A new product made with engineering compounds from LNP Engineering Plastics can help big wheels keep on turnin'.
The Cycloid ACS air compressor system can maintain proper air pressure in tires by using a hub-mounted air compressor powered by the rolling motion of the wheels.
The system, made by Cycloid Co. of Cranberry Township, Pa., was commercialized in March. Cycloid officials said the system can generate fuel savings of up to 10 percent and an increase in tread life of about 30 percent. The tread life bonus could result in 150,000 extra miles.
The system also is expected to reduce dangerous tire blowouts, thus improving safety. Truckers are often tempted to skip the time-consuming practice of checking individual tire pressures through the unscientific method of hitting their tires with a stick to see which ones are low on air.
LNP got involved with Cycloid four years ago when the company was looking for lightweight materials that would be able to stand up to the wear and tear of highway travel.
``They wanted a lightweight material, not metal,'' LNP lead applications engineer Richard Saile said in a recent interview at LNP headquarters in Exton, Pa. ``With our materials, the whole pump weighs 2 pounds. Even if you use aluminum, it would weigh 5 pounds.''
LNP's Lubricomp-brand acetal and nylon 12 compounds are used in the system's internal gears, which need to withstand excessive wear and friction. The system's external shell is made from LNP's Verton-brand long fiber-reinforced polypropylene compounds.
Saile said rating the requirements for a piece of equipment that would be mounted on an 18-wheeler was no easy task.
``I'd say it was an eight on a scale of 10,'' Saile said of the material selection process. ``There were a lot of requirements involved that we didn't know that much about. It was mounted on a truck axle so it had to survive hitting potholes and getting hit by rocks. For chemical exposure, it was coming into contact with gas, anti-freeze and brake fluid.''
Looking back at the four-year process, Saile said the experience was a positive one overall for LNP.
``If we do 10 of these projects, one might go into production,'' Saile said. ``This project let us show that LNP has a real mixed bag of products.''
Cycloid has sold 6,000 systems since commercial production began, but Merv Carse, Cycloid's president and chief executive officer, said the company ``is still in the seeding process.''
The product is currently being tested by 60 national trucking fleets, including Consolidated Freightways, Frito-Lay Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. Carse estimates there are 16 million wheel ends in the United States that can use the system.
In a recent telephone interview from Cranberry Township, Carse said Cycloid preferred plastic over metal from the start.
``Plastic was better from a weight standpoint,'' Carse said. ``And injected plastic also worked since we were dealing with a lot of complicated structural parts.''
C&J Industries, an injection molder based in Meadville, Pa., produces and packages the systems for Cycloid. Cycloid has no plans to build its own production facility, preferring instead to remain ``a virtual company,'' Carse said.
Cycloid already is looking beyond the trucking market to the vast potential of applying a smaller version of its system to standard-sized cars. The company has worked with Ford Motor Co. on a series of consumer focus groups which have proven there is an interest in a car-mounted system, Carse said.
``If we can validate [the system] with the truck market, cars will be a snap,'' Carse said.