Tech Spot
Tuesday | 03 September, 2013 | 9:58 am

Military-tough protection

By Lauren Duensing

Above: The Tire Saver Shield protects the tire sidewall from damaging terrain.

The Tire Saver Shield protects tire sidewalls in industrial environments

August 2013 - All parts of a military vehicle need to be able to stand up to tough terrain—including the tires—because immobile vehicles put soldiers in significant danger. The Department of Defense approached Hutchinson Industries, Trenton, N.J., to create a fire shield for tires “because in theater, when chemical agents, such as Molotov cocktails, are thrown at vehicles, the tire will catch on fire,” says David Kritzell, director of sales and marketing, defense and security at Hutchinson. “Once rubber starts to burn, it’s almost impossible to put it out.”

Hutchinson Industries is a manufacturer of mobility components for wheeled vehicles. The company was founded in 1853 and is one of the world’s oldest rubber product manufacturers. In response to the DoD’s request, “we developed the shield with flame-retardant properties and chemical resistance,” Kritzell continues. “When a chemical agent gets thrown at it, it slides right off the shield. As we put the Tire Saver Shields in service, we quickly realized they had a dual purpose; they were protecting the sidewall on the tire. On a military tire, the sidewall is the thinnest part of the tire because a military tire flexes up and down with varied air pressures to cover various traction, so it has to be thin and therefore, it’s susceptible to damage.”

Industrial applications

Because it protects the sidewall, Hutchinson realized the Tire Saver Shield could expand beyond military applications and be useful for mines, mills, industrial-type environments and transit buses. 

“It’s made of a composition that’s much stronger than the sidewall of any tire,” Kritzell says, creating a barrier in between the tire sidewall and damaging terrain, such as curbs, rocks, metal objects and rebar, and protecting it from punctures and tears. “It allows the customer to keep on working without the downtime of the tire going out,” Kritzell notes. 

Blowouts of large tires can be extremely dangerous “considering the energy and pressure that is in those tires,” Kritzell continues. “We’ve all seen blowouts in automobile passenger car tires, so you can imagine a blowout on a scale of five times that size of a tire. It can be pretty dangerous.” 

The Tire Saver Shield, however, can take a “pretty severe blow” and the tire behind it remains unmarked, he says. “So if I take multiple hits on a tire shield and even cut a tire shield, I’m not cutting the tire itself, there’s no safety issue, and the operator isn’t seeing any downtime because of his tire blowing out.”

How long will it last?

Kritzell says one of the biggest questions from companies is how long the shield will last. “My answer is always ‘it depends,’” he says. “It depends on the severity of the application, but what we do see is a bare tire is replaced three to four times before a tire shield would ever be replaced.”

The U.S. Army ran tests on the Tire Saver Shield. They found that during mobility testing without Tire Saver Shields, 11 tires were lost to sidewall punctures. During mobility testing with Tire Saver Shields, there was one tire lost to a sidewall puncture.

For industrial applications, the downtime required to change a tire means “you could be missing customer shipments,” Kritzell says. “Also, the tires on these types of equipment are high-dollar items. They’re considered company assets, so when the tire is damaged, that piece of equipment has to be taken out of service and a report filed, and the person that’s operating the equipment typically has to be sent for a drug test. It’s a whole lot of downtime and paperwork.”

One of Hutchinson’s minimill customers was experiencing a high frequency of tire side wall failures in its scrap yard  averaging between $20,000 and $30,000 per month in costs, with a peak of $70,000 at one location. After outfitting two large forklifts with the Tire Saver Shields, they’re still running those forklifts almost a year later without any issues. As a result, multiple locations have fitted all their equipment with Tire Saver Shields.

In a customer testimonial, a colonel in the U.S. Army commented on the efficacy of the product. “These products have made travel safer for all, but especially for soldiers. ... Your efforts and innovations undoubtedly saved many lives.” MM

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