TyFlate Automatic Tire Inflator for off-roading

Off-road gadget on track for success thanks to IAP 

From the stunning scenery to the unbridled freedom, off-roading in South Africa is hard to beat. The country boasts thousands of kilometers of 4x4 trails, giving enthusiasts unique access to its remarkable landscapes and wildlife.

Off-roading is not for the faint-hearted, however. Aside from the driving skills needed to traverse South Africa’s deserts, rivers and mountains, there are the daily challenges of life on the road, such as cooking, washing and car maintenance.

A gripping invention to set correct tire pressure for off-roading

Travel to Gravel

Ettienne Goutier, TyFlate’s inventor.
Image: Ettienne Goutier

For Ettienne Goutier, a veteran of South Africa’s 4x4 tracks, it was the need to regularly deflate and inflate the tires of his off-road truck that quickly became a chore. Tires need to be deflated when moving from paved to unpaved surfaces to increase traction. Reducing tire pressure almost doubles the tire surface in contact with the ground – in terms of grip, this is the equivalent of adding four extra wheels to the vehicle. And when returning to paved roads, tires must be re-inflated to avoid excessive friction and wear.

All this takes time – around three to four minutes to deflate a single tire and eight to ten minutes to inflate it again. If driving with a trailer, it can easily take the best part of an hour to ensure the tires are ready for the terrain.

Ettienne decided there must be a quicker way of doing this. A trained electrical engineer, he came up with a tire inflation system to automatically adjust his vehicle’s tire pressure. Flexible air pipes connect a control unit to four air valves that attach to the tires. When switched on, the automatic tire inflation system can inflate or deflate all four tires simultaneously, stopping automatically once the target pressure is reached.

Not only does Ettienne’s invention spare the driver the effort of manually changing the pressure in each tire, but it saves time, deflating all four tires in four to five minutes and inflating them in six to nine minutes. The tedious task of preparing a car’s tires for off-roading can now be completed in less than ten minutes.

The pressures of patenting TyFlate Tire Inflation System

Tyflate’s patent application drawing showing one side of the internal components of the pneumatic pressure controller

A lifelong inventor, Ettienne had previously toyed with the idea of patenting some of his creations – an automatic lawn mower, an online catalog for grocery deliveries – but nothing ever materialized. With his automatic tire inflation system, however, he knew he had created something with a significant potential market. This includes not just off-road enthusiasts but many ordinary drivers in South Africa: in a country where 54 percent of the unpaved road network is in poor condition, a 4x4 vehicle is an essential way of getting around for many people. 

Ettienne was therefore determined to protect his invention with a patent. “To get an investor or distributor interested you need to have a patent,” he says. “It shows them that they would be investing in a product and not just an idea.”

As Ettienne began looking into patenting his automatic tire inflator, however, he found the process more complicated than he had anticipated. The requirements of intellectual property law meant that the language used was difficult for him to understand, and the costs increased with each new stage of the application process. Ettienne’s frustration was by no means unique: many inventors lack the resources to navigate the patenting process or to hire an expert who can guide them through it.

IAP drives patenting success

Fortunately for Ettienne, a chance encounter led to a recommendation to explore the WIPO Inventor Assistance Program (IAP), which supports under resourced individuals and small businesses in IAP participating countries by connecting them with volunteer patenting experts who help them to draft and file patent applications in their own countries and abroad – all free of charge. Ettienne was accepted into the program and paired with IAP volunteer Dr Joanne van Harmelen, a patent attorney at ENS Africa, the largest law firm on the continent.

Suddenly the patenting journey became much easier. Joanne simplified the process, helped with the prior art search and drafted both a national patent application in South Africa and an international patent application via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Thanks to her help, Ettienne obtained a patent for his invention in South Africa, and his PCT application has already entered the national phase in Australia and the United States – two countries with a big market for off-road vehicles. “I am really grateful for the IAP,” he says. “Were it not for the IAP my hopes for a patent would have died a sudden death.”

He encourages fellow inventors to take the time to get to grips with the patenting process and the technical requirements of writing a patent application. “Speak to professionals and find out what alternative routes to patent your invention are available,” he urges. And, most importantly: “join the IAP.”

Selling TyFlate Automatic Tire Inflation System to 4x4 owners

Ettienne is now focused on commercializing his tire inflation system. Through his company Ti Systems SA he has sold his invention to 4x4 owners in South Africa, and he is now receiving requests for his device from as far afield as Australia and Poland. Looking to the future, Ettienne is especially keen to collaborate with manufacturers of off-road vehicles or to find partners who are prepared to sell and install the device on off-roaders. Thanks to the IAP, it looks like Ettienne’s 4x4 invention is on the road to success.

Last update:

December 18, 2023

South Africa

Company name:
Ti Systems SA

Share this content: