Continental's High Performance Technology Center (HPTC) in Korbach is moving tire production into the digital age. A “research department on the shop floor” capable of producing all the necessary tire components with the greatest precision on newly developed machinery has been created in the 12.000 m² production shop. “In addition to producing ultra-high-performance tires to meet the exacting requirements of high-powered sports cars, we will also be building test tires as we develop and trial new manufacturing processes in Korbach,” explains Plant Manager Lothar Salokat. “Using cutting-edge technology, we document every detail of our research and development projects so that our innovations can then be rolled out in Continental tire plants worldwide.” In a first for Continental, all HPTC's machinery is completely networked via sensor systems and software. This approach, which falls under the heading of “Industry 4.0”, allows every step in the process and the behavior of the materials during processing to be fully documented.
“As a result, our tire-building experts, chemists and physicists are able to design cutting-edge processes and monitor every detail of their suitability for industrial-scale tire production,” explains Georg Reichert, HPTC Project Manager in charge of construction in Korbach. “This means that from now on we can carry out even ultra-short production run testing on the conventional tire-making machinery used across Continental. Changes to individual materials and production steps and to vulcanization temperatures and times can be simulated and then their impact on the finished tire can be investigated in vehicle tests.” The “research department on the shop floor” includes everything usually found in a tire-building plant. The rubber compounds required for the individual components are produced absolutely consistently and exactly in line with their recipe; steel cord and textile cutters are available for producing the semi-finished products, as are extruders, various tire-building machines and hot presses for vulcanization. While all the tire-building machines meet Continental's usual standards, individual segments of the green tire can be cured at different temperatures. This kind of “multi-zone” heating can be used for test series, for example, to enable detailed monitoring of the chemical reactions that take place during vulcanization.