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TVS tyres recently invited us to their Srichakra plant in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu to test out their new range of tyres. The two-day event included a tour of the entire facility, their R&D and production processes, along with a test ride around their own private track.
The company's senior management team walked us through the different stages of tyre production; from the selection of raw materials at their R&D section to manufacturing the tyre in their production plant.
TVS Tyres also fitted their latest range of products on various two-wheelers, giving us a first-hand feel of how they perform and react in various conditions on their test track.
Day 1: R&D Tour & Track Testing
Day one started off with a small presentation by various officials from TVS Tyres, including the Company Director, P Vijayaraghavan. These presentations gave us a good insight of not only the company history and how their production facility operatesbut also about what they had planned for the duration of our visit.
Following the introductory presentations, we were soon off to the track to test out the new tyres on offer. The track testing was set up in a way to help us get a feel of the tyres, on different two-wheelers. This included commuter tyres on the Activa, Platina and Shine, as well as their performance range on the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 and KTM Duke 390.
The track testing was later followed by a tour of their state-of-the-art R&D facility, giving us an understanding of the various raw materials used and how each variation in their ratio affects riding in the real world.
Among the two-wheelers available, we got to ride the Honda Activa 4G from the commuter options while the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 and the KTM Duke 390 were our choices in the performance segment.
The Activa came with 90/100 R10 53J Conta350m tyres. The Pulsar RS200 wore 100/80 R17 ATT625 and 130/70 R17 ATT455R Eurogrip tyres at the front and rear, respectively. The KTM Duke 390, on the other hand, came with 110/70 R17 Protorq CF (front) and 140/70 R17 Protorq-CR (rear) tyres.
The 17-inch ‘Remora' series tyres on the RS200 offered good levels of grip. We got a chance to test out the tyre for both low and high-speed braking conditions, as well as cornering (although not comprehensively).
During the two to three laps around the track, the tyres offered amazing grip on the straights as well as during braking. There was no sliding or fishtailing tendency on hard braking.
However, the Remora tyres on the RS200 weren't the best in terms of cornering grip. The tyres felt a bit hesitant around the corners. It lacked the grip required to lean the bike into the corner at high speeds, with most of the riders backing out of the corner, almost instantly.
The second round was with the KTM Duke 390, fitted with TVS ‘Protorq' tyres. The tyres offered sufficient grip on the straights and under heavy braking. Although, not as grippy as some of its competition, Protorq was the best among the range we tested.
Around the corners, the Protorq tyres did extremely well and gave enough confidence to the rider. The tyres offered good grip even while leaning into a turn without tending to slip out the rear.
The Protorq-CR tyres on the Duke 390 were later replaced on the RS200. The previously-hesitant RS200 now felt noticeably more confident. This reaffirmed the excellent tyre quality of the Protorq series.
Lastly, the Honda Activa 4G was taken out on the track. The Activa immediately felt smoother and confident on the track. The TVS tyres on the Activa offered nimble performance, allowing quick turns and good confidence while braking as well.
TVS Tyres stated that they had reworked on the tyres for the commuter segment to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in stopping distance in the wet; from 60 to 45 metres. The company also said that the tyres can offer up to a four per cent increase in mileage, by reducing rolling resistance by 10 per cent.
With the track testing coming to a close, we soon headed back to the factory for a visit to the company's R&D facility. The senior management team of TVS Tyres walked us through the facility showing us all the state-of-the-art equipment and processes involved in making their best products.
The TVS Tyres R&D facility gave us an insight into all the intricate processes used for selecting various compounds in a tyre. Test samples were used to figure out the perfect ratio of each compound added in the tyre production. The samples were further tested for grip level, tyre noise, ride comfort and tyre elasticity using virtual software.
The R&D facility also used the samples to test out multiple real-world scenarios. They used software such as FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to check for areas with the most stress and determine ways to reduce them.
The FEA process allows the company to check for the best thread pattern and in turn, the best grip. FEA is used to ascertain all parameters of a tyre in a virtual simulation, before being passed for production. This includes testing under real-world conditions such as stresses, varying loads, temperatures and other parameters.
Day 2: Factory Tour
The second day saw us head back to the TVS Srichakra plant after a quick stop at the famous Meenakshi Temple. The senior management took us around the facility, showing each process involved in the manufacturing of a TVS tyre.
The process starts off after the R&D team decides the right mix of compounds, calculated to a decimal gram-scale. Once the mix is decided, large quantities are added in a mixer with the size of a two-story building. Some of the most important components for a tyre are obviously natural rubber, synthetic rubber, oils, carbon, sulphur and nylon.
The mixture of all the raw materials come out in the form of a black paste, which is then shifted to a process known as calendering. Calendering is where the paste-like mixture is rolled out into thin sheets of predetermined thickness. The sheets then pass over a number of rollers to help cool the tyre, just enough to prevent them from sticking to each other.
After this, nylon sheets get sandwiched between the two layers of rubber. The sheets offer the desired shape, strength and structure to the tyres.
Once the nylon is sandwiched, it moves through several processes which cut the sheets into smaller cross-sections, allowing the rubber to be rolled into the shape of a tyre. This is later taken into large moulds which print the specific thread pattern onto the outer part of the tyre, while also giving the branding on the sidewalls.
The now nearly-ready tyres are then placed on specialised rigs for the rubber to cure before being ready to be shipped out to their final destination.
About TVS Srichakra Ltd
TVS Srichakra Ltd is a part of TVS Group - the largest automotive ancillary group in the country. The company has two facilities: Madurai (Tamil Nadu) and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand). The two plants together manufacture around 2.5 million tyres every month for both Indian and export markets.
TVS Srichakra Ltd was first incorporated in 1982, manufacturing tyres under ‘TVS Tyres' and ‘Eurogrip' brandings. The company also holds the highest market share in terms of tyre supply to OEMs. These include both motorcycle and scooter tyres for various companies such as TVS Motors, Bajaj Auto, Hero MotoCorp, Yamaha Motors, Honda Motorcycles & Scooters India and Suzuki Motorcycles India.
Apart from the supply of tyres to OEMs, TVS Tyres also has a strong customer base in the aftermarket segment, with over 3000 distributors and dealers nationwide.
TVS Srichakra has also got their expertise in manufacturing Off-Highway tyres which include Industrial Pneumatic, Skid Steer and Multi-Purpose Farm & Agriculture tyres, as well.
Thoughts On The TVS Tyres Reviewers Meet 2018
The two-day visit to the TVS Tyres factory was definitely an eye-opener. Visiting a tyre manufacturing plant for the first time, it helped give us a good understanding of all the complicated process involved in a tyre production. The track-testing of the tyres further helped us understand how all the simulations and virtual tests conducted translate on to the real-world conditions.
Many experts say that tyres are the most important component of an automobile besides the engine. For the same reason, getting to know more about the processes involved in making them was particularly interesting.