Jenoptik’s Light & Production Division (Jupiter, FL) has entered a partnership with the 4JET Group (Alsdorf, Germany) to jointly drive the commercialization of technology that enables rapid prototyping of vehicle tires through precise laser material processing. In this process, individual profiles and designs are laser-generated into tires with a smooth tread and neutral sidewall. The process replaces the time-consuming manual carving of tires and thus significantly shortens development cycles and prototyping costs in tire development.
The laser ablation technology developed by Jenoptik answers a key trend in the tire industry. With an increasing product diversity and shorter product development cycles, the production of design samples and pre-production tires is essential. The production of dedicated molds by CNC milling or 3D printing usually takes place at a later stage of development. Therefore, for unique products in the early development phase, functional samples are often produced in quantities below 5. However, carving with hot knives is a cost-intensive and time-consuming manual process with technical limits.
The new prototyping machines from 4JET with integrated JenSCAN Tire technology from Jenoptik allow both treads and sidewalls to be machined true to size and almost fully automatically from CAD data. Pulsed laser processing removes material precisely and with minimal heat impact on the tire. Both non-contact processing and powerful extraction require no post-processing. The novel laser machines can produce several hundred prototypes per year, meeting the growing needs of typical tire manufacturers’ development centers. Optional upgrades allow prototypes to be marked with QR codes or other tracking information. In a further expansion stage, the system can be supplemented with optics for laser-induced “shark skins.”
The collaboration between the two companies includes worldwide marketing of the technology through the 4JET Group’s global sales organization. This does not affect Jenoptik’s existing customers, who will continue to be served by their familiar contacts.