From virtual to reality: Pirelli tire performance in a file

Innovative materials, sustainability, and virtual development. These, in a nutshell are the three pillars supporting Pirelli’s recent investments. In the heart of Milan's Bicocca district, in the basement of the P Zero building, is in fact the research and development centre where the Cinturato, P Zero and Scorpion ranges were born. It is here that engineers, technicians, and skilled workers with the help of test benches and virtual simulators, design new tread patterns, combine different elements to create advanced compounds and test prototypes that will later become the "shoes" of SUVs, crossovers, city cars and F1 single seaters. Not only that. Thanks to an intensive exchange of information with various car manufacturers, Pirelli creates tailor-made products intended for premium and prestige cars. It all starts with a mathematical calculation. In fact, Pirelli engineers, starting with data from tires already on the market, measure the forces and pressures interacting on the tires. This information is then combined with data from new compound materials. "The result is a virtual tire on which further calculations and test analysis are performed," explains Guido Carosio, indoor testing manager-. If the data produces the hoped for results the design team will then proceed with the creation of a real prototype, otherwise we reprocess the whole thing." Once this stage is passed, the file with the metadata of the virtual tire is uploaded to a driving simulator. Inside a room with a big screen a test driver, in a static vehicle, tests the tires on a virtual track where different weather patterns and road conditions are reproduced. It is after this step that the first prototypes are born, with tread designs that draw from Pirelli’s innovation and experience. "A laser machine traces on the tire the lines that outline the future tread blocks and grooves," Andrea Vergani, tire testing manager, points out. The sculpting work, a very delicate and precise operation, is then completed by hand by a specialized technician. Once this step is completed, the tire goes on to be tested with machines that measure noise, wear and grip." Development, however, does not stop there. In fact, Pirelli over time has increased the technological level of its tires by introducing a number of innovations. Specifically, Pirelli’s designers focused on solutions related to noise reduction - given the growth of electric vehicles -, road safety in the event of a puncture, and sensors for predictive maintenance. As far as noise is concerned, the Pirelli Noise Cancelling System (Pncs) is the solution that engineers have identified to reduce the sound generated as the tire rolls on different surfaces. Basically, the Pncs acts on cavity noise by lessening its effect. The polyurethane sponge in the tire absorbs the vibrations thus reducing the noise. Engineers use a dedicated soundproof chamber inside the research centre where sound technicians and engineers run the tire on a roller to analyse the decibels and thus determine its noise level. Another important innovation, however, concerns tire grip in cases of puncture. Here Pirelli has improved its Run Flat technology already on the market through a series of reinforcements inserted into the side walls of the inner structure. But there is more; through Seal Inside Technology, it is also possible to keep driving the vehicle without losing air pressure. The evolution of the automotive industry and the presence of intelligent software in most vehicles, has led tire manufacturers to put increasingly sophisticated sensors inside their products. Pirelli uses Cyber Tyre, a system that collects and sends data from the hi-tech sensor, embedded in the tire, to the car's electronic system. It is precisely on this latter technology that one of the most important challenges for the industry, related to predictive maintenance, is being played out. 


Pirelli Foundation

Just a short walk from the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, a historic 15th-century residence that gives its name to the district, is the Pirelli Foundation where a comprehensive archive on the company’s history from its birth in 1872 to the present is preserved. Inside, more than 3.5 kilometres of documents including photographs, sketches and advertising material speak of Pirelli’s long journey. Among the Foundation's activities is also the preservation and safeguarding of a rich heritage that has been protected by the Superintendency of Cultural Heritage since 1972. In addition to document preservation, the Pirelli Foundation carries out numerous activities to enhance the company's heritage such as publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Not only that. The Foundation promotes research activities, in support of company management and scholars both nationally and abroad, in areas ranging from economic and industrial history to architecture, from the history of labour and industrial relations to graphics and design, and operates in the educational field with courses aimed at all schools of different levels as well as universities, with the main purpose of introducing the younger generations to the business world, bringing them closer to the founding values of the Group's Corporate Culture.