Pirelli & C.

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Research and development activities

The Pirelli Group puts at the centre of its growth strategy the ability to innovate products and processes and to assess new opportunities that may arise from its continual research work.

Although it was a year that required close attention to costs, expenses on research and development work incurred by the Group, which were completely accounted for in the income statement, amounted to Euro 137 million with a ratio to sales of 3.1%, practically at the same level as in the previous year (3.3%).

The main businesses are concentrated in Pirelli Tyre, which in 2009 incurred expenses of Euro 133 million. This business is strongly focused on technological excellence and on continual innovation of processes and products, thanks to the constant Research & Development work carried out through a unit that employs more than 800 human resources.

The traditional focus on the development of new high-end products (UHP, winter, runflat, SUV and motorcycle tyres), was accompanied by increasing strategic attention on reducing the environmental impact, taking advantage of the most advanced technological components and know-how, the result of intense research work in the areas of materials, models, profiles, tread patterns and processes.

This “Green Performance” strategy involves 360° eco-innovation in technology:

  • evolution of the MIRS, the Pirelli robotized tyre manufacture system; NEXT MIRS & PTSM (production plant for high-quality compounds with low energy consumption);
  • new bio-materials, of organic origin, especially silica from rise chaff, with benefits as regards both the environment and costs. The development of "green performance" products is envisaged for the different segments, reinforcing – in particular – the leadership already achieved in the Premium segment;
  • technological partnerships with other protagonists in the industry. An example is the agreement signed with Brembo and Magneti Marelli for the Cyber Tyre, the tyre with a chip incorporated which will make a significant contribution in terms of safety and reduction of consumption. Pirelli has availed itself for some time of the contribution of some of the most prestigious players in the field of research: these include Ispra, Politecnico University of Milan, Politecnico University of Turin, the University of Berkeley, the University of Craiova, the Shandong University; developments in “open innovation” with: STM, Comau, Sinteco, Evotek and many other industrial partners;
  • development of the technological and manufacturing hub of Settimo Torinese, with the aim of creating the most technologically advanced and efficient green tyre production facility in the group, as part of a process that ensures higher standards of efficiency and productivity for the factory (Green factory).

Thanks to the R&D work carried out in 2009, Pirelli confirms its leadership both in terms of performance and security, and of ecocompatibility, showing that it has taken on board the philosophy and guiding values of “Green Performance”. Pirelli, in fact, obtained excellent results in the tests held at the beginning of 2010 by ADAC, the most important and prestigious Automobile Club in Germany and Europe, with more than 19 million members.

The results of the tests, which were also distributed through the Automobile Clubs of Austria and Switzerland (TCS and OAMTC), show that Cinturato P7 and P6 are extremely reliable and are therefore considered strongly recommended for users.

Under test conditions, Pirelli Cinturato P7 proves itself the best at combining high-level performance, both in the dry and in the wet, with low resistance to rolling, higher mileage and reduced sound emissions. This is the result of Pirelli’s approach to “Green Performance” which has enabled the company to achieve a position of leadership combining safety, performance and ecocompatibility.

There were similar results for Cinturato P6 which not only came top in the tests, but is also the only tyre that can be classified in the Green Performance area.

In the field of open innovation (the work of technological collaboration between Pirelli, its suppliers, its technologically most significant customers and numerous Universities worldwide) there were important developments in 2009.

Brembo, Magneti Marelli and Pirelli began a technological cooperation aimed at developing avant-garde solutions for the Italian and international automotive industry.

Cyber Tyre, the smart tyre developed by Pirelli, will be integrated with Magneti Marelli electronic control systems and Brembo advanced braking systems for ad hoc technological solutions, to meet performance and safety needs of all user types.

The skills and excellence of the three Italian groups, recognised also at the international level, will make it possible to achieve significant synergies and develop applications in particular in the field of security systems for motor vehicles with the aim also of reducing environmental impact, in line with the evolution of international standards and with the new CO2 emission limits envisaged by the European Union from 2012 onwards.

In 2009 a system based on Cyber Tyre - or "smart" tyre - concepts reached the engineering stage. The aim is to meet the requirements of new European legislation which prescribes the adoption of a tyre pressure detection system on all newly-homologated vehicles from 2012 onwards. This system differs from traditional valve-mounted pressure sensors in that it is powered by an innovative power generator patented by Pirelli, which uses the vibrations of the tyre and converts them into electricity, and in its ability to provide additional services such as an indication of the temperature of the compound, the load on each wheel and the number of rotations. This last information is used for the purposes of preventive maintenance of the tyres. The system is designed for cars and motorcycles, for a considerable increase in driving safety for all.

In 2009 a concrete collaboration also began with the Politecnico University of Turin as part of a project partially funded by the Piedmont Region, with the establishment of a joint research laboratory situated in the area of the Politecnico University of Turin, where a dozen or so researchers carry on their work on the subject of the Cyber Tyre (an advanced system for the improvement of vehicle performance), for the development of electronic and application technologies underlying the operation of the system itself.

The other two areas covered by the collaboration are the NEXT MIRS & PTSM projects mentioned above.

As well as the joint activity of the pool of researchers, the programme also involves regular general meetings both at Pirelli and at the Politecnico University of Turin.

Numerous patents arising from this collaboration are being prepared.

The innovations resulting from this collaboration are also in the implementation stage at the New Industrial Hub of Settimo Torinese, one of the most modern and efficient tyre manufacturing plants in the world.

The Group also helps to fund a professorship in Mechanical Engineering.

The collaboration between Pirelli and the academic world also involves the University of Milan-Bicocca. In 2009 Pirelli also made available through Corimav (Consortium for advanced materials research) three study bursaries for PhD students of the School of Sciences, of which two for the study of photovoltaic applications and the third for technologies for particulate filters.

In 2009 the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Pirelli Tyre signed a loan agreement for 100 million euro granted by the EIB to support the Pirelli Group’s projects in the area of research and development for the period 2009-2012.

The loan is to be used to sustain research and development work in the field of innovation of products and manufacturing processes with the aim also of reducing the environmental impact of tyres, improving performance and safety standards through the identification of innovative materials and components.

The project involves the work carried on at the various Pirelli research and development centres in Italy and abroad and was designed to make use of the credit facility of 200 million euro granted by the EIB last July.

The new loan consolidates the relationship between Pirelli and the EIB, which contributed already in the past to the group’s constant commitment to innovation and to the development of its competitiveness worldwide.

In 2009 Unioncamere published a report on the patents and trademarks filed at the European Patent Office (EPO) between 1999 and 2006. Pirelli Tyre was among the 10 Italian firms that alone filed 3,000 patent applications in the period, representing 11.4% of the national total.

“For the great contribution of innovation to the business results, achieved through the integration of concepts and tools for innovation into the daily activity of its personnel at all levels of the organization” Pirelli Tyre was awarded the 2009 “Imprese per l’Innovazione” (Enterprises for Innovation) Prize in the context of the 2009 ‘National Innovation Awards’ organized by Confindustria and given also to two other large companies and six small-medium enterprises. The Prize, launched by Confindustria in collaboration with APQI – Associazione Premio Qualità Italia (Quality Prize Italy Association) and with a number of experts in the different sectors, aims to promote knowledge and spread organizational and strategic models oriented to growth through innovation.

The prize, which was opened to large companies only in 2009, was recognized among the awards in the “Prize of Prizes” competition established in 2008 by the Prime Minister’s Office to reward the best capacity for innovation of companies, universities, public administrations and bodies, or single inventors.

In the field of car tyres, in 2009 Pirelli’s research and development work generated new green products: “Cinturato P7” (the green performance tyre for premium cars) and “Snowcontrol II” (the green performance tyre for the winter season).

Fuel consumption and harmful emissions are lowered by up to 4%, noise levels are reduced by 30%, braking distance is shortened, on wet and dry roads, by up to 2 metres. These are the ‘green numbers’ of Cinturato P7, the first ecological tyre for high-powered cars launched in April 2009 by Pirelli.

Chosen as original equipment by Alfa Romeo (159 Facelift, Nuova 147), Mercedes (E Class, S Class), Audi (A4, A4 Allroad, A5), BMW (X1, 1m Series, 3 Series), Volvo (C30, S40, V50, S80, V70, S60), Cinturato P7 anticipates European regulations on tyre eco-compatibility, in line with “green performance”, the Pirelli Group’s strategy for the next three years.

Dekra and TUV, the German independent quality certification bodies, have acknowledged that the tyres of the Cinturato family are those that, in their category, best combine safety, respect for the environment and road holding.

Later in 2009 Pirelli launched the winter tyre designed for city cars and mid-range cars, which combines safety, savings and ecology: Winter Snowcontrol Serie II.

Awareness on the part of drivers of the importance of the use of winter tyres has in fact grown, alongside the technological evolution of the products. Pirelli, in this sense, has always played a strategic role both in the promotion of a culture of road safety, and in the development of tyres capable of expressing at the same time performance, reliability, savings and eco-compatibility. Winter Snowcontrol Serie II is another step forward in this traditional commitment, extending to small and medium-sized cars – the fastest-growing market segment in Western Europe – the added values of the Winter Sottozero Serie II high-performance seasonal tyres, launched in 2008: low environmental impact and reduced consumption, but above all safety and comfort. The Ecoimpact icons - found on all Pirelli’s new products - attest to this.

At the important SEMA show in Las Vegas, the annual exhibition devoted to the aftermarket business for cars and SUVs, Pirelli also presented two further product lines:

  • PZero Trofeo, a racetrack tyre approved also for road use, deriving from technology developed in more than 100 years of winning in motor racing.
  • Scorpion Verde All Season, the first green performance tyre for SUVs, Crossovers and Light Trucks; it offers improved braking performance in the wet, handling on dry and wet roads, traction on snow, reduced aquaplaning; moreover, reducing the rolling resistance, and the weight by 8%, Scorpion Verde All Season reduces CO² emissions.

Pirelli enjoys close relationships with many leading global motor manufacturers, for the purpose of supplying original equipment tyres but also fundamental for the development of new products and for the implementation of new technologies.

In development work the close collaboration with motor manufacturers is continuing. In 2009, Pirelli obtained, among other things, the following final approvals:

Porsche Panamera and Carrera 997, Audi A4, Daimler E-Class, Volvo XC60, Aston Martin V12 Vantage, BMW 1 series, 3 series, 7 series and X1, Lotus Evora, Bentley Mulsanne, Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

During 2009 the German specialized press named Pirelli as the winner with the Ultra High Performance P Zero tyre in tests carried out by Gute Fahrt, Auto Zeitung, Sport Auto, the Chrono Camper in tests by Pro Mobil, the P7 and the Cinturato P6 in the test by Auto Motor und Sport.

In 2009 Pirelli Tyre’s research and development efforts brought significant results in the competitions: test benches for new technological solutions in limit conditions of vehicle use.

In Europe, Pirelli won various national Rally championships: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Great Britain, France, Italy.

It also dominated, finally, in various important competitions at the global level: Grand Am (USA), Ferrari Challenge, World Rally Championship, Le Mans 24 hours, Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

In 2009 Pirelli Moto launched Angel ST, the new radial tyre for touring motorcycles of the latest generations. The segment of application is Sport-Touring-Radial, a market which in Europe accounts for 1,300,000 tyres sold in the replacement channel and is the second segment in the order of volumes sold. In brief, Angel ST is a product designed for people who love to travel by motorcycle and that, at the right moment, do not want to miss the emotion of fast road riding.

In a world preview in 2009 Pirelli Moto also presented the new market leader for the coming 2010 season, the Diablo Rosso Corsa. Developed on tracks all over the world thanks to the know-how of the SBK World Championship, the new Diablo Rosso Corsa will be on sale from the start of 2010 to meet the needs of customers who have a sports bike in their garage with which they regularly ride on everyday roads, without saying no to a few laps on the track in the right season. The Diablo line, introduced in 2007 with the Diablo Rosso, is the most advanced Pirelli motorcycle tyre range not only in terms of performance, but also of style, image, prestige and exclusiveness. The Diablo Rosso Corsa is the only supersport tyre designed for combined road and track use that derives from WSBK technology. The new Pirelli tyre has become part of the Racing Street segment (tyres approved for road use) usable 30% on tracks and 70% on public roads, combining the strictly racing performance of Diablo Supercorsa SC with the supersport performance of Diablo Rosso. The objective with this brand new tyre is to offer it to the public as the most versatile sports tyre on the market for extremely flexible road-racetrack use, combining the experience gathered from Pirelli’s commitment to sporting competitions at the highest levels, to the EPT (Enhanced Patch Technology) engineering philosophy of the supersport road world and to process uniformity guaranteed by the manufacturing technology, which ensures high performance consistent over time.

The new Diablo Rosso Corsa thus represents an expansion of the Pirelli range to respond adequately to all the needs of the sporting motorcyclist, from road to circuit. A tyre, then, that take up a position in performance terms just below the most extreme Supercorsa tyres but which, in fact, has been created to replace the Diablo Corsa III tyres, launched in 2006 and currently still leaders in a slightly higher segment than that represented brilliantly by the Diablo Rosso.

Pirelli Tyre strengthened its commitment to the truck sector launching the R:01 Series onto the European market. This is a tyre for industrial vehicles in the regional sector. It has been developed by the Pirelli research centres to meet the requirements of professional operators in terms of tyre mileage, reduced consumption, retreadability and respect for the environment. Pirelli Tyre also presented to the international press the H88 Amaranto and G88 series - developed for long distance transport and yard vehicles respectively - and the ST: 01 series for trailers. Four products which have in common their extremely low operating cost, and which extend the Pirelli range designed for transport professionals in order to cover 80% of the European market in the fastest-growing sectors.

The Group also presented a new version of the Pirelli Retreading System.

This is based on three fundamental elements: the quality of tyre design and production, optimising the retreadability of the carcass; a network of Pirelli certified retreaders to extend the quality of the first life also to subsequent retreads; the renewed range of Novateck segments, the dedicated Pirelli trademark which, through original designs, covers the great majority of vehicle requirements for various purposes. The Pirelli Retreading System takes advantage of the quality of newly-generated carcasses to reduce mileage costs, lower total tyre running costs and reduce environmental impact.

The first products in the innovative 01 Series (available in the FR:01 version for the steering axle and TR:01 for the drive axle), are tyres developed for regional transport. Completely innovative in their structure, in their profiles and in the materials used, they are made with the SATT patented process, the most advanced truck tyre manufacturing technology.

R:01 is the starting point for developments in technology and use which will translate into new products in the near future, and is the most advanced tyre in the process of renewal of Pirelli's truck range.

In 2009, in fact, G88 and H88, for the sectors G-On/Off and H-highway respectively, have been successfully launched. These tyres are characterised by their low operating cost (high mileage, high retreadability, reduction of fuel consumption). The renewal of the Pirelli range was completed with the arrival of the new ST01, a trailer tyre, developed to maximise both duration, in terms of mileage, and retreadability, and to reduce fuel consumption.

As regards the other businesses, the activities carried out with the contribution of the Pirelli Labs can be summarised as follows:

Pirelli & C. Eco technology

In November a patent application was filed for an innovative catalytic system which uses no noble metals and is particularly effective in the oxidation of particulates.

A technical and economic feasibility study is continuing with regard to a process and the associated plant for the production of Biogenic Silicon Carbide (starting out from rice chaff as biomass) in collaboration with an external company.

Pirelli Broadband Solutions

The work of integration of printed circuit antennas continued; the solution of a pair of antennas integrated into the ADSL modem/gateway was engineered and launched into the mass production stage. The stage of testing this solution produced good results.

Towards the middle of the year work began on developing and integrating printed circuit antennas into an IPTV decoder for cable digital television designed for an important Italian operator. The work, which is still at the design stage, will continue in the second half of the year and will be completed most likely with the production and sale of the system developed.

In the feasibility study for the creation of the packaging for the Set Top Box with plastic instead of lined metal, various commercial polymers obtained from renewable resources were examined with the aim of using them to obtain durable goods.

Pirelli ambiente

The design of a solar tracker for conventional photovoltaic modules was completed and prototyping is currently in progress; this will be followed by an ample stage of testing in the field. This solar tracker orients photovoltaic modules in the direction of the sun, maximizing the solar radiation falling on the modules, and thus increasing by approximately 40% the energy produced by the photovoltaic modules. This solution was the subject of a patent application.

Project for very highly efficient photovoltaic solar concentration

Photovoltaic solar concentration is widely considered a technology which - thanks to the very high efficiency and to the chance for significant reductions in the costs of both components and processes with respect to conventional photovoltaic technologies - could have a future also irrespective of government subsidies (such as the Italian energy account).

The technology is based on the possibility of focusing solar light on very small photovoltaic cells through the use of lens or mirrors; in this way the cell occupies an area 500-1000 times less than that required by photovoltaic cells with conventional technologies (flat silicon panels, thin film, etc..).

The main partners taking part in the project are Enea, the JRC-Ispra European Research Centre, and the Polytechnic of Catalonia through the CIMNE Consortium.

The first stage involves the creation of two complete prototypes: the first will be installed in Italy and its performance will be analysed in collaboration with Enea. The second will be located at Manresa, where an experimental field has been created with photovoltaic systems using different technologies. This last will be tested by the IREC, the Catalan agency for renewable energy.

PZero

Support was provided to PZero both for the assessment of a number of technologies and in the search for suppliers and producers in the sector of accessories.

With a view to increasing the performance of PZero footwear in extreme weather conditions and, in particular, grip on wet or icy surfaces, work has begun on the research and characterisation of various materials that can be used to create soles for footwear.