Visit of Bridgestone Today; the Tire’s Science Museum
–Touch the Tire’s Engineering Technology and Entrepreneurship
ブリヂストン博物館訪問 - ゴムとタイヤの科学が学べる博物館 —
♣ Museum Outlook
It is a rarely told but famous story that the global tire maker “Bridgestone” was born from a small firm “Shima-Ya” which had been producing Japanese socks “Tabi” in Kurume, Kyushu in the Meiji period. This Bridgestone has established the “Bridgestone TODAY” Museum in March 2001 to promote the company’s products and developed technology in commemoration of its 70 years anniversary. There huge number of tire related exhibits are displayed In the museum to show their tire products, high-tech tires, rubber technology as well as company’s own history and its R&D efforts.
The Museum is known as a Japan’s first comprehensive ‘Technical Museum of the Tire and Rubber’, and already received more than 50,000 visitors since its opening. Recently I have visited this “Bridgestone TODAY” to explore the tire world with my eyes. This article is my visit short report on this Museum.
When we look at the tire, it takes specific roll to transmit the vehicle’s power to the ground, and keep safe and comfortable drive on the road. It seems to form the foundation part of automobiles like the “foots of car” in a sense. And. as a matter of fact, the historical development of tire is older than automobile’s history, and functioned as key devices of transportation from the old time.
The museum reminds us again to realize these facts through the rich exhibitions. I really enjoyed the visit and learned a lot about the modern tire industries.
See Museum guide of IGS Forum: Bridgestone TODAY
Museum URL: http://www.bridgestone.com/corporate/today/
♣ Overview of Exhibitions
The “Bridgestone TODAY” was located next to the Bridgestone’s “Technology Center” in
Kodaira, Tokyo. There in the first floor the big panels were set to highlight the history of Bridgestone as well as the various tires of Bridgestone were displayed. And the memorial tires, which had been used F1 racing cars, was also observable at the highlight exhibit corner. In the second floor, the manufacture process of rubber parts and tires were positioned showing how these were produced. The current new initiatives and new projects of Bridgestone were also displayed there too.
Among these exhibitions, the most attractive exhibits would be a Bridgestone story depicting how a small local firm in Kyushu could grow to the big companies by the technology initiative and significant entrepreneurship. The other was the impressive scientific commentary on the manufacturing process of tires, technical evolution, and the future challenges in this dield. I’d like to describe these points and my observation.
♣ The History of Bridgestone and its Track Record
– Challenges from human “footgear” to automobile “equipment”
The “Bridgestone’s History” panel was chronologically displayed in the entranc
e hall. It is said that the origin of the Bridgestone was a small firm of tailoring “Tabi” (Japanese style socks) named “Shima Ya” in the Kurume town in the several decades ago. The founders were Tokujiro and Shojiro Ishibashi. This brother Ishibashi nurtured the firm to the large
technology companies of tire in a single lifetime. It is a famous story that the name of Bridgestone is come from the Chinese character of founder’s name, “Ishi” (stone) and “Hashi” (bridge) with mixing and tying them.
The “Shima Ya” has first set up a factory specializing to the “Tabi” productions in 1907, and by showing the high performance of sales the company won the great business success. After that, “Shima Ya ” was changed the name to “Japan Tabi Co.”, and its brand name was also changed to “Asahi”. Then, the company began to produce “Asahi Jika Tabi Shoes” with heavy cloth and rubber soles at its bottom in 1921.
This work has solidified the foundation of the company on the significant rise of its sales because the coal mine workers were very much favor to use this “Jika Tabi” socks shoes in the many mining sites around the Northern Kushu area.
Taking advantage of this experience, Shojiro Ishibashi, a founder, who has initiated and transformed the firm to the tire company, looked the huge potentiality of automobile and tire industry in future. Then Shojiro has established the company “Bridgestone Tire”, and embarked on the domestic production of tire which had been fully dependent on the imports at that time. It was a really adventuring business shift from the production of “human foot” to the “car’s foot”, in a sense.
In the first of the time, the company had to face the immature business performances as well as serious technical problems, of course. However, the business has been gradually moving well by repeated experiments by diligently absorbing Western technology. Then, the company could finally be able to start exports by the obtaining quality certificate from the Ford in the 1932. Furthermore, the company could become a major supplier of domestic track tires in the wartime period of the 1940s in Japan.
<History of Bridgestone technological development>
However, it was the post war period that the company could leap forward to a full-fledged tire maker. During this time, the company has opened a new area, such as the adoption of rayon textile in tire cord (1951), the development of tire tread pattern, and the start of production nylon tire (1956).
In addition, Bridgestone was awarded the Deming Prize to guarantee the high quality of products in 1968. The company was also working on the production of radial tires in the 1960s, the development in the 1970s of a lightweight steel radial tire (1975), the production of the high-performance radial” Bonanza “ (1979), and so on. Even after the 1980s, Bridgestone has begun to challenge in the racing car project using high-performance tires.
<Leap to the world tire companies>
The Bridgestone has surprised the world by the acquisition of “Firestone” in 1988, which had been dominating the tire market as a main producer, and this event strongly impressed that Bridgestone has already won the position of the world class tire maker both in name as well as reality.
Around this time, the diversification of business was also underway, and the company name was changed to “Bridgestone Co.” from “Bridgestone Tire Co.” So the company has started to engage in the diversification of the business, for example, the technology marketing of sport goods, bicycle, and various chemical products, as well as the seismic construction system like the “Seismic Isolation Rubber” facilities.
As a result, Bridgestone has been growing to the total technology company in the tire business and others through the development of the foundation technology, such as “DONUTS” technology, and the ultra-large ORP tire, and successful production of fuel-efficient tires “Ecopia” and others. Visitors will be possible to explore the history of
Bridgestone as a tire company on the exhibition panel.
♣ Exhibition of a variety of Bridgestone tire
Main exhibition corner of tires of the Bridgestone was located in this section. Upon
entering the hotel, visitors might be overwhelmed by the tremendous huge lineup of various tires of Bridgestone which were hanged and placed abundantly from the ceiling and on the floor. There found a slew of tires from the mammoth size tire being used in special heavy-duty truck, aircraft tire, bus and truck tires in various types, high performance tires for passenger cars, and others. We would be astonished to see these tires of variations.
After the observing these tire exhibition, the visitors would come across the exhibition of mosaic pattern carved in the groove of the tire to be referred as the tread pattern. It is said that by this tread pattern the vehicles’ way of travelling has to be greatly affected. This tread pattern’s variation was spectacular. They say that the nature of the geometrical dynamics is applied in this grooving.
♣ Exhibition showing tire structure
The next corner showed the role and structure of the tire by the illustration of its internal structure and the materials used in tires. It is said that tire is consisted of the surface part called tread, the belt part strengthening tire in the middle, and the carcass part in the internal structure
forming skeleton. It has also described that
the regular tires had formerly been using air tubes in the inner part, but now the air tube wasn’t applied because of adopting the joint structure of air part and tire’s body itself.
The exhibition showed the variation of materials used in tires, such as rubber, polyester,
steel for tire cord, beat wire, carbon or silica, and chemical stuff like sulfur and other compounding stuffs. The careful selection of these materials and their combination must be kept to adjust to the driving purposes in the various conditions, such as for the drive of heavy loading trucks, sports type cars, buses running in the snow field, even the air crafts. It was the nice exhibition to familiarize the structure of many tires.
♣ Exhibition of the manufacturing process of the tire
The manufacturing process of the tire was also interesting exhibition. The museum successively displayed the making process beginning from compounding rubber and molding to the generation of the carcass part and beat wire which forms main part of tire to the last. And the coupling and assembly process of these materials were shown to indicate the manufacturing way to fit the purpose of variety of tires. These processes were arranged by the flow chart picture at the wall. In addition, the demonstration corners were provided to operate there too, such as examination of function of rolling, elasticity and strength of the rubber movement. So it makes us envisage in detail about the internal structure of the tires by touch them and move them.
♣ Bridgestone’s new initiatives
In the next corner, the new technical approach of Bridgestone was introduced. For example, the “Ritoretto” tire which is produced by recycling, the air less “Run-flat” tire, the ultra-energy-saving tire, and others. Further, beside tire the chemical goods are introduced there which has just begun producing, like EVA film for use in solar cells, and the environmental protection products too. The surprising work of the Bridgestone was also shown in this exhibition corner. The museum displayed the “Artificial tail fin” for the dolphin tail which had been damaged. This is said to be made in social contribution efforts by
Bridgestone and very much appreciated by the people and aquarium staff. The company might proud its technological excellence by them too.
.♣ Special exhibition of the race car and seismic isolation rubber
Bridgestone Co. has also manufactured a number of high-performance tires for the car race from the 1990s. The real race cars and tires, which were used in the F1 race and won the victory, were also introduced as the special exhibits. This exhibition is very much popular among visitors of race funs, and showed the excellence of technology of Bridgestone.
Bridgestone is working to the seismic equipment as its special business too. This outcome named “Seismic Isolation Rubber“, which has been developed from the 1990s, was on display in the basement. This equipment is a device that absorbs earthquake by the shaking special rubber, and now widely used in the many multi-floor buildings. This exhibition currently invites a lot of visitors, including engineers of constructions.
.♣ Last remarks
The museum is described as a museum of “science of rubber and tire”. So the museum intend to show up the function and technology of tires which have been used as a main transport tools along with automobile itself, and it seems to form the essential devices in the modern society. By looking at the exhibition, we would be aware of again how the function of tires is important to support the modern transportation of our society, and how far the technologies in this field have been advanced and the way of the benefits from them. And we could also acknowledge the figure of the company like Bridgestone how it could grow from a tiny ordinary firm to a gigantic technological companie in the short period. I really felt the “Bridgestone Today” is really enlightening museum to be worth to visit to know about modern tires and rubber industries.
- 「ゴムとタイヤの博物館」Bridgestone Today 案内パンフレット
- 「ブリヂストンTODAY Home Page」: http://www.bridgestone.co.jp/corporate/today/index.html
- 「タイヤの話」服部六郎 大成社 A4判 本文233頁