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<a href=Ancient wheel " id="pdf-obj-0-3" src="pdf-obj-0-3.jpg">

From the very early designs used for pottery purposes to the most advanced

 

contraptions known to mankind, the wheel has been continuously driving our civilization like a catalyst in a chemical reaction. We thought it would be a good idea

   

to take a stroll through the many stages of the wheel evolution and see where it's heading now.

 

The Beginning

Researchers agreed that 3500 BC is the year when the wheel was invented, which

   

is more of a ballpark than an exact year. The place is Mesopotamia, the area now occupied by war-ravaged Iraq. The first wheel for transportation purposes is

 

approximated to 3200 BC, its purpose being to move the Mesopotamian chariots.

 
To be completely historic, as noted here, the very beginning of the wheel goes back to
To be completely historic, as noted here, the very beginning of the wheel goes back
to the Paleolithic era (15,000 to 750,000 years ago).
Back then, humans used logs to move large loads around. The main problem with
this method of transportation was that many rollers were required, and care was
required to insure that the rollers stayed true to their course. One theory as to how
this obstacle was overcome suggests a platform, or sledge, was built with cross-
bars fitted to the underside, thereby preventing the rollers from slipping out from
under the load. Two rollers would be utilized, with two cross-bars for each roller,
one fore and the other aft of the roller.
<a href=Wooden spoked wheel " id="pdf-obj-0-40" src="pdf-obj-0-40.jpg">

It took another 1,500 years before our ancestors thought of the next step in wheel

 

evolution, the spoke. The need for faster transportation and the idea of using less

material stemmed this technological breakthrough. The Egyptians are credited with

the first implementation of a spoked wheel on their model year 2000 BC chariots.

 

They narrowed it by carving both sides to shape, but it was the Greeks that first

 

introduced the cross-bar, or H-type, wheel.

 

The first iron rims around the wheel were seen on Celtic chariots in 1000 BC. The

spoked wheel remained pretty much the same until 1802, when G.F. Bauer

 

registered a patent for the first wire tension spoke. This wire spoke consisted of a

length of wire threaded through the rim of the wheel and secured at both ends to

 

the hub. Over the next few years, this wire spoke evolved into the round tension

 

spoke we see on bicycles today.

 

Another major invention that came about the same with the wire tension spoke was

the pneumatic tire, which was first patented in 1845 by R.W. Thompson. His idea

 

was further improved in 1888 by John Dunlop, a Scottish veterinarian, who also

 

patented it. Thanks to the smooth ride, Dunlop's tire replaced the hard rubber used

by all bicycles at that time.

 
⌕ Steel wheel
⌕ Steel wheel

Automobile Wheels

It's fair to start talking about automobile wheels starting with Karl Benz's 1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen.
It's fair to start talking about automobile wheels starting with Karl Benz's 1885 Benz
Patent Motorwagen. The three-wheel vehicle used bicycle-like wire wheels, which
were fitted with hard rubber.
Speaking of rubber, the first people who thought about using it for automobile
purposes were André and Edouard Michelin, who later founded the famous tire
company. In 1910, the B.F. Goodrich Company invented longer life tires by adding
carbon to the rubber.
Overseas, Ford's Model T used wooden artillery wheels, which were followed in
1926 and 1927 by steel welded-spoke wheels. Unlike Karl Benz's first vehicle, the
car that "put America on wheels" had pneumatic tires invented by Mr. Dunlop. There
was, however, a big difference between those tires and the ones we used today.
Made of white carbonless rubber, the tire had a life expectancy of around 2000
miles. A tire only lasted for around 30 or 40 miles before it needed repairs. Common
problems included: the tire coming off the wheel, punctures and the tube being
pinched.
Paradoxically, the next step in wheel evolution was the disc one, which bears more
resemblance to the initial solid designs. As with many other things in our history, the
change was prompted by lower costs as the steel disc wheels were cheaper to
make. The rim could be rolled out of a straight strip of metal, and the disc itself
 

could be stamped from sheet metal in one easy motion. The two components were welded or riveted together, and the resulting wheel was one that was relatively light,

 

stiff, resistant to damage, easily produced in mass quantities, and most important, cheaply produced.

 
<a href=Alloy Wheel " id="pdf-obj-2-12" src="pdf-obj-2-12.jpg">

Perhaps now would be a good time to talk about the difference between rims and

wheels. Though most people refer nowadays to wheels, especially alloy ones as

rims, the term actually means the outer portion of the wheel where the tire is

 

mounted.

 

Coming back to our story, today there are basically two types of wheels for

 

automotive use, steel and alloy, both of which have benefited from the technological advancements. As a result, the massive, heavy wheels of the early automobile days

have become lightweight, strong spoked units. It's worth noting that just as the first

solid wheels turned to the spoked design in the relatively early stages of humanity,

so did in the 20th century.

 

Though we won't get too technical about the differences between steel and alloy

 

wheels, we will say that the latter are lighter and better heat conductors. As a result,

cars fitted with alloy wheels sport improved steering and handling and prolong the

 

life of the brakes. They are also more visually appealing, but that's another story.

 

On the other hand, alloy wheels are considerably more expensive to make than

steel ones, which raises the overall price of the car.

 
⌕ Tweel ⌕ Tweel
⌕ Tweel
⌕ Tweel

Future of the Wheel

   

As the traditional wheel design is close to exhausting any possible development, companies are looking at more and more exotic prototypes to replace it. Among

 
 

these, Michelin is probably the most active in the field of research with two recent innovative concepts, the Tweel and the Active Wheel System.

 
Tweel
Tweel

Announced in 2006, the Tweel returns to the first designs by using a non-pneumatic

   

solution instead of the traditional tire and wheel combination. The rolling surface consists of a rubber tread, which is bonded to the hub via flexible spokes. The

 

flexible spokes are fused with a deformable wheel that absorbs shocks and

 

rebounds. Michelin claims that even without the air needed in conventional tires,

 
   

the Tweel still delivers pneumatic-like load-carrying capacity, ride comfort and resistance to road hazards.

 
<a href=Active Wheel System " id="pdf-obj-3-42" src="pdf-obj-3-42.jpg">

Though it offers many advantages, the Tweel is marred by a big problem: vibration

at speeds over 50 mph (80 km/h), which only makes suitable for construction and

personal mobility vehicles.

Active Wheel System

The concept is probably the most revolutionary of them all as it incorporates all of

the car's key components into the wheel itself. While only suitable for electric cars,

the Active Wheel System houses the engine, the suspension, the gearbox and the

transmission shaft.