Unveiled in July, the new MICHELIN X TWEEL SSL 2 – the airless tire solution for skid steers – features a completely new wheel developed and manufactured by GKN Wheels. The TWEEL is a single, fully integrated unit which replaces the traditional tire/ wheel/ valve assembly. This means there is no need for costly and time-consuming wheel and tire mounting to be carried out – and once the unit is bolted to the vehicle, there is no air pressure to maintain.
The launch of this next-generation TWEEL represented the culmination of a comprehensive four-year, collaborative research and development program, with a team of engineers from GKN Wheels' Center of Excellence in North America working in close partnership with Michelin to develop this innovative solution.
With a brief to deliver a robust, high-performance and long-life wheel, the project team's solution was to design a wheel that would provide a mechanical bond with the tire – replacing the chemical bond system which had previously been used. Featuring spider disc tines and an eight-hole, high-grade steel hub, the TWEEL is stiffer than a traditional wheel, enabling it to cope with different stresses imposed on a completely integrated unit. Given the unique nature of the product, the team also had to develop specific laboratory and field test regimes, to fully validate and prove the design concept.
Commenting on the launch, GKN Wheels' Chief Engineer, Americas, Aaron Dahl said: "It's really exciting to see this innovative new product now in operation, with huge credit going to the joint project team that turned a vision into reality. Bringing together our expertise in wheels with Michelin's expertise in tires has proved to be a winning combination.
"Quite rightly given the unique nature of the product, the development program was rigorous and exhaustive. The result though is a TWEEL which not only looks great, but also delivers significant benefits for skid steer loaders which typically operate in the most demanding and challenging environments. The use of TWEEL completely eliminates the risk of punctures, reduces down-time, improves efficiency and ultimately reduces cost of ownership for contractors and rental fleet operators."
"The Michelin Tweel has been a disruptive technology not only to the tire industry, but also the wheel industry," said John Duty, product development engineer, Michelin Tweel Technologies. "Developing a robust, yet competitive wheel part for the SSL TWEEL 2 has been a challenge, however thanks to GKN Wheels' knowledge and capability in this segment, we were able to address significant customer pain points while improving manufacturability, creating a stronger value proposition for the end user."
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