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Development of a commercial manufacturing process for embeddable RFID and NFC Tags for complete lifecycle tracking of tyres

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - OnTrack (Development of a commercial manufacturing process for embeddable RFID and NFC Tags forcomplete lifecycle tracking of tyres)

Reporting period: 2018-10-16 to 2020-02-15

Cheap Chinese imported tyres, with a price tag up to 70% lower than premium tyres, are becoming a popular economic choice for Fleet Operators (FOs) and a way of simplifying lifecycle management. Many budget tyres are available for less than the cost of raw commodities for premium tyre manufacture in the EU. A premium truck tyre may cost around €350 vs €80 for a Chinese equivalent. However, FO's do not realise that in the long term, these cheaper budget tyres increase the FOs costs. Across Europe in 2016, sales of truck tyres exceeded 15 million (including both replacement and OE tyre), many of which are manufactured in the by EU. Against this, 7 million tyres were imported, of which 4.4 million were Chinese.
Cheap budget tyres do not offer the same tyre life as premium brands. The ethos of cheap tyres is ‘use and replace’ rather than re-treading, the standard approach for premium.
Poor performance in changing conditions, coupled with the fast tyre wear because of the poor material compounds lead to a threefold increase in tyres disposed off, or going to landfill - this is both wasteful and dangerous. In addition, tyre recycling is problematic, with each tyre having >200 constituent materials. In worst scenarios, large tyre piles have caught alight with catastrophic consequences - an illegal fly-tip of more than 75,000 used tyres in Spain caught alight requiring the evacuation of > 9,000 people. Tyre fires are difficult to extinguish and can smoulder for long periods and emit dangerous levels of pollutants.
To solve this problem, premium tyres need to become the tyre of choice. Premium tyres are manufactured for performance in varied conditions whilst offering optimal tyre wear to maximise life. Buying premium tyres therefore allows tyres to be used longer, as well as being more suitable for re-treading or re-grooving to increase tyre life three-fold. Re-treading is the backbone to the European tyre industry, but is labour-intensive. In 2015, the market for re-treading across the EU-27 was valued at €1.2bn with some 5.4 million tyres being processed for re-treading. Over 50% of the revenue in this industry goes directly to payroll – over 32,000 jobs are supported by the EU re-treading industry. Every time a single truck tyre is re-treaded to extend its life: 44kg of rubber, 68 litres of Oil and 182kg of CO2 is saved. As an example of how important re-treading is to growth of companies, Bandvulc re-tread 4,000 tyres per week with 420 employees. This is just one example of how the re-treading industry can impact growth; there are many of these types of companies dotted all over Europe. The re-treading industry that is core to fulfilling circular economy principles of the EU is under threat by these cheap Chinese tyres. The cheap and simple alternative presented by Chinese budget tyres, has damaged the re-treading industry has seen a decline in popularity of re-treading. Across the EU-5, the re-treading industry has seen a decline of 20%, which poses a threat to a large proportion of jobs. If lifecycle management of tyres, including re-treading, was made simpler, it could revitalise the European re-treading industry, as well as allowing prominent EU premium tyre manufacturers to regain lost market share, reignite growth in the European re-treading market and, in the long run, save FOs money.
The goal of OnTrack is to create a solution that will enable full lifecycle traceability for commercial truck tyres. The core technology is an RFID tag that can hold all the required details such as: Standards Applicable; Manufacturer; Brand; Type of Tyre; Country of Origin; Temperature Rating; Material Breakdown; Treadwear Rating and production period as a minimum. Each tyre has up to 200 different materials in its composition, which all need to be handled differently at end of life. OnTrack holds all of the manufacturing details including these 200+ data points. With OnTrack, every material contained within the tyre can be clearly identified and logged so that the end-of-life can be planned accordingly.
OnTrack is coordinated by Silent Sensors Ltd and is structured as three distinct stages split into eight Work Packages:
Stage 1 – Optimisation (working with components and the overall production process – WPs 1-3)
Stage 2 – Performance Verification (trialling the production process to benchmark the performance of the process and the resultant components – WPs 4&5)
Stage 3 – Commercialisation Preparation (ongoing engagement with all stakeholders to prepare for market launch of the Silent technology – WPs 6&7)
Project Management is carried in WP 8.
Silent Sensors is supported in this project by a major global tyre manufacturer, who is the industrial partner and CPI who are the manufacturing partner.
The aims of the first year of the project OnTrack were to complete most of Stage1, and begin Stage 2; Stage 3 is ongoing across the project. The aims of the second year were to complete Stage 2 and prepare for commercial production.
Stage 3 which is the engagement with stakeholders and preparation for market launch continues beyond the project end and the product is being considered by two commercial partners for further product testing required to certify the product for use within tyres.
The project started in October 2017, revised project requirements in March 2019 which led to a consequential revision of the content of WP1. The objectives of WP1 and WP2 were achieved with testing, trialling and bench-marking an initial batch of 2000 OnTrack RFID tags. The production process was tested in WP3, and initial production in WP4 was tested in WP5. The Ontrack RFID tag is now ready for further testing with our commercial partners.
With the work completed during the project OnTrack, the production tags performed as expected. During the second period of the project, WP3 and WP4 provided the evidence and confirmation from the commercial partner that the impacts anticipated can be achieved.

Our OnTrack tags are designed with a unique asset ID that essentially provides each tyre a Certificate of Provenance that follows the asset during its lifetime: manufacture, distribution, operation, repair, reuse, recycle and resell. This enables the circular economy in tyres to work very effectively as noted above.

Digital traceability with RFIDs is a very economical way to track a tyre throughout its life. By creating a ‘digital copy’, organizations improve supplier efficiencies, reduce errors in recording data, reduce risk of loss and keep inventories both balanced and more accurately valued. Unique digital records integrate with ERPs and serve as a Certificate of Provenance for the eventual recycling of a physical asset at the end of its life.

Light, flexible and robust, our OnTrack Tags can be fitted to an asset both during and after the manufacturing process. The tag interacts remotely in real time with RFID readers using UHF.

We use cutting edge technology to make a new generation of RFID tags that are specifically designed for rubber and polymer materials. Innovative flexible substrate materials used by NASA combined with state of the art antennaes and pressure sensitive adhesives designed specifically for these materials have yielded a tag which can be easily read 20ft from the tyre.

The key practical feature of Ontrack RFID tag is that it comes in three formats to meet the needs of manufacturers: as an inlay, a label or a patch.
The circular economy for tyres which OnTrack RFID tags support