It's going to be a while, but the days of changing tyres wholesale could be a thing of the past.
Michelin is working on technology that could see the end of 'new tyres' as we know them today, by instead using 3D printers to bring worn-out rubber back to life.
The idea forms part of the company's holistic 'Visionary Concept' with several innovative technologies including an airless wheel/tyre package, tyres made of wood, and 3D printing.
Michelin director of science and communication, Cyrille Roget, told CarAdvice could still be waiting a decade or more for properly industrialised 3D printing, but his team has made significant advances.
“In the same way that you can visit a recharge station with your Tesla, we think the same situation could apply when it comes to re-treads for your tyres," he said.
"Essentially, the printer can produce a new tread on your existing tyre in a matter of minutes... that’s any tread you want – from winter, sport or even an all-terrain version for your SUV," he elaborated.
“The biggest hurdle will be setting up a re-tread station infrastructure but given 3D technology is also environmentally friendly in that it only adds sufficient material to replenish the tyre tread, it offers major benefits in this regard."
Another feature of this technology is the fact it's connected, meaning drivers will be able to access critical information like tread depth through an app, which would then communicate with the printer to pinpoint the perfect tread pattern for that particular time of the year. Clever stuff, right?
Given the critical landfill issues facing the world, and the fact Michelin alone produces more than 165 million tyres a year, this technology can’t come soon enough.
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