Michelin unveils Vision 3D-printed, recyclable, biodegradable concept tire

It's a convergence of technologies Michelin is researching.

Michelin has unveiled its Vision concept tire at the 2017 Movin' On conference in Montreal. The airless tire-and-wheel in one ­– a "tweel," if you will ­– is made from organic, bio-sourced materials that are both recyclable and biodegradable. Its tread is rechargeable via 3D printing, which allows it to be altered quickly for various seasons or use cases. It's also connected, equipped with sensors that provide real-time information about its condition.

Its alveolar structure is inspired by nature, which is apparent at a glance. It looks a bit like a sand dollar one would find at the beach, while a closer look shows its construction to resemble coral. It's solid in the center, and more forgiving on the outside, providing strength and comfort. It's created using materials derived from wood chips, straw, sugar byproducts, and orange peels. It'll never go flat, though, thanks to its airless design.

Perhaps the most forward-looking aspect of the Vision tire is its rechargeable tread, which is applied via 3D printing. Michelin envisions a future where the connected tire will tell you when you need to add more rubber to the tread, and can customize that tread depending on your destination, climate, and driving style. If you plan to take a trip to the mountains (as in the video above) you can stop at a "Print & Go" station along the way to put the necessary winter tread on your car's tires. It'll only put on the amount of rubber you need for your trip, and you can reload and switch up the tread when you return home.

"You might be thinking, 'well, that's a dream,'" says Terry Gettys, Michelin's head of global innovation. "And you'd be right. It is a dream. It's a long-term concept which brings together our vision of all the elements of sustainable mobility. It's a realistic dream, though, Gettys says, as each component of the concept is already an active research topic at Michelin.

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