Not all tyres are created equal
Blacklion tyres are uniquely designed to meet the challenging demands of driving in the Middle East. Trusted by the experts, the tyres are proven through international accreditation and rigorous quality testing.
Blacklion produces more than 130,000 tyres every single day. That’s over 47 million tyres a year. They are all manufactured in five state-of-the-art factories, which utilise advanced automation to quality control every stage of the production process.
What’s important is not the location of the factory, but the machinery and technology used in the factory
It’s no secret that Blacklion tyres are manufactured in Chinese and Vietnamese factories. That’s the same as Michelin, Pirelli, Bridgestone and almost every other tyre brand in the world. It’s not just tyres. So much of what you buy comes from factories in China. What’s important is not the location of the factory, but the machinery and technology used in the factory. Like a rubber compound mixer from Krupp in Germany, a Dutch 90-degree fibre cord cutting machine, a steel wire and fibre cord rolling line supplied by Comelion Eccoli in Italy.
While the Blacklion factories are in China and Vietnam, the technology and equipment comes from around the world. It’s the same core equipment used by more expensive brands of tyre. At every stage of the production process, the Blacklion tyres are being manufactured using machinery built in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan.
|Key equipment||Equipment supplier||Origin|
|Rubber Compound Mixer||Germany Krupp||Germany|
|Steel wire / fiber cord rolling line||Comelio Eccoli||Italy|
|Small angle steel cord cutting||Fisher||Germany|
|90° fiber cord cutting||Netherlands VMI||Netherlands|
|Apex automatic laminating||Netherlands VMI||Netherlands|
|One-time molding||Netherlands VMI||Netherlands|
|Dynamic balance / uniformity testing||Japan International Instrument Co., Ltd.||Japan|
|Inner Liner Production||Troester||Germany|
Both the Blacklion factory equipment and the raw tyre materials are handpicked from the very best that is available around the world.
A Blacklion tyre is truly international. Since 1995 we’ve used exhaustive testing to handpick the very best raw materials from around the world. These are all assembled in our five factories, which cover an area of more than 1.72 million square metres. Natural Thai rubber is the core component in every tyre. Add in a fibre cord from South Korea, rayon tread belt cords from Germany, carbon from Cabot in the USA and a tread belt steel cord supplied by Bekaert in Belgium. Many, but not all, of our suppliers are the same as other major tyre brands like Pirelli.
Manufacturing performance tyres require an intensive attention to detail that starts with the natural rubber. Blacklion owns a number of rubber plantations in Thailand through a subsidiary company, ensuring complete control over the quality and price of the most important raw material. The rubber is first imported to the Blacklion testing facilities, where it is manipulated and developed for each individual style of tyre. Up to 300 tests are performed on the rubber in order to develop the optimum compound.
Blacklion have their own rubber plantations and can control the quality of the essential raw material. This allows Blacklion to manipulate natural rubber and rubber compounds that are best suited to Middle East conditions.
The Middle East presents major challenges for the tyre industry. Every tyre must react well to high temperatures and continued high-speed driving. And the success of every tyre is only possible through the correct selection of rubber compounds. By maintaining in-house control over rubber production and rubber testing, Blacklion is unique in creating an essential link in the manufacturing process. The natural rubber is subtly manipulated at the Thai rubber plantations, with the raw material continually evolving based on evaluation from the testing facility. As new compounds are developed and moulded, the base rubber is improved so it better suits the conditions found in the Middle East.
“An advanced and fully automated robotic warehouse ensures the optimum storage of tyres before they are exported.”
Manufacturing the tyres in Chinese and Vietnamese factories helps to create a very competitive price point. Blacklion’s advanced warehouse facility then controls the movement of the tyres and stores them at optimum conditions, managing 80,000 tyres every day. It is one of only a handful of tyre warehouses in the world that is completely robotic. No human handling goes into the storage of the tyres. By monitoring conditions intelligently, Blacklion can ensure that warehouse storage does not affect the dimensions or material properties of the tyres. So when they’re fitted onto your vehicle they are in their perfect original state.
Quality can only be assured through testing. Tyres must be tested over tens of thousands of kilometres and trialled in the most demanding of conditions, especially if they are to perform in the Middle East. One element of testing occurs after production, certifying the quality of the tyre. At Blacklion testing is also central to research and development, leading an innovation that has made Blacklion an internationally trusted brand. More than 200 full-time researchers are employed in laboratories in the UK, China and Vietnam, continually testing as they innovate the next generation of tyres.
Testing starts with the raw materials. All tyres are made from rubber but every rubber compound performs differently. Researchers at the Blacklion chemical analysis laboratory are continually testing and innovating, making tiny changes to compounds that can make a huge difference on the road. Plasma emission spectrometers check for trace metals, exhaustive tests are performed for viscosity and tensile strength, polymer additives are continually checked. In the CNAS-accredited laboratory, researchers also use gas spectrometers and TGA-GC-MS technology, analysing the rubber at a microscopic level in order to create and evolve rubber compounds.
“From raw material to final product, rigorous testing is integral to very aspect of Blacklion tyre production: 175 international testing machines fill the Blacklion testing facility"
Having a testing facility on site allows Blacklion to create their own rubber compounds, rather than outsourcing rubber development like other tyre brands are forced to do. As the tyre is being developed it’s tested with some of the world’s most advanced machinery. The 3D scanning and measurement equipment comes from Erhand Leimer in Germany, using two point-tyre laser sensors to ensure quality assurance and consistency throughout manufacturing. Germany’s TS GMBH provide three pieces of equipment that test the performance of the tyre over time.
“The main Blacklion testing equipment is sourced from the industry’s most respected manufacturers; it is the same equipment used by most major tyre brands.”
The rolling resistance test is compliant with multiple international standards, like ISO 28580, R 117, and SAE J1269, ensuring tyres that are safe in intensive conditions. High-speed uniformity testing and high-speed endurance testing is also essential, guaranteeing quality over time. These three German machines allow the tyres to be tested over tens of thousands of kilometres without leaving the testing facility. An American OnLevel tire test machine provides further analysis by manipulating steer angle, speed, load, inflation pressure and camber angle. This simulates using the tyre in an infinite variation of conditions. And by using this TMSI-designed machine, Blacklion can manufacture tyres that are specific in their use. No tyre in the world can achieve top marks in every test; instead, this rigorous testing helps us focus each tyre towards different drivers and vehicles.
“Specific testing equipment ensures the tyres can be manufactured for the temperatures and conditions of the Middle East.”
While every tyre performs differently, one aspect of a Blacklion tyre’s performance is unconditional: it’s ability to perform when exposed to high temperatures. We don’t need to know how the tyre will react in sub-zero ice and snow as those conditions aren’t encountered in the Middle East. But the tyres must have an excellent resistance to heat. Rubber compounds and treads are tested at temperatures that exceed 70ºC (160ºF). By analysing the results, Blacklion engineers can specifically develop compounds that will work for the Middle East region. A Thermal Ageing test exposes manufactured tyres to these temperatures over long periods of time. We don’t just want to know whether the tyres can run for a thousand kilometres at a high heat. We want to know how they perform when exposed to extreme temperatures over tens of thousands of kilometres.
“A state-of-the-art testing track adds another dimension to the tyre testing; tyres are also tested at the industry-standard international track – Test World in the Netherlands.”
After performing in the laboratory, the tyres must then be tested on the road. Test World in the Netherlands has long been the international standard and is used by many tyre manufacturers. Blacklion tyres undergo the same track testing as other brands, at the same facility. In addition, Blacklion has just constructed a new $175-million testing track. This allows us to test a higher proportion of tyres, going far beyond the industry standard. Tyres are tested on 40 types of road at the Saiya Tyre Testing Track, following international standards by evaluating uphill and downhill performance, handling and stability, high-speed rolling resistance and traction, plus braking in a variety of conditions.
The results of all this testing are supplemented by the tests every tyre must undergo in order to obtain international grading and certification. One of the key reasons Blacklion scores so highly in standards like the UTQG is that we can test our tyres as they are being developed; if a compound or tyre doesn’t perform to high standards on our internal tests, it isn’t manufactured on a large scale or made available for sale. For example, a special Noise, Vibration and Harshness test is completed at the laboratory, so we know how a tyre will meet European NVH standards before it even reaches the testing track. This way we continually innovate, manipulating the compound and tread until it reaches our own high standards.
“Before going on sale in the Middle East, Blacklion tyres were tested for more than three years with government bodies, taxi companies and driving schools.”
Ultimately, it is the customer that must test a tyre. While more than 300 different tests provide an indication of quality, only when the customer is happy can the tyre be ready for the market. In conjunction with JASPA, Blacklion tyres have spent more than three years on the Middle East’s roads, tested by major fleet owners. Taxi companies have evaluated performance, various driving schools have fitted the tyres, and government organisations have provided evaluation reports. And only after we were happy with the results of this additional testing have Blacklion tyres been stocked in garages.
Certification and Awards
All tyres are subject to international regulations. Grading systems allows anyone to objectively compare tyres from different brands. In addition, GSO and ESMA standards are mandatory for every single tyre in the Middle East region. These standards allow you to shop with confidence, as cheap imitation tyres will not be compliant with these regulations.
Every tyre manufacturer could claim that their tyres have the most durable rubber and the best traction. But such claims would only be subjective. The UTQS system is awarded by an independent, international body, which tests every tyre on the market.
Treadwear is an indication of durability, the higher the number the greater the resistance to impact and wear.
Traction is graded from AA to E. Only tyres with a grade of C or higher can be sold. It tells you about the tyre’s ability to stop and is a key indication of a tyre’s safety.
“UTQG grading allows you to compare different tyres and tyre brands against the same standards.”
Temperature is graded from A to E, but only tyres with a grade of C or higher should be considered. The two main challenges for tyres in the Middle East are high temperatures and high-speed driving over long distances, which also causes the tyre temperature to increase. Middle Eastern summer conditions mean you should be searching for tyres graded A or B.
You can see how well Blacklion tyres compare against other brands in the example chart below.
(Tyre size used for comparison 215/60 R16)
Rather than obtain GSO compliance afterwards, Blacklion takes local and international standards as a starting point. Our awards includes a unique mix of specific Middle Eastern standards and international certification. UTQG grading is only one of the standards that all Blacklion tyres have achieved. Every tyre is compliant with GSO and has its own GSO label, a reference to the Gulf standards for tyre regulations. The tyres have also received country-specific accreditation, tested against l regulations such as ESMA in the UAE (the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology) and SASO in Saudi Arabia.