Sandia National Laboratories, the high-tech lab operated for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., have worked together for two-and-a-half decades to create more advanced computational mechanics used in the development of high-quality vehicle tires.
“You might wonder how national defense systems relate to tire engineering,” said Susan Seestrom, Sandia’s chief research officer. “But a tire is a complex system – one of the most formidable challenges in computational mechanics – and that’s something Sandia knows well.”
The joint work allows Sandia to enhance its software toolkits and improve its capabilities for mission applications while simultaneously addressing Goodyear’s proprietary challenges.
“It is remarkably complicated to model and simulate tire performance, let alone under varying temperature, pressure and wear conditions,” said Chris Helsel, Goodyear’s chief technology officer. “Our computational work with Sandia is a continuous source of competitive advantage for Goodyear, helping us design and deliver high-performance products and services in a digital economy.”
The company credits its work with Sandia for reducing new product development times, improving manufacturing methods and lowering both technical and operational costs, all contributing to a competitive advantage in a complex industry.
Sandia and Goodyear signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) in 1993, back when technology transfer from the national labs was in its nascent heyday.
“Tech transfer was an exciting new opportunity for the labs,” said Mary Monson, senior manager of technology partnerships at Sandia. “At the same time, Goodyear looked at our advanced computational mechanics software and saw it could be applied to tires. Instead of building and testing three to five prototypes before a tire was ready for manufacture, they could use our computer codes to develop one.”
An early victory for the collaboration was the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred, a unique all-weather tire with a complicated multi-compound tread. It was a commercial success for the tire company, and a winner of numerous design awards. It was brought from concept to market in less than a year, made possible by the modeling and predictive testing tools developed with Sandia.
A wide range of lab technologies have played a role in the Sandia-Goodyear CRADA, including advanced computational mechanics, sophisticated geometry and meshing, computational simulation and verification, structural and tire dynamics and more.
The work with Goodyear led to a deeper appreciation at Sandia of the value of computer modeling in the early stages of development. “We showed that modeling and simulation made a difference in developing better products faster,” said Ted Blacker, Sandia’s manager of Simulation Modeling Sciences. “Our computational tools typically were used late in the process to understand why something broke and how to fix it. Now we use modeling more in the up-front stages, such as in the early design, to reduce testing.”