For some time, the farm tire has looked pretty much the same — with some variation of angled lugs — to provide necessary traction in the field. Even more modern, radial tires carry that familiar look. While the lug tread design varies by brand, and there have been innovations there, one tire maker is taking another step.
Michelin is launching the EvoBib tire in 2018. First shown in France during the SIMA show, the tire was on display at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany. The new tire treat innovation, however, depends on creating a new system for the farm tire that also includes a central tire inflation system (CTIS). And Michelin is filling that need too.
During Agritechnica, Michelin announced it had purchased two firms — PTG and Teleflow. Both are innovators in the business of tire inflation control systems. With the acquisition, Michelin is working to advance the CTIS for farm tires.
Looking back first
The CTIS is not a new idea. In fact, PTG was founded in 1991 by Martin Tigges and has worked to innovate the add-on system for farm machinery. The company also works with major equipment makers to innovate their machines. For example, the Fendt 1000 includes a CTIS developed with PTG.
For Michelin, a CTIS has become more important since the development of the IF/VF tire designation — a low-inflation-pressure design pioneered by the French tire maker. These tires are built to provide a longer field footprint, with lower compaction using lower tire pressure — even with heavier loads.
That's a popular innovation; however, transporting machines over the road when inflation pressure is low is frankly not a smooth ride. The challenge is that, for over-the-road transport which is popular in Europe and increasingly an issue in the United States, you need to boost tire pressure.
"For farmers to have good traction in the field with low pressure they find that on the road this is not optimal," says Emmanuel Ladent, president, worldwide strategic business unit, agricultural tires, Michelin. "You might want to operate at 0.8 bar (11 psi) in the field, but need to be at 1.2 bar (18 psi) on the road."
Without a CTIS, farmers are picking a middle ground — say 15 psi — which means it handles a little better on the road but you give up traction and boost compaction in the field.
Michelin's purchase of the CTIS firms will help it push forward with the idea of installing the systems on more tractors to maximize not only performance but tire life.
"With a CTIS, you can add tire life," says Ken Brodbeck, vice president of technology, Precision Inflation, the U.S. distributor of PTG systems. Brodbeck and his wife, Sally, have long been advocates for CTIS use. The couple has been working with PTG's founders to push the systems in the U.S.
Sally tells of one customer using the system that got more than 7,000 hours of life out of a set of tires, all because they were inflated properly for their condition of use — higher on the road, lower in the field.
And with CTIS, you maximize that investment in IF or VF tires, too.
On to the EvoBib
Ladent shared that the EvoBib tire, with its on- and off-road tread design, provides optimal performance as long as the tire is inflated properly. In fact, the EvoBib will not be sold into the market without the addition of the CTIS for the machine.
The tire's design allows it to be operated as low as 8 psi, depending on the load, and still provide long life. And Michelin is marketing the tire as a system called Zen@Terra.
"We have shown with this system on the same tractor we can boost a machine up to 24 hp," Ladent says. That means that the tire-field interface is more efficient in translating power-train horsepower to fieldwork, a boost he notes is of great interest to machinery companies looking to boost efficiency without boosting engine horsepower.
In the field, the EvoBib, linked to a CTIS, operates at the pressure the farmer wants. As he or she enters a field and informs system there's work to be done, the pressure drops in less than a minute to an optimum level. When fieldwork is done, and the machine is pulling out of the field, inflation begins and within a minute the tires are at a road-friendly pressure. The Zen@Terra system is automatic.
These new CTIS products have improved on inflation and deflation times (turns out deflation is the challenge, but more responsive valves help there). That helps overcome a complaint from many early users who didn't like sitting at a field edge waiting to get to the right pressure.
Farmers will start seeing EvoBib and its Zen@Terra system in the United States during 2018. The PTG CTIS system is available now, and more innovations are coming from that company in the next year. To learn more about EvoBib visit michelin.com. If you want to know more about CTIS and the PTG system, visit precisioninflation.com.