No one can ignore the importance of tyres in our day to day life. From bicycles to airplanes, everything runs on tyres. If you think deeply with a bigger perspective, you will come to realise that the world’s transportation system depends upon tyres. Without transportation, think what would happen to our economy and how different our lives would have been, only if tyres were not invented and developed as they have since the mid 1800s. Least we can do is be thankful to the tyre developers and pay respect to them by understanding what were the significant stages in the evolution of good ol’ tyres.
The initial days-
The name tyre was picked up initially, when wheelwrights (people who made tyres) used to wrap and literally tie wooden wheels for horse carts using multiple bands of leather and iron. The manufacturing process was pretty straightforward, where the bands of leather and steel was forged and wraped around the wooden wheel, which after cooling down used to contract and fit tightly over the wheel.
Start of Rubber tyres-
Charles Macintosh, a Scottish chemist and inventor of waterproof fabric, was once experimenting with a sap sourced from a special tree in South American amazon forest. This was later called Latex. Latex was discovered when some voygers found Indians using latex sheets to waterproof their homes. Rubber sheets however not suitable to make tyres due to being too sensitive to heat and cold.
In 1893 Charles Goodyear processed the latex by adding sulphur to it, which made the final product stronger, less sensitive to temperatures and less stretchable. After this the sheets of vulcanised rubber was used to cover wheels of carriages and bicycles to make the ride comfortable.
When air was filled into the tyres-
John Dunlop was the veterinarian from Belfast who was the first one to create pneumatic tyres. He invented the pneumatic tyre when he wanted to make the bicycle of his son ride more comfortably. Although Robert Thomson had already patented the idea of pneumatic tyres before Dunlop, he lost the legal battle in court to Dunlop Rubber Company. In 1891 Michelin brothers were the first one to invent detachable pneumatic tyre that consisted of a separate air tube.
In 1915, Palmer Tyre Company from Detroit engineered the first rubberised ‘cord’ fabric and made the first cord tyre. To manufacture the rubber sheet, several metal cord were laid together and pressed. This metal sheet was then used to make tyre casing and multiple such ply’s were separated by rubber coating. This gave rise to cross-ply construction.
The first radial tyre was introduced by Michelin in the year 1947. Since then the transport industry is not the same. Advantages of radial tyres like lightweight construction, higher speed ratings and long tyre life were revolutionary.
In the year 1947, Ohio based BF Goodrich Company declared that they had developed a tubeless type tyre. Most of the tyres sold today are tubeless type due to their numerous benefits over tube type tyres like less chances of tyre burst and greater performance in various conditions.