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Smart Pre-Sorting

It only takes five minutes of walking around our premises to see the variety of different car tyres being brought in. They differ not only in size but also in type, brand, tread depth, age, condition, and more. To be able to do the right things with a tyre, you have to ‘read’ all those variations and categorize the tyre.

Reading and sorting tyres is the specialty of our inspectors. The new tyre sorting machine – currently in a trial setup – is intended to preserve this specialized knowledge for the company. “All my knowledge is in this machine,” says Dan Dinca, head of sales used tyres and closely involved in the development of the machine. “So now that knowledge remains in the company and is no longer just in my head.”


Over the past month, the inspectors at Granuband have gained a new ‘colleague’: the tyre sorting machine. However, the automated process is not running completely smoothly yet despite two years of tinkering. “Not surprising, because a machine like this simply doesn’t exist yet. We’re really pioneering,” says Marco Alderlieste, General Manager. For that, we need to test, adjust, and test again. Dan Dinca has already travelled to Germany three times, where the machine was built, to help them improve the machine so that it can be used optimally in the sorting process.

Founder and owner Maarten van Randeraat on why machines like these are the future: “People with the knowledge of tyre sorting are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. And we need to anticipate that. Over five years ago, we started the transition to automation and robotics. We’re doing this company wide at Granuband. We started with the bonded rubber products, the tiles we now make fully automatically. Last year, we launched the Bumper Plate Press, and now we’re working on automating tyre sorting.”


Today, we take a look at the newest addition. When we step into the hall where the trial setup of the tyre sorting machine is located, you wouldn’t think there’s a very clever, innovative machine there from the outside. It looks like a scanning device at customs where your carry-on luggage goes through. With roller conveyors in front and behind it and rubber flaps on both sides through which the tyres enter and exit the machine. At the heart of the machine, a bright red laser beam scans the rotating tyre. On the screen of the machine appears a picture of the entire tyre, with red and green markings. That sounds simple, but many different characteristics of each tyre need to be seen and recorded. Size, tread depth – every notch is measured at different points. All texts are recognized and converted. But also brand, type of tyre (summer or winter), production date, whether the tyre has an inner layer of adhesive, or is equipped with a sound-absorbing foam found in tyres for electric cars, every variation is recorded. These characteristics are combined into a code in a matter of seconds.


But we expect more from this machine; it needs to become even smarter. This mainly involves translating the scan into individual data stored in the machine’s software. The machine needs to be able to read the tyre even better. Sometimes this literally involves reading text, but the challenge now lies in recognizing and interpreting deviations. Tell such a program how to recognize a screw or a sticker. Or a hole or dried-out rubber. And also tell it what to do with that information. You’re adding dozens of lines of code before the software does what you want.

Ultimately, it can process 400 tyres per hour, and there is enough supply for four or five of these machines. At the moment, Dinca will be satisfied when this machine is fully operational by the end of the summer.


For now, the heavy and specialized work is not disappearing completely towards machines. People are still needed to perform the final check and ensure that the labeled tyre ends up in the right place in the hall. But that employee no longer needs to know all the characteristics of the fifty or so codes. A simpler check will suffice. And that makes a difference. Because training an inspector takes several years. There are no books to learn the trade from, there is no training you can take. You learn it on the job. Alderlieste: “Replacing thirty, forty years of human experience won’t happen overnight. The human eye of the inspector is still irreplaceable at the moment. But this is a good step in the right direction. Think of it as smart pre-sorting for the future.”

The trial setup that Dinca is currently testing and fine-tuning should eventually lead to fully automated sorting. The next step is the automation and robotization of the entire sorting line: from where the trucks unload collected tyres to where the tyres are neatly stored, code by code. Then, in addition to smart sorting, a significant improvement will be made in working conditions. Until then, part of the sorting process will remain dependent on good eyes and strong arms.

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