In October, I visited a Taiwanese tire factory in Taiwan with Brilliant Bicycles. I didn't take many photos, but do have a few notes:
- The factory made a bunch of solid tires for forklifts and other equipment in the front.
- In the back were two sides: One for bicycles, the other for scooters and other larger pneumatic applications.
- The shop did *not* make their own nylon cord for tire casings; they purchased that from a vendor. The cord comes in a wide sheet, is cut on a bias and put together into a long strip (video below).
- They also did not make their own kevlar (foldable) tire beads. Apparently all of the Taiwanese tire shops (there are a few) purchase these from one single supplier.
- They do make their own steel beads. Wire is straightened, doubled up, and wrapped into a loop with a bunch of unvulcanized rubber and bound together into a single unit.
- The machines they use to assemble the tires - casing, bead, and tread - are *really* cool. There's a decent video of the process here.
- Tread molds seemed eminently reasonable - they only cost a few thousand dollars. The uncured and relatively shapeless tires are put into molds, where pressure and heat form the shape and cure the rubber.
Here's a photo of the front of the shop, where solid tires were being stored:
And here's a video of nylon cord being cut on a bias and spliced together:
And, two random photos: One of a magazine in the factory's conference room, and one from the restaurant that the (extremely eager) factory manager took us to for lunch: