An Interview with Early Flatproofing Pioneer, Roder Cude
Carlisle TyrFil recently sat down with Mr. Roger Cude, one of the founding principals of the TyrFil™ brand and an initial innovator in tire flatproofing technology, for a Q&A session to hear about the origins of the industry.
How did you start off in the tire fill industry?
My roots working in the tire fill, commonly referred to as foam fill, technology space go way back—six plus decades—to the very earliest days of the related industry field. I first met Ransome Wyman (a legendary figure in our industry, who went on to be one of the early distributors of tire fill) in 1959—he was a student instructor in my freshman college chemistry class. Ransome eventually went on to become the Lab Director for Chem Seal Corporation. When I went into engineering upon graduation, Wyman offered me a job. That company was involved in early polymer materials development.
I went on to join Pro-Seal Systems, which eventually became Teledyne, working in epoxy resins, as a chemist. I eventually followed Ransome into a new company that he had founded called Indpol (short for Industrial Polymers), which was a forerunner to what would eventually become one of the first developers of polyurethane foam fill technology. The solution was actually borne—almost accidentally, through troubleshooting other ad hoc fill technology solutions—out of the monothane (a single component heat cured urethane) rubber molding materials industry. Through a manual process that pumped polymer fill into a wheelbarrow tire, the earliest iteration of the flatproofing tire fill concept was created. Similar experiments were conducted on larger forklift tires, using a monothane compound to act as a “fill” constitution for tires on molten “slag” (disposed of junkyard refuse) removal vehicles. These foundational solutions formed the first tire flatproofing technologies.
Where did early tire fill technology go from there?
Ransome eventually moved on from Indpol. At that point, I had developed the technology to the point where it could potentially be sold for broader applications, but I moved on to another division of the company, called Grove Specialities, and went on to work in another capacity. Indpol continued to produce monothane and monopole solutions, but the tire flatproofing work, at that juncture, had basically halted. But I fortunately had carefully preserved the chemical formulations for the early work we’d been doing with monothane tire flatproofing.
A gentleman named Ed Gomberg was eventually brought in to run and revitalize an ailing Indpol. He saw that the organization was in trouble and was savvy enough to preserve the early flatproofing formulations that he stumbled upon—ultimately finding a way to build an alternate business model around the promising technology. Gomberg founded SynAir Corporation in Fontaine, CA for the specific purpose of developing and marketing tire flatproofing technology. Without Gomberg’s role in spotting real value in the technology, there would be no tire flatproofing industry as we know it today. And while Indpol eventually went belly up, this new entity was poised to grow the technology with a bright future.
How did the creation of Arnco Corporation fit in?
After the creation of the SynAir Corporation, Ransome Wyman saw the opportunities for flatproofing that were unfolding and wanted to get back into the market and get a piece of the foam fill distribution space. He and I teamed up at that point and formed the Arnco Corporation, basically which became an early competitor to SynAir. Arnco was founded in 1971 on my personal savings with a mere $1,800 down! While it was deeply undercapitalized, we believed in the technology and knew there was a vibrant marketplace for reliable tire flatproofing solutions. Our formulations were deeply rooted in fundamental chemistry. In fact, our Arnco company name was based directly on chemical symbolism—if you’re talking about a benzine ring in chemistry, the letters “AR” stands for aromatic. If you attach nitrogen, carbon and oxygen, you have polyurethane diisocyanate—the main raw materials we used to make our products.
There was a great deal of in-market competition in those early days—how did that impact that growth of flatproofing?
There was indeed a great deal of intra-industry competition. And sometimes, that competition is the very ingredient that can spur on innovation. SynAir started selling their flatproofing technology in 1971, and, at Arnco, we started selling ours in 1973. Initially, Arnco wasn’t producing tire fill technology—we were developing a fill for rubber industrial rollers, and it was only later that we adapted the solution fully for tire flatproofing purposes.
Back at that time, SynAir had generated an exclusive agreement with tire manufacturer BF Goodrich. I pulled the patents on their flatproofing solution—and it was based on the same solutions I had created and archived so many years prior. The time for this technology had cleary come. And at that time, Arnco began accruing relationships with tire manufacturers—not offering exclusive distribution deals but opening up the technology to a wide field of buyers. While SynAir technically held the patent, it only covered the process of filling the tire, not the formulation itself. While a series of legal conflagrations continued in court, Arnco marketed our version of the technology called PermaTire. We eventually added water into our urethane foam (water is the element that generates the “foam” in tire fill technology). This solution was essentially cheaper and more cost-effective than what was in SynAir’s technology, which we subsequently established under a separate patent. (In fact, this became the basis for what was known later as RePneu, now TyrFil Ultra)
What was the next phase of tire fill development?
Arnco and SynAir eventually put the legal disputes behind us. In 1989, Ransome Wyman departed the company, and I partnered up with a new team addition Larry Carapellotti, with whom I continued to grow the Arnco brand and offering. We were a small company of approximately 50 employees—and we all wore many hats.
Initially, in the early days, we were selling the tire fill compound by the pound, when it should have been sold by the gallon. It actually cost customers less to buy our compound, but the specific gravity of the material matters—and selling by volume rather than weight was more cost-efficient. Regardless, in the late 80’s, by the time the RePneu product had been patented, it represented a valuable compound. And, of course, the general tire fill formulation then became known as the branded TyrFil™ solution, which is widely sold today.
How did your tenure within the field culminate, and what became of TyrFil?
Having started Arnco in 1971, I decided to leave the industry in 2001 and sold the company to Larry Carapellotti. The company eventually merged with Pathway Polymers after being sold to umbrella chemical brand, Accella Performance Materials. That company, in 2017, was acquired by Carlisle Companies, which continues to market the industry-leading “foam fill” technology under the gold standard TyrFil brand. The flatproofing solutions that we pioneered in those early decades went on to represent a powerhouse technology that has been used and adopted globally by numerous vertical industries.
What do you personally see as your legacy in the industry, as it relates to the future of the market?
I’m proud of my work with the original formulations, and also later in assessing the dynamics of tire fill volume. I produced an adaptation of tire and rim standards and developed the original comprehensive weight charts that are still in use today. I also created a Weight Estimator that provides the mathematics that guides tire volume evaluations—assessing the interior of a tire on first an ellipsoidal, and then cylinder shape-based, formula that figures tire fill volume based on rim and tire dimensions. These guidelines continue as viable tools for the tire fill and flatproofing space.
The global tire fill market overall continues to flourish. Ever since Larry and I focused exclusively on flatproofing, the market has just grown exponentially and I’m very proud to be a part of the start of a phenomenal industry.
Mr. Cude is currently retired and resides in California.