Unique facilities boost development of revolutionary vehicle safety system20 October 2014
A revolutionary system that allows vehicles with punctured tyres to carry out high speed manoeuvres and keep going for miles is being tested to its limits at the AMRC's Advanced Structural Testing Centre.
The invention is the brainchild of Richard Lust of Runflat Systems, who has many years experience working on run flat tyre systems.
Now he has turned his attention to one of the toughest challenges of all - developing a run flat insert that fits inside a standard tyre on a standard wheel for vehicles ranging from police cars and armoured saloons for politicians and diplomats to military 4x4s, combat vehicles and heavy trucks.
Mr Lust says existing run flat systems tend to rely on using expensive, complex wheels, which require specialists tyres and tyre fitting equipment. What's more, changing a tyre changes takes a significant amount of time and has to be done in the sort of clean environment you won't find a combat zone.
Existing systems aren't able to cope with the weight of the armoured vehicles his system is aimed at or the sort of extreme manoeuvres they have to make and the speed and distance they have to travel on flat tyres to get out of trouble.
They also cannot cope when more than one tyre is deflated and struggle to maintain sufficient contact with the road whilst also locking the tyre bead to the rim to stop it coming off.
Runflat Systems' insert, which has secured multiple patents, answers all of those problems and is designed to offer steering and handling control, together with traction and breaking performance even if all four tyres are punctured.
It has also eclipsed the 50km distance which Mr Lust says is the furthest other systems have achieved.
One of the challenges in developing the Runflat's system has been testing prototypes as the company moves closer to production.
Most normal test houses wouldn't have the equipment or the breadth of expertise to carry out tests, but, fortunately for Runflat, the AMRC's Advanced Structural Testing Centre has the capabilities and is based a few hundred yards away.
The Testing Centre has been able to carry out tests in a much more controlled way than would be possible on track, applying static loads, videoing what is happening to the tyre while recording measurements and stopping tests immediately there is a failure, before the Runflat device suffers too much damage to see what caused the failure.
"We have been testing what happens under different loading and analysing the results," says Mr Lust.
"Using the Testing Centre has saved us a fortune in time and money. If you are using a test track and something starts breaking, you can't see what is happening inside the wheel, but, at the Testing Centre, you can see it live, in action, in front of you.
"It's brilliant. Without the Testing Centre we would be years behind where we are now.
Mr Lust has been working in collaboration with Performance Engineered Solutions (PES), which, like Runflat, is also based at the AMP Technology Centre, at Waverley, near Rotherham.
Dan Fleetcroft, from PES, says: "There aren't many places with the range of equipment, not to mention the significant experience of setting up tests, developing jigs and fixtures and interpreting and presenting results.
"To have all that on our doorstep is brilliant and really, really benefits the project. We are getting a much more fundamental understanding of the way the system works and we wouldn't get the feedback if we were road testing. It's really, really useful."