Success Story

Goodyear and Sandia Have a Strong Grip on Their Long-Term Partnership

Simulation of tire performance guides the development of tire tread design for improved fuel. Image is courtesy of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company economy.

When the long-term partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company began in 1992, Goodyear was using commercial mechanics codes to model a tire’s behavior. In the mid-1990s, Sandia researchers adapted one of their nonlinear finite element codes—not available commercially—to Goodyear’s tire design and testing applications. This robust form of computational simulation has been used in the design of almost every new Goodyear product.

As the partnership continued, acceptance of faster, more accurate, and more complex simulation tools by the Goodyear design community grew. In some cases, new tires were accepted on first submission by automakers for their new vehicle models. Goodyear’s Assurance TripleTred is an example of a major tire product that was developed with simulation tools that helped to design its innovative features for maximum performance while bringing it to market in less than a year. Goodyear and Sandia jointly won an R&D 100 Award in 2005 as a result.

The major breakthrough was the ability to run very detailed tire simulations quickly. The ability to accurately model the mechanical response of a tire as it goes into service on a vehicle—including mounting on a rim, inflation, vehicle loading, and rolling on the road with braking and cornering—enabled Goodyear to make a fundamental change in its tire design process. This allowed computational simulation to replace many prototype builds and tests.

With this technology, tire simulations with very high levels of detail could be run in a couple of days. Before the Sandia/Goodyear partnership, each tire design was followed by the manufacture of a set of prototype tires that were then tested extensively. Each test resulted in further design modifications. Since three to five design iterations were typical, three to five sets of prototype tires had to be built and tested, a process that could take two years.

State-of-the-art rubber material models have also been developed. They can represent the mechanical behavior of the various rubber compounds in a tire while including the effects of temperature, frequency, and strain level. The Sandia/Goodyear strategic partnership has recently expanded to focus on high-speed rolling, noise modeling, snow and mud traction modeling, and fully coupled thermo/mechanical rolling simulations.

Fully coupled thermo/mechanical rolling simulations are needed in order to develop a tire with minimum rolling resistance. Tires with reduced rolling resistance will have major benefits for customers, vehicle manufacturers, and the nation due to the associated savings in energy and oil consumption. The Transportation Research Board estimated that a rolling resistance reduction of 50 percent would save 10 billion gallons of fuel each year.

To view the original Sandia press release on this partnership success, visit