Productos para vehículos especiales/ industriales

Pruebas de alta calidad

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Probamos neumáticos con electrónica precisa, análisis químicos en laboratorio, imágenes de rayos X e incluso tomografías computerizadas: los métodos de pruebas de neumáticos de Continental para desarrollar el neumático perfecto son cada vez más sofisticados y alimentan a nuestro compañero favorito… el ordenador. 

Rüdiger Menz mira a través de las barras de hierro de una máquina verde, tan alta como una persona. Parece una lavadora gigante. En el centro, una robusta rueda gira en un tambor. "Es aquí donde medimos la resistencia a la rodadura", explica. "Es especialmente importante para la eficiencia energética de un neumático". El atlético directivo, entra rápidamente en la siguiente sala de pruebas. En una esquina, un tambor de acero de 1,7 metros de diámetro rota tras un grueso cristal de seguridad. Hace girar cuatro neumáticos de camión a la vez. "Dejamos que los neumáticos rueden hasta que comienzan a hacerse pedazos”, afirma. "Estamos probando bajo qué condiciones los distintos tipos de neumáticos pueden aguantar y por cuánto tiempo". 

Rüdiger Menz es el responsable de evaluación de la duración de los neumáticos. Se encarga del desarrollo de métodos de testado de la duración de los neumáticos en Continental. Y se  está enfrentando a un gran reto: hacer que los neumáticos Continental duren más. "Algunos pueden rodar un millón de kilómetros. Si tuviéramos que probar los neumáticos en las pistas, un neumático tendría que rodar durante años hasta poder reproducir su ciclo completo de duración”. Hoy, los neumáticos testados ruedan en nuestros propios vehículos y en las flotas de camiones de compañías de transporte asociadas. Y Rüdiger y sus compañeros trabajan bajo mucha presión para lograr acelerar el testado de neumáticos.

Hungry for data

Computer simulations produce the fastest results: What effect does a harder rubber compound have on endurance performance or rolling resistance? Do jagged grooves on the tread pattern increase driving safety? Our colleague the computer calculates the results in just a few hours. But for the results to be reliable, the calculation formulas have to be correct. And that can only happen when they are fed with data taken from real-life testings. Take one of the drum tests in the research and development hall in Hanover-Stöcken for example.

Here, individual truck tires are subjected to a load of up to ten tons. "A drum test is performed under extremely precise conditions," says Rüdiger. "Which is why this method also produces extremely accurate data. The drawback: You can only test one load characteristic at a time, like a specific load, a specific temperature, or a specific air pressure." The test results of various factors must then be calculated together – difficult to do with all the interactions. Yet high-end tires from Continental must still satisfy all the requirements at the same time when on the road.

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X-ray vision

Field tests on the road may take a long time, but they are still necessary. The testing team incorporates refined measuring instruments into the tires, which record temperature development for instance. In hotter regions, for example, tire temperature is an especially important factor to take into account when assessing tire durability, explains Rüdiger Menz. Small holes are drilled into the tread pattern for the measuring devices – by remote control in the X-ray chamber. It's a question of tenths of a millimeter. X-rays also help us rapidly monitor the construction of test tires. And they show us any "internal injuries".

Testing methods are becoming ever more sophisticated. Continental premium tire perform to such an extraordinarily high level that simply looking from the outside with the naked eye doesn't get us very far. This is why sections are cut out of test tires that have been driven and then chemically examined in a laboratory. Using Computer tomography (CT) allows minute details such as changes in tread depth to be analyzed with pinpoint accuracy.

And the in-house CT equipment runs around the clock. The research and development team virtually dissects hundreds of tires per year into thin, mm-wide layers. Scanning a complete commercial vehicle tire takes about 24 hours – sliver by sliver. This yields valuable data – which can then be fed into algorithms for computer simulations. This is where Rüdiger Menz thinks the future lies. "By continuing to refine our measurement and testing procedures, we are getting ever closer and closer to our goal: virtual trials that are as short as possible and can accurately demonstrate real tire performance." Speed is particularly important when it comes to developing new tires. Because whoever slows down falls behind the competition.

"In recent years, we've become twice as fast at getting product ideas out on the road," says Rüdiger Menz as he types columns of digits into his computer. It's clear to see that Rüdiger Menz, who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering, enjoys building mathematical and physical models. "Our team embodies the spirit of invention" he beams. "We are doing pioneering work with the endurance models we are developing. We are at the intersection between theory and practice. We research, hone our testing methods, write programs – and always feel really close to the product." The tire in the green "washing machine" keeps turning and turning.