. Its “outstanding” quality enabled it to be used in several polymerisation tests: no differences were detected between the polybutadiene prepared from fossil or renewable feedstock. Since then, the performance of both the microorganism and the catalyst have been greatly improved. Several innovative steps have been patented and Versalis strongly believes that this rapidly developing technology will eventually lead to a more sustainable production footprint.

This complex, long-running programme has been recognised by our judging panel as the winner of the 2017 Environmental Achievement of the Year award. Jury member Flavio Farroni from Italy’s University of Naples Federico II, Italy said it “could be a very disruptive innovation in a sector strongly needing implementable solutions”, with David Shaw, head of research, Tire Industry Research, UK adding that, “this is a major advance in bio-technology, with the potential to revolutionise the industry”.

“The Versalis/Genomatica venture was launched to realise a major ambition,” said a delighted Sergio Lombardini, the R&D and technological innovation director at Versalis. “Developing the 1,3 bio-BDE technology is a solid accomplishment that is now ready for demo or pilot scale-up. Commercial partners willing to team up with us will take advantage of a demonstrated potential to bring the innovation content into their businesses and be part of an even greater purpose: to mark the bio-butadiene value chain with state-of-the-art know-how.”

Also shortlisted:
Rubreco/RPC – Devulcanisation technology
Nokian Tyres – Biomass power plant
Cooper Tire – Guayule tire research


Tire Technology of the Year - Sumitomo Rubber Industries – Advanced 4D Nano Design
In recognition of real advances in technology
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Tire Technology of the Year

In recognition of real advances in technology

Winner: Sumitomo Rubber Industries – Advanced 4D Nano Design

Five innovative technologies were shortlisted for this award, but it was Advanced 4D Nano Design that impressed the jury the most, delivering a third Tire Technology of the Year trophy for Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI).

Advanced 4D Nano Design makes it possible to perform highly realistic simulations of the complex internal structures and behaviours of rubber materials at the nano scale by combining cutting-edge analysis using synchrotron radiation and neutron beams and advanced simulation technology. As one of the achievements using this technology, a new tread rubber that doubled the wear performance of SRI’s standard tread rubber from 2011 was presented at the Tire Technology Conference in 2016. This technology is not only basic research in materials science, but also an innovative technology that is enabling SRI to efficiently develop next-generation tire materials.

Judge Stuart Cook, director of research at TARRC, UK said, “My voting was strongly influenced by the combined application by SRI of cutting-edge analytical techniques with a powerful simulation technology that really takes simulation and understanding of rubber compounds to the next level. As a practical application of this technology, to double the wear performance of a standard SRI tread compound is remarkable and provides a pointer for the future.”

Collecting the trophy in Hannover, SRI’s senior executive officer, Kozaburo Nakaseko commented, “We have made great progress in material innovation and the development of new manufacturing processes. This in turn has paved the way for the development of such high-performance tires as our Falken Ecorun A-A, which achieves the maximum A-A ranking under Europe’s tire labelling system, as well as durable, long-lasting performance technology. Utilising advanced research facilities on the cutting edge of super photon science, and a world-class supercomputer for ongoing structural analysis of rubber materials, Sumitomo Rubber Industries will continue to accelerate research. This will further our understanding of the internal structures and phenomena of rubber in greater detail so that we may succeed in developing tires with ever greater added value.”

Graham Heeps, editor of Tire Technology International and chairman of the judging panel, gave his assessment: “With advances such as purified natural rubber and detailed simulation of the tire’s complex chemistry, experts at SRI have established an enviable reputation in tire technology in the past few years. Advanced 4D Nano Design pushes the boundaries of tire science: it sheds new light on how materials interact, and opens the door to improved performance and new material developments. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.”

Also shortlisted:
Bridgestone – DriveGuard
EVE Rubber Institute/Ecombine/Versalis – ATCM liquid phase mixing
Mesnac/TMSI – Dynamic Footprint Test System
Yokohama – Aerodynamic tires


Tire Industry Supplier of the Year - VMI Group
In recognition of excellence by suppliers to the tire industry
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Tire Industry Supplier of the Year

In recognition of excellence by suppliers to the tire industry

Winner: VMI Group

VMI edged ahead of Comerio Ercole in a very tight race to win Tire Industry Supplier of the Year for the second time. The Netherlands-based supplier’s year began with the launch of the Milexx truck-tire building machine at Tire Technology Expo 2016. Other product debuts followed, including the Retrax automated pre-cure tread applicator and the Pixxel vision system, which offers TBM automation, quality and data analysis improvements. Finally, VMI has just broken ground on a new manufacturing facility in Leszno, Poland, which will be operational in Q2 2017 and help accelerate further growth at the supplier.

“We are honoured to receive this prestigious award,” said Harm Voortman, VMI’s president and CEO. “It is great to see that our innovative work and dedication to the tire industry have been recognised by independent experts. It confirms our strategy of bringing value to our customers by providing unique and innovative solutions. We will continue to develop new products and services to help our customers face the challenges of the future.”

The judges were particularly impressed by the Milexx truck-tire building machine, which has a capacity close to 700 tires per day and is said to achieve production and quality levels that are unparalleled in the industry. Tire Industry Research’s David Shaw called it, “a milestone in TBR building productivity”, and Joe Walter from the University of Akron said that it continued VMI’s “tradition of developing and delivering high-quality tire building machines and related factory equipment to global manufacturers”.

Also shortlisted:
Comerio Ercole
GL Messtechnik


Tire Manufacturer of the Year - Continental
In recognition of achievements by tire manufacturers
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Tire Manufacturer of the Year

In recognition of achievements by tire manufacturers

Winner: Continental

A raft of major R&D and production investments were unveiled by Continental in 2016 – enough to propel the Hannover, Germany-based tire giant to a narrow victory over Hankook for the Tire Manufacturer of the Year crown.

“We are very excited about this award because it recognizes several technology projects and innovations that we have already realised, working consistently within the scope of our Vision 2025 long-term growth strategy,” explained Nikolai Setzer, member of the Executive Board of Continental Corporation in charge of Corporate Purchasing as well as the Tires Division. “At the same time, being awarded as the most innovative tire manufacturer is a great motivation for our global team – now more than 50,000 employees – to continue on this path, step by step.”

In Germany, developments included the completion of the new high-performance technical centre in Korbach and a US$40m project to establish a dedicated dandelion rubber research centre in Anklam. In September 2016, the first truck test tires containing dandelion rubber were revealed, with production expected to follow in 5-10 years. Another R&D centre is being built at Conti’s Lousado, Portugal, tire plant, focusing on a new range of agricultural tires, which will also be built at the site from 2017. Continental improved its Chinese-market testing capabilities by opening a new proving ground at the CATARC site in Yancheng. Finally, a new US$180m production hall has been added in Otrokovice, Czech Republic, for the production of truck and bus tires.

“I appreciate Continental’s positive attitude to investment in R&D and testing facilities in the EU and China for the future manufacturing of tires,” noted jury member, Professor Toshio Nishi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “Moreover, the company’s activities in the utilisation of dandelion rubber, including making real truck tires, are remarkable.”

Also shortlisted:


Lifetime Achievement Award - Professor Gert Heinrich, Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, Dresden
In recognition of a career of outstanding service to the tire industry
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Lifetime Achievement Award

In recognition of a career of outstanding service to the tire industry

Winner: Professor Gert Heinrich, Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, Dresden

Professor Gert Heinrich once trained as a bricklayer, but it is in the building blocks of tire performance that he has become a world-leading authority. Beginning in the 1970s, he studied and then taught polymer physics at Jena and Halle/Merseburg in the former East Germany. When Germany was reunified in 1990, he spent 12 years leading materials research at Continental in Hannover, where he still lives. Research during that period was focused on the tire as part of a wider system – interacting with braking and stability systems, and the road. With today’s discussion of the tire’s role in future autonomous vehicles, this work may be seen as ahead of its time.

In 2003, a new chapter began with a joint appointment as a professor of polymer materials and rubber technology at the Technical University of Dresden, as well as director of the Institute of Polymer Materials at the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research in the same city. Heinrich built the reputation of the research in Dresden to the prominence it enjoys today. He cooperated with major tire companies on projects large and small, and his teams have been responsible for new research into nanoparticles in elastomeric materials and the fracture mechanics of filled rubbers. He has supervised dozens of doctoral students who have gone on to apply their expertise at tire and rubber companies worldwide.

He retired from his position at the university in 2016, and is due to step down from his duties as Leibniz Institute director later in 2017.

Professor Heinrich has more than 450 journal papers to his name, making him one of the most published researchers in the EU. In just one example of the influence of his research, scientists at Goodyear said in a testimonial that, “In the domain of rubber friction, Professor Heinrich was key in reviving classical, fundamental investigations into the physics of sliding friction of rubber on rough road surfaces. His initial rubber friction theory motivated many scientists in both industry and academia to study rubber friction through experiments, analytical modelling or computer simulations. It is thanks to Professor Heinrich that a portfolio of new concepts and capabilities exists to study rubber friction, contact mechanics, tire traction or sealing applications with a significantly enhanced scientific baseline.”

They went on to say that, “Professor Heinrich is considered an undisputed authority in his field, from fundamental science and polymer theory right up to tire-related applications of rubber technology. His personality and behaviour are characterised by respect, honesty, integrity and an impressive level of scientific competence. Furthermore, he unifies the leadership traits of a scientific director, academic teacher and institutional manager in a unique manner.”

“This is a great honour for me personally, but also an indication that our group in Dresden has established a leading position in elastomer research,” said Professor Heinrich, on learning of his award. “Although I’ve now retired from the university, the projects will continue in the future.

“The award also recognises the value of the work we did at Continental. There, as in Dresden, there was always a strong team behind me taking care of the details, and this award is for them, too.”

Professor Heinrich has previously received IOM3’s Colwyn Medal, the George Stafford Whitby Award from the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society, and the Carl Dietrich Harries Medal from the German Rubber Society. For more on his work, please refer to the October 2015 issue of Tire Technology International.


Young Scientist Prize - Pavel Sarkisov, PhD candidate, Technical University of Dresden
In recognition of the scientists and engineers of the future who will contribute to scientific knowledge within the tire industry
Click here for more information on the winner

Young Scientist Prize

In recognition of the scientists and engineers of the future who will contribute to scientific knowledge within the tire industry

Winner: Pavel Sarkisov

This year’s Young Scientist Prize was awarded to Pavel Sarkisov, a PhD candidate from the Technical University of Dresden, who impressed not only with the content of his presentation, but also the manner and clarity of his delivery. Award judge Andrew Tinker said, “The content was coherent, relevant and well-judged for the time available; the slides were easy to view and comprehend and his delivery was well-paced and assured. He also handled the good number of questions his presentation elicited with the same confidence.”

Sarkisov’s research, aimed at improving tire and vehicle safety, focuses on deformation analysis of a rolling tire using a newly developed optical measurement method.

“My approach was to decouple the complex physical system of a rolling tire into separate physical properties and effects. To be observed this requires completely new measurement methods, such as the optical measurement technique I presented in the conference. A comprehensive analysis of observed effects has provided an understanding of the physical background of tire behaviour,” explained Sarkisov.

“Next, the most relevant physical phenomena have to be considered in a physical model in order to reproduce tire behaviour and to analyse the influence of each single effect on tire characteristics.”

The scientist, who was unaware of the substantial cash prize up for grabs, noted the importance of the award in giving recognition to talented young researchers worldwide: “It was actually a surprise for me to learn that there is a financial reward. I see its importance not only for my own recognition, but for all young scientists and PhD candidates. Very often they conduct fundamental research, exploring unknown areas to improve knowledge and understanding, but research in fundamental science is rarely supported by industry because it does not guarantee profit in the short term. This award is also confirmation from experienced industry experts that we are taking steps in the right direction,” said Sarkisov.


Judging Panel 2017

  • Ken Albers, senior NVH engineer, Kumho America Technical Center, USA

  • Klaus Baltruschat, tire expert, TÜV SÜD, Germany

  • Maik Brinkmeier, FEM development engineer, commercial tires, Continental, Germany

  • Stuart Cook, director of research, TARRC, UK

  • Flavio Farroni, research fellow, University of Naples Federico II, Italy

  • Jean-Claude Fauré, senior tire research specialist, Michelin, France

  • Stefan Fischer, managing director Europe for product technology, Giti Tire, Germany

  • Romain Hansen, global director, tire technology projects, Goodyear, Luxembourg

  • Graham Heeps, editor, Tire Technology International, UK

  • Rudi Hein, executive adviser, Standards and Regulations, Bridgestone Technical Center Europe, Italy

  • Gert Heinrich, director of the Institute of Polymer Materials, Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, Dresden, Germany

  • Kuninobu Kadota, fellow, Tire Research Division, Bridgestone Corporation, Japan

  • Daniele Lorenzetti, chief technology officer, Apollo Tyres, India

  • Federico Mancosu, consultant, ex-Pirelli, Italy

  • Kozaburo Nakaseko, senior executive officer, Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Japan

  • Prof Toshio Nishi, special professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

  • Joerg Nohl, VP for engineering tires, Continental, Germany

  • Henning Olsson, director of research & business development, Calspan, USA

  • Bo Persson, research scientist, FZ Jülich, Germany

  • Jan Prins, technical specialist tyre CAE & modelling, Jaguar Land Rover, UK

  • Lorenzo Pulici, engineering project leader, Pirelli, Italy

  • David Shaw, head of research, Tire Industry Research, UK

  • Gregory Smith, director, Tyre CAE and Modelling Consultants, UK

  • Saied Taheri, director of CenTiRe, Virginia Tech, USA

  • Joe Walter, adjunct professor, mechanical engineering, University of Akron, USA

  • Shunichi Yamazaki, president, Intelligent Vehicle Research Institute, Japan

  • Chuck Yurkovich, senior vice president, global research & development, Cooper Tire, USA

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Future show dates:

Tire Technology Expo 2019
Dates: 12-14 February 2019
Location: Halls 19/20/21, Hannover, Germany