A closeup of Bridgestone's latest Blizzak tire in its natural environment.
Enlarge / A closeup of Bridgestone’s newest Blizzak tire in its pure atmosphere.


Monday marks the official begin of winter right here within the US. Not that the climate wants the calendar’s permission; many components of the nation began seeing snow weeks in the past. And, after all, you need not anticipate December 21 to swap over to winter tires. For one factor, the sticky compounds utilized in summer season efficiency tires aren’t designed to work when the mercury drops beneath 45 levels Fahrenheit (7.2°C), and that may occur nicely earlier than the bottom disappears beneath a layer of snow.

“That has to do with the glass transition temperature of the compounds. The compounds get more durable because the ambient temperatures get cooler, and winter tires are designed for a a lot decrease vary and temperature,” defined Dale Harrigle, chief engineer at Bridgestone.

That is partly right down to the combination that makes up a winter tire. “We’re utilizing silica tread compounds in our devoted winter merchandise. We are able to tune the devoted winter merchandise to have good grip at decrease temperatures with out considerably affecting the rolling resistance we might have 20 years in the past. So I imagine a whole lot of the compound and materials expertise is what’s enabled a few of these leaps in efficiency,” Harrigle instructed me.

For instance, Bridgestone’s winter tires make use of what Harrigle calls a multi-cell compound, which has plenty of little voids or holes in it. “At sure temperatures, ice has a layer of water on it, and it is the layer of water that truly makes the ice slippery. So the multi-cell void within the tire is designed to soak up that layer of water, type of like a sponge, in order that the rubber can get strong contact with the ice. And that is the largest efficiency enchancment in our Blizzak line—the good ice efficiency that it offers,” he stated.

The voids are microscopic, so you will not see them simply by trying carefully at a winter tire. What you would possibly see are extra difficult tread patterns of cuts and grooves—additionally known as “sipes”—than in tires of days passed by.

“For a really very long time, sipes had been mainly simply, you recognize, a chunk of metallic within the mildew that did not have any obligatory geometry to it. It simply sliced into the treadblock… It is like a butter knife, it is a flat blade,” Harrigle stated.

Now, Bridgestone is profiting from additive manufacturing to create tire molds that end in sipes with important three-dimensional profiles that change as you journey alongside them (each down into the tire and alongside the size of the sipe).

“What that 3D profile permits us to do is change the stiffness of the treadblock below braking, below acceleration, so what’s occurring is that we will put plenty of edges within the tire to allow winter traction. However these edges do not have an effect on the tire when it comes to wear-life or driving or braking traction. It permits us to get the very best of each worlds in tire design,” he defined.


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