Wausau - Getting a flat tire is never convenient. In a war zone, it can be deadly.
While Humvees have been loaded with extra armor to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tires remain vulnerable to attacks by improvised explosive devices. But an ingenious honeycomb design by a Wisconsin engineering company may be the key to a new airless tire that could keep military vehicles running faster and longer after an attack.
Resilient Technologies is in the middle of a four-year, $18 million contract with the Army to develop a tire that will continue running even after it has been shredded by roadside bombs or gunfire. Though Humvee tires are now outfitted with run-flat inserts, the Army wants to upgrade to an airless tire that's better at carrying heavier loads and can quickly move soldiers out of harm's way.
When engineers at Resilient Technologies began working on tire designs, they settled on one of the most resilient natural structures – the six-sided cells bees construct to hold their honey.
"Patterns in nature have gotten there for a reason. We looked to structures in nature that are sound, and that's how we came up with the honeycomb," said Ed Hall, vice president of business affairs.
Aside from strength, the design allows shrapnel and high-caliber bullets to pass through the tire. During testing, the tire has continued to run well - losing only a small percentage of performance - with much of the webbing removed.