Due to the high amount of attention paid to tire design by today’s automotive giants, the global tire cord and tire fabrics market is expected to exhibit a sturdy 4.90% CAGR from 2015 to 2023, rising from a valuation of US$4.1 bn in 2014 to US$6.4 bn in 2023.
Why do Tire Cord Fabrics Matter?
Tire cord fabrics play a crucial role in the performance and structural integrity of automotive tires. Since the tensile strength of even advanced rubber compounds is not enough to sustain tires on its own, tire cords are embedded in the rubber to maintain the shape of the tires against their extreme internal pressure. Tire cords play a crucial role in determining the performance and longevity of the tires. Tire cords are also crucial in maintaining tire safety, since malfunction of tire cords can result in the rubber deforming due to the internal pressure.
Incredibly, early tire cords were made out of cotton, which suited the low performance of early automobiles. As automobiles became faster and the load on tires increased, cotton was replaced by artificial fibers such as nylon and rayon.
Rising Demand for Radial Tires Propels Demand for Steel Tire Cords
Traditionally, tire cords were laid at only a slight angle (30-50 degrees) to the direction of travel, crisscrossing along the circumference of the tire. This method, known as cross-ply, had the disadvantage of creating a rigid sidewall, which meant the turning performance of the tires was affected adversely and tires wouldn’t respond optimally to rapid changes in direction. In the mid-1900s, a solution to this problem was found in the form of radial tires.
Radial tires incorporated tire cords laid perpendicular to the direction of travel, i.e. across the circumference of the tires. This resulted in pliable sidewalls, resulting in an upgrade in terms of turning response. By the late 1970s, radial tires had become standard in the U.S., due not only to their safety benefits but also the increase in fuel economy they brought about owing to the fact that they led to less friction between the tires and the surface than with cross-ply tires.
Steel tire cords were developed around the same time as radial tires and were quickly standardized in tire design. Steel tire cords represented a massive upgrade over the nylon and rayon cords used at the time, which had themselves replaced cotton tire cords in the 1940s. In 2013, steel tire cords represented 55% of the global tire cords and tire fabrics market. And with radial tires maintaining an overwhelmingly dominant position in the global automotive tires market, steel tire cords are set to remain the dominant market segment in the coming years.