AI speaks to Gary Benninger, President and CEO of Amerityre Corporation
The advanced polyurethane materials developed by Amerityre and used in these applications are environmentally friendly and can be recycled
In November 2007, Amerityre Corporation (“Amerityre”), a leading developer of polyurethane elastomer tire technologies, announced that its Arcus® run-flat tire design that had successfully completed all testing requirements under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 139. Since its inception in 1995, Amerityre has been inventing new polyurethane foam and elastomer materials that have been shown to be superior to rubber in many tire and tire product applications. In addition, Amerityre developed manufacturing processes and equipment that simplify and reduce costs in the tire making process.
Amerityre has been discussing with potential strategic partners the construction and installation of a pilot manufacturing facility capable of demonstrating this production capability. The company claims that its tire manufacturing technology will bring significant cost reductions and the capital investment required for a potential manufacturer to produce one polyurethane passenger car tire per minute will be less than USD $20 million. This amount is about one-fourth of the cost of an equivalent rubber passenger car tire manufacturing line.
The advanced polyurethane materials developed by Amerityre and used in these applications are environmentally friendly and can be recycled. In 1996, the company first developed a closed-cell polyurethane foam for low-duty foam tire applications, such as bicycles and lawn and garden equipment. Then, in 2003, the company embarked on the development of an elastomer polymer compound that would be able to compete against the rubber material used in auto and truck tires. Before long, Richard Steinke, ex-CEO and Manual Chacon, Head of Chemical development, created a polyurethane material for highway use. It was first evaluated in a retread application to test if the material could withstand emergency stopping without flat-spotting and to also test for wet/dry traction.
In April 2004, Amerityre successfully tested a polyurethane tire to FMVSS 109, the existing US federal safety standard for pneumatic passenger car tires. “Not only did Amerityre’s polyurethane tire pass the test but the tires ran 114°F through the high speed test and 109°F through the endurance test with ambient temperature being 100°F for both tests. Also, the urethane tire had over 40% lower rolling resistance which equates to approximately 8% greater fuel efficiency. But, the key to success of the urethane tire will be the environmental issue. When discarded or burned, rubber tires are environmental hazards- not so with the Amerityre polyurethane products. In fact, rubber products start to leach (break down) as soon as the rubber products are made. On the other hand, Amerityre does not use dry fillers or plasticizers because the chemistry of urethanes does not require a fusing of the polymer to cure. The natural chemical bond of polyols and isocyantes and the required additives such as catalysts, colorants, surfactants, and others are all reactive chemicals. These become the finished polymers,” said Mr. Chacon.
Through testing, Amerityre showed that compared to rubber passenger car tires, polyurethane passenger car tires have longer lives through improved durability, while their lower rolling resistance also reduces vehicle fuel consumption. Due to its chemical composition and the nature of its polymerization reaction, polyurethane is a much more environmentally friendly material than the rubber it replaces.
According to Dr. Gary N. Benninger, Amerityre’s President and CEO, while companies are evaluating sample tires, Amerityre will focus on finishing the design and development of the manufacturing equipment required to produce the polyurethane road tire in commercial volumes. Amerityre is focused on five tire and tire product markets for its Elastothane™ polyurethane tire technologies.
The Nevada-based Amerityre was founded in 1995 as the American tire Corporation. During its initial years, it developed and sold polyurethane foam tires based on the company’s chemical formulation. Since the tires were fabricated using a closed cell polyurethane material, they could never go flat. Thus, the company registered the Flatfree™ trade mark for this product. These tires have found broad acceptance in many everyday applications such as bicycles, wheelchairs, lawn and garden products, golf carts and commercial dollies.
“In 1999 we changed our name to Amerityre Corporation and continued development of the Flatfree™ technology. In 2003 we began development of our polyurethane Elastothane™ elastomer technology. This technology would allow us to ultimately develop a comprehensive line of tires and tire products based on polyurethane instead of rubber. These products include tire fill, solid tires, composite tires and pneumatic passenger vehicle tires. In April 2004 we successfully completed testing to Federal Motor Safety Vehicle Standard (FMVSS) 109 with our Arcus™ design passenger car tire and in November 2007 successfully completed testing to the new FMVSS 139 specification,” says a statement on the company website.
Some of the company’s other products include Flatfree™ polyurethane foam tires for low speed and utility vehicle applications. Environmentally friendly tire fill materials of both closed cell foam and elastomer polyurethane materials to flat-proof rubber tires. The company also makes solid tires and composite tires as well as pneumatic tires.
Automotive Industries spoke to Gary Benninger, President and CEO of Amerityre Corporation.
AI: Please tell us about the new developments with Flatfree™ foam tires and the Amerifill polyurethane tire fill.
In March 2008, Amerityre acquired a majority of the manufacturing assets of one of our competitors, Kik Technologies, Inc. The line of Kik polyurethane foam tires is well known and respected. We are adding the Kik product line to the Amerityre catalog of foam tire products which will give our customers a broad choice of products to meet most applications. Kik’s president, William Knooihuizen, has joined Amerityre as a senior account manager which will ensure a smooth transition for the Kik customer base.
Amerityre offers tire fill customers a light weight polyurethane foam fill and a polyurethane elastomer fill. Both materials are environmentally friendly materials, since they do not use TDI in the polyurethane formulation nor do they incorporate oils as filler materials. Testing has shown the light weight fill to be superior in load carrying capability to other light weight materials on the market today. This light weight material is cost competitive with conventional tire fills even though the per pound cost is more, since approximately half as much material is required. We anticipate more information will be available within the next few weeks regarding supply contracts for this material, since our sales and marketing initiatives are just starting to bear fruit.
AI: What kind of progress have you made with auto companies for licensing of your technologies?
The significantly lower rolling resistance of the Amerityre polyurethane car tire will allow cars equipped with such tires to achieve major fuel economy savings. Less fuel means less pollutants, including green house gases and it also means less dependence on foreign oil. Who wouldn’t be interested? Currently one American automotive company as well as one major tire manufacturer are testing our tires. A number of other important companies have requested tires to test and we are fabricating these units now. Unfortunately we cannot get these units out as fast as we would like, since we are limited by our prototype production capacity.
The car companies may like the tire and want it for their vehicles. However, I don’t believe that they will be the ones that will ultimately license the technology. I believe that it will be a tire company or a car parts supplier that has decided to manufacture tires, since the time to enter a new product line is when there is a major change in technology. Amerityre will partner with the car tire licensee to finalize the development of the manufacturing process and equipment for car tire.
AI: What kind of impact do you think your Arcus® run-flat tires will have on the tire market?
The brand name Arcus® references a tire made by Amerityre that is a run-flat polyurethane tire.
First, just the use of polyurethane in the manufacture of tires, run-flat or not, has significant impact, -- longer life, greater durability, more fuel economy, and environmentally friendly to name some key attributes.
Then secondly if this polyurethane tire incorporates the Arcus® design it becomes a run-flat tire, which is what the name implies. You can still drive home on the tire at a reduced speed if air pressure in the tire is lost.
So when you add up the advantages of the polyurethane tire and the run-flat design you have a real winner.
AI: How much of the tire market do you think Arcus® could potentially account for?
At Amerityre we believe that polyurethane has the potential to completely replace rubber in the manufacture of tires, -- all tires.
AI: What are some of the other innovative tire technologies your company is working on?
Today Amerityre manufactures the best closed-cell polyurethane foam flat-free tires that you will find anywhere. This product is limited to applications where vehicle speeds are limited to less than 30 miles per hour. However, this market is larger than we ever imagined, since many of the vehicle used for transportation in other parts of the world never exceed these speeds. We are expanding this product line and increasing market penetration.
We have recently developed and demonstrate the manufacturing technology to make non-marking polyurethane elastomer forklift tires at the rate of one per minute and be able to achieve a selling price less than a comparable rubber tire. This is a significant achievement. We currently have several companies interested in this technology to take advantage of the manufacturing efficiencies we’ve demonstrated.
We have delivered the largest polyurethane pour machine in the world to our Chinese licensee, Quingdao Qizhou Rubber Co., Ltd., who will be using our technology and materials to large retread OTR tires. Also, we recently licensed Desert Research Technologies, of Tempe, AZ to use our technology to apply polyurethane treads to tires to be used for sand vehicles. These licenses permit others to use the technology that Amerityre developed to apply a tread material onto a new or used rubber casing.
We are continuing to develop and expand the capabilities and uses for our environmentally friendly tire fill materials.
AI: Do you see a big market for your technologies outside of the North American and European markets?
We are being approached by people and companies from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, South America and Australia.
AI: How have your technologies been received by the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets?
As I mentioned, we already have a licensee in China. Currently we are discussing business opportunities in both India and Brazil.