Making More Airbags Better

One of the things that’s absolutely essential for vehicles the world over is safety.  And one of the increasingly—again, on a global basis, not just here in the Western (and a sizeable chunk of the Eastern) world—important aspects of driver and passenger safety is the airbag.

According to Lectra (lectra.com), based on the fact that many new car models are being fitted with from two to 14 airbags, the number of airbags manufactured in 2015 was 350-million worldwide, which will increase by 7 percent annually to 420-million airbags by 2018.

One of the challenges in airbag production is that because of the concentrated and cost-competitive nature of the supply base, material cutting has to be performed with minimal material loss due to the basic cost of the technical textiles used for the bags. Scrap is costly. And defects in textile cutting is simply unacceptable.

Given that the number of vehicles, again according to Lectra, is expected to grow from 89-million in 2015 to 103-million in 2020, production rates for airbags will soar.

Lectra’s interest in this is based on the fact that it is a major (i.e., ~66 percent) supplier of airbag material cutting equipment and systems.

So the company has developed a new suite of tools, FocusQuantum, based on a laser cutting system for both one-piece woven and flat airbags, and the software and services necessary to fully support the precise production of airbags.

Speaking of some of the rationale behind FocusQuantum, Daniel Harari, Lectra CEO, said, “The grave nature of recent airbag inflator problems demonstrates the vital role that airbag suppliers play in the automotive industry. They have no other choice than to produce zero-defect quality.

“This is why we have worked closely with leading suppliers to develop and deliver our next generation of airbag cutting solutions meeting the airbag industry’s stringent standards.”

The system is said to be twice as productive as existing alternatives. The engineers paid attention to all aspects of the process, starting with the software that takes the design data then, through the use of intelligent wizards, verifies geometry dimensions and scale before cutting; performs analysis for defects; does the cutting; handles the materials; and assures preventative maintenance procedures are performed. And, of course, there is full traceability of the production.