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A Lab Built for the Future

The birthplace of Hankook Tire's R&D technology

An aluminum roof with sleek and gracious curves shining in silver, thin and long Pilotis, and glass curtain walls supporting the eaves. The massive, streamlined structure and the maximum transparency of the Technodome's external shape are reminiscent of a futuristic high-tech city. The outer shape of the building gives the feeling of allowing the people and materials to flow together, without any disturbance, towards a common destination. What does the Technodome, a hub for Hankook Tire's global R&D network and a significant driving force for future innovation, look like inside?

Center of high-tech research

In 2016, Hankook Tire transformed its existing R&D center into the hub's goal for securing proprietary technologies and strengthening future research. This large-scale R&D facility named 'Technodome' is home to research tire materials, proprietary technology, eco-friendly tires, and future driving technology. Technodome is at the center of the vast network of Hankook Tire's worldwide R&D centers, serving as a data hub for building big data for R&D and a reference point for the tire performance evaluation.

Custom design for the best performance

One of the carefully considered aspects of the design process is the organic connection and openness of the laboratory. R&D is not a simple conveyor belt system that is static and rigid. R&D needs each function to be organically interactive and consider the pros and cons of all research activity to deliver the best possible combination of technologies to make the product perform at its best.

The interior of the Technodome, from the first to the fourth floor, forms an atrium structure with voids. Several laboratories are optimally arranged, with the atrium being at the center. The research process conducted at Technodome is transparent, thanks to the open and transparent design of the internal space visually and structurally. It is a structure where researchers working in their respective laboratories can meet and communicate frequently. Communication is collaboration, and collaboration is an essential function that can lead to new research and innovation in the space.

The quintessential technology of Hankook Tire

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Tire design commences with evaluating the ingredients and quality of the raw materials. The 'Raw Material Evaluation Lab' analyzes the characteristics and composition of more than 100 raw materials required for tire production, including rubber. This is the first step towards developing safe tires.

The series of processes to develop a product, including analyzing raw materials, testing for the physical properties of compounds and rubber, and analyzing the chemical composition of raw materials and additives, are closely related. Every step is as important as the previous one and what follows. But if the engineers are asked to pick the most exciting step, it might just be the performance test immediately before the product's launch.

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A research engineer is conducting a driving simulation test

The 'Driving Simulation Center,' also called the 'Visual Track,' occupies the center of the first floor of the Technodome. This is where the simulated road test is conducted, and the simulated driving test before the road test decreases any trial-and-error iterations. In addition, the center collects various data on the vehicles and tires, and the Suspension Parameter Measuring Machine (SPMM, inside the vehicle characteristics test laboratory) enables simulated driving with any car. The Driving Simulation Center functions as the birthplace of high-efficiency and cutting-edge technology. It enables researchers to experience the entire product development cycle, from R&D phases to the performance of finished products inside the Technodome.

* Suspension Parameter Measuring Machine (SPMM) is a device that digitizes and records all the characteristic values of a vehicle that occurs when driving with the tires installed.

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The research on road noise is a critical component of what Hankook Tire does, as the road noise generated from the tires heightens the driver's fatigue and discomfort. We are supplying EV tires to car manufacturers leading the way in electrification, such as Taycan, the first Porsche's all-electric vehicle, E-Tron from Audi, and ID.4 from Volkswagen. The lack of engine noise in electric cars makes the road noise more noticeable when driving, and therefore, the road noise coming from the tires needs to be closely tested.

"Tire Noise Measuring Room," an anechoic chamber, is where the tests are carried out to develop tires with lower noise levels. Tires are tested under various conditions, including coastdown, constant speed, and accelerating conditions while being installed on a vehicle or as a stand-alone product under different road conditions. Having the capability to convert road conditions inside the anechoic chamber adds more value to the quality of our research.

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The anechoic chamber is completely isolated from outside to minimize any outside interference. The research process can be monitored through CCTV and large screens.

Tread Pattern Friction Test Lab is a state-of-the-art lab that Hankook Tire presents with considerable pride. All of the performance measures of a tire, including handling, braking, wear, noise, and others, are closely related to the friction on the rubber, making it one of the critical tasks for developing tire-related technologies.

The Tread Pattern Friction Test Lab is a place to conduct research on the friction of the tread and block, areas directly in contact with the pavement, against the road surface. Friction tests are conducted by sliding at various speeds on road conditions such as asphalt, concrete, and sandpaper. In addition, tests are conducted repeatedly under controlled environments and conditions on different road surfaces such as dry, wet, snow, and ice. In particular, artificial snow and ice that closely resembles the real things are produced in the lab to conduct winter snow and icy road surface tests without seasonal restrictions. Additionally, a friction test per tread design element can be performed using high-speed cameras. The Tread Pattern Friction Test Lab continuously carries out research for the better friction performance of each tread design against the road and looks for ways to improve the performance.

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Artificially making snow to recreate snowy and icy road conditions

Several other labs are critical in the product development process, including the Chemical Analysis Lab and Flat-track Force & Moment Test Room to analyze the tire materials and chemical functional groups to find the best molecular structure and the handling performance of tires for passenger cars, trucks, buses, and racing cars, respectively. These research elements are the backbone of Hankook Tire's technology.

Practical steps for a sustainable future

The development of a transforming tire started with a dare to change the conception of the fixed shape of tires. As the name suggests, it's a tire that transforms depending on the road and driving conditions. Additionally, the attached sensors will automatically detect any external damage to the tire and remedy the issue. The tire allows a vehicle to behave differently and excites us greatly about the future when the technology is applied to products in mass production. As proof of its technological prowess and potential, the Transforming Tire was selected as the cover for the April issue of 'Science Robotics,' an international scientific journal.

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Within this structured R&D center, Hankook Tire is building its proprietary technology through performing cutting-edge research. Such momentum propels us to create a strong brand identity in for the future of the organization.