Challenges in testing winter tyres
TA News Bureau :
Test World, which has recently built up Hanook Tire’s first winter tyre test facility in Finland, is on expansion mod to meet future demand. In an interview with Tyre Asia, the company shared challenges in running a winter tyre testing centre
Winter tyre testing has always been a big challenge to tyre makers as well as facility providers. From creating conditions, including ice and snow, to maintaining a consistent driving track for a long period, winter tyre testing poses major challenges because the property of the track keeps on changing.
“Test World has recently bought hundreds of hectares more land around the current proving grounds to secure the growth in the future,” Janne Seurujärvi, Managing Director, told Tyre Asia in an interview. According to him, the company currently has a major ongoing investment programme under which it has already built more outdoor and indoor tracks to meet the demands of both tyre and car manufactures.
“ We are also prepared to construct more exclusive test centers in the future, similar to the Hankook’s facility,” Seurujärvi said.
The company aims to offer tyre testing services – wet and dry testing – year-round. “That’s how we separate us from our competitors. Our target is to be the technically most advanced winter test provider in the market,” he said
Test World , with its state- of- art indoor and outdoor facilities and experienced teams of engineers, conducts tyre tests in both summer and winter conditions throughout the year, undertaking the full suite of tests necessary during the development, certification and labelling. Apart from the measurement technology, the company also provides professional and experienced personnel, including measurement engineers and drivers for the handling tests.
Winter tyre testing possesses unique challenges. As summer tyres require to perform on wet and dry asphalt, winter tyres need to test not only on wet and dry, but also on snow and ice. This leads to challenges in development, and increases testing needs.
“The winter test conditions are challenging, because changes in weather normally cause big differences in ice and snow surface grip, and also the surface wear is considerable and tracks need preparation after each test. On wet and dry that’s not needed,” Jukka Antila , Technical Director of Test World, said.
The most important things are weather conditions and the short-term forecast, and plan maintenance methods and the workflow accordingly, Antila said. “ Testing should be conducted as quickly as possible to minimise weather changes. In the results calculation, there are methods to eliminate the possible changes in grip level, mainly by using a reference tyre which is repeated in certain intervals during the test session,” he explains.
The company has indoor facilities for both objective and subjective testing of winter tyres on real snow throughout the year, reducing time to market for tyre manufacturers. Test World’s facilities are available to customers for independent testing, as well as providing test services and type approval work to its global customer base.
Antila added: “Our facility offers everything for testing in winter conditions, and what’s important, year-round, thanks to our indoor winter testing facilities offering natural snow also in the summer time. The snow is kept inside the facility all summer, and by certain maintenance methods the company makes sure that the snow crystals and snow quality stay the same as outdoors. We are technically the number one winter testing proving ground and offer the longest and most secure winter conditions.”.
Customers test programmes at Test World last from a couple of days to several weeks.Janne Seurujärvi, Managing Director Weather conditions are closely monitored during the test period and the most sensitive tests like ice tests are driven on the best days. “Test World’s maintenance takes care that the tracks are in the best possible condition during and between the test days,” Antila said.
The company’s Finland facility provides some advantages. According to Antila, the testing centre is in a perfect location for winter testing: long and secure winter, but easily accessible providing all necessary modern infrastructure, connections, safety and security, as well other services like hotels, restaurants and activities. Test World offers to its customers a range of conveniently located workshops, offices, and any other infrastructure required to make tests run as efficiently as possible. Each visiting test team is provided with its own garage and workshop, and offices are available to support work carried out on-site. Space is available on the proving grounds to develop snow and ice test tracks, garages and offices dedicated to a customer’s exclusive use.
In 2015, Test World was acquired by Millbrook, the leading provider of vehicle test, validation and engineering services. The acquisition provided a new and larger client base and financial support to Test World. Janne Seurujärvi, says: “Millbrook Group has a wide range of clients, especially car manufactures, to whom Test World has been introduced, Millbrook Group’s owner Spectris Plc has speeden up the growth and development of Test World with investments.”
According to Antila, in the near future, the development seems to go mainly towards new improved materials, but the whole concept of winter tyres will be relatively similar. “Certainly, the tyre will be more integrated into car systems, and intelligent tyres will arrive rather sooner than later, giving information about road conditions to the car and back.”
Global tyre business is being driven by growing regulations and new expectations from end users and major tyre companies are emphasing to club all expectations and regulations . “Our role is to offer professional tests and test conditions but I would say that safety, cost-effectiveness and eco-friendliness combined with performance are the things that premium tyres aim at,” says Seurujärvi.
Test World is aiming to strengthen its position as the best winter testing facility in the world. “In the coming years, we will invest strongly on developing the outdoor tracks, customer facilities, indoor testing facilities, machines, equipment and personnel. Only the best is good enough for us and our customers,” he says.