ITAMCO—a manufacturer of precision-machined components, specializing in gears—is part of a team that has received research funding from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The other partners in the project are Hoosier Racing Tire (a Continental AG Company) and Purdue University. The goal of the project is to explore a prototype non-pneumatic tire for both paved on-highway performance and off-road mobility that is capable of increasing survivability from explosives and other hazards in a military mission environment.
Non-pneumatic tires are tires that are not supported by air pressure. Currently, most airless tires are made from solid rubber or plastic and they are commonly used on small vehicles such as riding lawn mowers and motorized golf carts, but the tires under development in this project are “16.00R20” tires—extremely strong tires designed for military and agricultural use.
The Research Objective
The grant will cover Phase I of the research project. DoD/SBIR requested that the winner of the Phase I grant develop a computer-based model of a non-pneumatic tire in the 16.00R20 size for On-Highway and Off-Road Mobility, providing detailed information on design and materials. The Indiana-based team will demonstrate the feasibility, through modeling and simulation, of engineered polyhedral Phase Transforming Cellular Matrix (PXCM) materials as a dynamic, elastically deformable solution for non-pneumatic tires that can:
1) resist loss of mobility due to hazards including ballistic/explosive threats and road debris,
2) extend capability allowing the vehicle to continue its mission having sustained damage, and
3) meet the requirements for optimal performance in both on- and off-highway applications.
What are Phase Transforming Cellular Matrix (PXCM) Materials?
In the simplest terms, products made with PXCM materials have the ability to change from one stable atomic configuration to another stable atomic configuration and back again. According to an article by Nadia Aljabi in the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, the novelty and benefits of PXCMs are that they can absorb important amounts of energy and yet be reusable since the phase transformation is entirely reversible without inducing permanent / inelastic deformation into the base material.
The Research Team
Prior to submitting the grant proposal to the DoD/SBIR, ITAMCO’s R&D team and Professor Pablo Zavattieri with Purdue University had already been researching ways to use Additive Manufacturing for unique applications of Phase Transforming Cellular Matrix materials. In addition, Professor Zavattieri had printed concept wheels with additive manufacturing for NASA’s new Mars rover concept vehicle in a test run at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.
When Joel Neidig, director of research and development at ITAMCO, discovered the funding availability for a project titled “Non-Pneumatic Tire for On-Highway and Off-Road Mobility,” he asked Professor Zavattieri and John Desalle, president of Hoosier Racing Tire, to collaborate with him in writing the grant proposal. Hoosier Racing Tire is committed to innovation and is located only 10 miles from ITAMCO, making them an ideal partner in the project.
The breakdown of responsibilities for each team member is as follows:
•ITAMCO (project leader): Concept design, prototype fabrication with their EOS M290 Direct Metal Laser Sintering 3D printer, manufacturing process development
•Purdue University: Concept tire design using PXCM structures, computational modeling, performance simulation
•Hoosier Racing Tire: Advising in design, material selection, manufacturing process development
The group will begin working on the project this summer with a completion date of April 2019. The participants are eager to begin. Desalle said, “We’re excited to collaborate with ITAMCO and Purdue on the next generation of tire technology.” Neidig added, “Collaborating with our regional universities and OEMs is just another example of the global reach of Northern Indiana businesses and the technology we are developing to serve future markets.”