We buy and test hundreds of tires a year. The paces we put them through include evaluating for overall performance for stopping on dry and wet roads, handling, resistance to hydroplaning, winter grip, tread life, and fuel efficiency. In all of our years of testing, we've learned that no tire is perfect. But, we bought recently one that is truly something special.
The engineers at Nexen Tire have developed a "revolutionary" tire tread pattern, and we purchased a prototype. The mere fact it has our name is on it, our excellent top-rating symbol (in red, too!), and a groove pattern mirroring our test track in East Haddam, CT, suggest it is a highly rated tire. Or at least a great conversation starter around the office.
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Nexen wanted to showcase their capabilities in developing new tires, not unlike what other tire companies do. It's a one-off tread pattern, hand-cut from a blank tire with no tread pattern molded in.
Hand-cut tread patterns are relatively economical and easy to create. They're commonly used to assess a proposed tread pattern and to test consumer reaction. You may also see some such one-off designs on concept cars at auto shows. It's far cheaper to hand-cut a tread pattern than to build a tire mold that creates the shape and tread pattern of production tires.
As technology continues to evolve, we expect hand-cut tires may lose favor to working concepts made on a computer and generated in a 3D-printing process. Some tire companies already have capability for developing prototypes this way.