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INTRODUCTION bag is fully inflated for only one-tenth

The air bag traces its origin to (1/10) of a second and is nearly
air-filled bladders outlined as early as deflated by three-tenths (3/10) of a
1941. Early air bag systems were second after impact. Talcum powder
large and bulky, primarily using tanks or cornstarch is used to line the inside
of compressed or heated air, of the air bag and is released from the
compressed nitrogen gas (N2), freon, air bag as it is opened.
or carbon dioxide (CO2). Some of the
early systems created hazardous Raw Materials
byproducts. One particular system An air bag system consists of
used gunpowder to heat up freon gas, an air bag module, crash sensors, a
producing phosgene gas (COCl2)—an diagnostic monitoring unit, a steering
extremely poisonous gas. An air bag wheel connecting coil, and an
is an inflatable cushion designed to indicator lamp. An air bag module has
protect automobile occupants from three main parts: the air bag, the
serious injury in the case of a collision. inflator, and the propellant. The air
The air bag is part of an inflatable bag is sewn from a woven nylon fabric
restraint system, also known as an air and can come in different shapes and
cushion restraint system (ACRS) or an sizes depending on specific vehicle
air bag supplemental restraint system requirements. The driver's-side air bag
(SRS), because the air bag is material is manufactured with a heat
designed to supplement the protection shield coating to protect the fabric
offered by seat belts. Seat belts are from scorching, especially near the
still needed to hold the occupant inflator assembly, during deployment.
securely in place, especially in side Talcum powder or cornstarch is also
impacts, rear impacts, and rollovers. used to coat the air bag, either
Upon detecting a collision, air bags substance prevents the fabric from
inflate instantly to cushion the sticking together and makes it easier
exposed occupant with a big gas-filled to assemble. Newer silicone and
pillow. urethane coated air bag materials
A typical air bag system require little or no heat shield coating,
consists of an air bag module although talcum powder or corn starch
(containing an inflator or gas will probably still be used as a
generator and an air bag), crash processing aid.
sensors, a diagnostic monitoring unit, The inflator canister or body is
a steering wheel connecting coil, and made from either stamped stainless
an indicator lamp. These components steel or cast aluminum. Inside the
are all interconnected by a wiring inflator canister is a filter assembly
harness and powered by the vehicle's consisting of a stainless steel wire
battery. mesh with ceramic material
Air bags are designed for sandwiched in between. When the
frontal impact crashes. In a frontal inflator is assembled, the filter
collision equivalent to hitting a solid assembly is surrounded by metal foil
barrier at nine miles per hour (14.48 to maintain a seal that prevents
kilometers per hour), the crash propellant contamination.
sensors located in the front of the car The propellant, in the form of
detect the sudden deceleration and black pellets, is primarily sodium azide
send an electrical signal to start a combined with an oxidizer and is
chemical reaction that inflates the air typically located inside the inflator
bag with harmless nitrogen gas. The
canister between the filter assembly assembled on a highly
and the initiator. automated production line.
• The inflator sub-assembly is
The Manufacturing Process combined with the propellant
Air bag production involves and an initiator to form the
three different separate assemblies inflator assembly. Laser
that combine to form the finished end welding (using CO2 gas) is
product, the air bag module. The used to join stainless steel
propellant must be manufactured, the inflator sub-assemblies, while
inflator components must be friction inertial welding is used
assembled, and the air bag must be to join aluminum inflator sub-
cut and sewn. Some manufacturers assemblies. Laser welding
buy already-made components, such entails using laser beams to
as air bags or initiators, and then just weld the assemblies together,
assemble the complete air bag while friction inertial welding
module. The following description of involves rubbing two metals
the manufacturing process is for together until the surfaces
driver-side air bag module assembly. become hot enough to join
Passenger-side air bag module together.
assemblies are produced slightly • The inflator assembly is then
differently. tested and sent to storage until
needed.
 Propellant
• The propellant consists of
sodium azide mixed together
with an oxidizer, a substance
that helps the sodium azide to
burn when ignited. After
inspection it is placed in a safe
storage place until needed.
• From storage, the sodium azide
and the oxidizer are then
carefully blended under
sophisticated Fig. 1 Inflator Assembly.
computerized process control.
• After blending, the propellant When the Control Module activates
mixture is sent to storage. the airbag assembly, an electric
Presses are then used to current is sent to the detonator, which
compress the propellant ignites the sodium azide pellets. When
mixture into disk or pellet form. it burns, it releases nitrogen gas very
quickly and in large quantities. This is
 Inflator assembly what inflates the airbag.
• The inflator components, such
as the metal canister, the filter
assembly—stainless steel wire
mesh with ceramic material
inside—and initiator (or igniter)
are received from outside
vendors and inspected. The
components are then
Airbag design
The air bag system consists of
three basic parts-an air bag module,
crash sensors and a diagnostic unit.
Some systems may also have an
on/off switch, which allows the air bag
to be deactivated.
The air bag module contains
both an inflator unit and the
lightweight fabric air bag. The driver
 Air bag air bag module is located in the
• The woven nylon air bag fabric steering wheel hub as shown in fig. 2,
is received from outside and the passenger air bag module is
vendors and inspected for any located in the instrument panel as
material defects. The air bag shown in fig. 3.
fabric is then die cut to the
proper shapes and sewn,
internally and externally, to
properly join the two sides.
After the air bag is sewn, it is
inflated and checked for any
seam imperfections.

Fig. 2 Driver Side Airbag.

DRIVER'S SIDE AIRBAG


CROSSECTION
Fig. 3 Passenger Side Airbag.
 Final assembly of airbag
Module When fully inflated, the driver
• The air bag assembly is then air bag is approximately the diameter
mounted to the tested inflator of a large beach ball. The passenger
assembly. Next, the air bag is air bag can be two to three times
folded, and the breakaway larger since the distance between the
plastic horn pad cover is right-front passenger and the
installed. Finally, the completed instrument panel is much greater than
module assembly is inspected the distance between the driver and
and tested. the steering wheel.
vehicle's ignition is turned on. If the
 The Crash Sensors unit identifies a problem, a warning
The crash sensors are located light alerts the driver to take the
either in the front of the vehicle and/or vehicle for examination of the air bag
in the passenger compartment. system. Most diagnostic units contain
Vehicles can have one or more crash a device that stores enough electrical
sensors. The sensors are typically energy to deploy the air bag if the
activated by forces generated in vehicle's battery is destroyed very
significant frontal or near-frontal early in a crash sequence.
crashes.

• Types of Sensors
By function, there are 2 types.
Impact sensors and Safing sensors.
The forward sensors are located in
various locations forward of the
passenger compartment. Some are
located inside the fenders, some are
on the cowl, some are attached to the
core support in front of the radiator.
Rear SENSORS are also known as
safing sensors as their function is to
determine that a crash has occurred.
Rear safing sensors are located in
various locations in the passenger
compartment. The rear safing sensor
must close before the forward sensors
to avoid airbag deployment in cases
where the impact is not severe
enough to cause deployment. When
Fig. 4 Crash Sensors the vehicle is parked with the ignition
(a) Ball & Magnet, (b) Spring Band & Roller
off deployment is very unlikely
Sensors measure deceleration, because there is no power to the
which is the rate at which the vehicle circuits for deployment.
slows down. Because of this, the
vehicle speed at which the sensors
activate the air bag varies with the
nature of the crash.
Air bags are not designed to
activate during sudden braking or
while driving on rough or uneven
surfaces. In fact, the maximum
deceleration generated in the severest
braking is only a small fraction of that
necessary to activate the air bag Fig.5 Air bag design
system. Some vehicles without rear
The diagnostic unit monitors seats, such as pick-up trucks and
the readiness of the air bag system. convertibles, or with rear seats too
The unit is activated when the
small to accommodate rear-facing across the full front of each vehicle at
child safety seats, have manual about 28 mph (45 km/h). This is
ON/OFF switches for the passenger because the parked car absorbs some
air bag installed at the factory. of the energy of the crash, and is
ON/OFF switches for driver or pushed by the striking vehicle.
passenger air bags may also be
installed by qualified service
personnel at the request of owners
who meet government-specified
criteria and who receive government
permission. An air bag off-switch may
be used when an occupant is at risk,  Dual Air bag system
this includes: infants riding in rear-
facing infant seats in the front
passenger seat; children aged 1 to 12
in the front passenger seat; drivers
who cannot keep 10 inches between
the center of the steering wheel and
the center of their breastbone; and
people with particular medical
conditions.
Initially, most vehicles featured a
Fig. 7 Dual depth Frontal air bag
single airbag, mounted in the steering
wheel and protecting the driver of the
car (who is the most at risk of injury).
GM’s new dual depth air bag is the
During the 1990s, airbags for front
industry’s first passenger-side frontal
seat passengers, then separate side
air bag that customizes restraint by
impact airbags placed between the
deploying in two different sizes and at
door and occupants, became
different pressures, depending on seat
common.
position, safety belt usage and crash
severity.

The dual depth air bag represents the


next level of air bag technology
because of its potential to help
restrain front-seat passengers in a
greater variety of seating and crash
situations.

The dual depth air bag deploys from


Fig. 6 Air bag deployment ckt. the front passenger side within the
instrument panel. When the small air
Air bags are typically designed to bag is required, a tether holds the air
deploy in frontal and near-frontal bag back to the smaller size and gas
collisions, which are comparable to is vented from the module housing.
hitting a solid barrier at approximately For the larger air bag deployment, the
8 to 14 miles per hour (mph) (13 to 23 tether is released, the module vent is
km/h). Roughly speaking, a 14 mph shut off and the air bag is allowed to
(23 km/h) barrier collision is equivalent expand to its full size.
to striking a parked car of similar size
Advanced sensor technology is an Joined and began offering bags
integral part of GM’s dual depth air That provided head protection,
bag system. Using, among other Too.
indicators, a seat-position switch The goal of such systems is to
located in the seat track, the vehicle’s Keep heads and chests away from
Sensing and Diagnostic Module Hard objects, such as a pole or
(SDM) takes only milliseconds to The front of an intruding vehicle.
determine the shape of the air bag to Side-impact air bags are now
deploy. Offered on many vehicles, including
Some economy cars. But
The dual depth air bag debut on the Some bags protect only the chest
2006 Cadillac DTS and the 2006 and some protect only the head,
Buick Lucerne. While others attempt to protect
Both.
Regardless of the air bag system in
your vehicle, you will minimize your  Side airbag and FMVSS (214)
risk of an air bag-related injury if you
follow all instructions regarding child
restraint and lap and shoulder belt
use, proper positioning in the vehicle
and maintain the recommended
distance from the air bag.

 Head bag and side curtain

Additional protection for


occupants was needed to reduce
deaths and injuries from side impacts
and especially to protect those
occupants more vulnerable to
fatalities.

A new study of real-world


crashes shows that side-impact
air bags that protect the head
greatly increase a driver’s chance •
of surviving a Near side occupants in vehicle
side-impact collision struck in door area. As a result
With another vehicle. In 1995 Volvo increased side impact protection
was the first automaker requirements for passenger cars were
to introduce side-impact introduced in OCT 1990 with
Airbags as standard equipment. amendment of Federal Motor Vehicle
Later, other automakers Safety Standard.
In modern vehicles are highly
complex systems with a number of
components that require Exact
Replacement and Testing Procedures,
which require expensive equipment to
test, examine, analyze, and repair. In
most cases, the repair involves
replacement of components. Most of
the crash sensors are 'One Time Use'
Components, and are replaced, as
they are not repairable. All of the over
the counter repairs manuals are very
 EDR specific in recommending to you that
the dealer is the only one to work on
the (SRS) airbag system.

Airbag Injuries and Fatalities

Airbags involve the extremely rapid


deployment of a large cushion. While
The EDR has 3 purposes: airbags can protect a person under
•Makes decisions about restraint the right circumstances, they can also
system deployment injure or kill.
•Measures collision severity To protect occupants not wearing seat
•Records the event data for future belts, US airbag designs triggered
reference. much more quickly than airbags
How does EDR works? designed in other countries. As seat
•In normal driving conditions, EDR is belt use in the US climbed in the late
“asleep” 1980s and early 1990s, US auto
•When conditions suddenly change, manufactures were able to adjust their
EDR “wakes up” records data and designs.
determines if air bag should deploy Newer airbags trigger at a lesser
•If bag does not deploy, info retained speed; nonetheless, passengers must
for 250 ignition cycles (6 weeks) aka remain at least 25 centimetres (10 in)
“Near Deployment Event” from the bag to avoid injury from the
–Non-deployment – the most severe bag in a crash.
event if multiple events Injuries such as abrasion of the skin,
•If bag does deploy, info retained hearing damage (from the sound
permanently during deployment), head injuries, and
–One to three collisions may be breaking the nose, fingers, hands or
stored, depending on module arms can occur as the airbag deploys.
•On Near Deployment Events, time is
of essence. Whiplash is the common name for a
Airbag deployment data are critical in hyper extension/flexion injury to the
understanding airbag performance. cervical, thoracic or lumbar spines.
 Repair The injury is referred to as "whiplash"
The supplemental restraint system due to the neck or back being thrown
(SRS) forwards and/or backwards at a rapid
speed. This causes the fibres of the
neck muscles to tear, resulting in pain
and often a decreased range of weight of the occupant,
movement. Whiplash is a commonly whether the occupant is
associated with motor vehicle present (especially in the
accidents, usually when the vehicle case of passenger-side
has been hit in the rear, however the air bags where
injury can be sustained in many other. deployment may be
unnecessary if there are
Benefits no passengers), and the
proximity of the driver to
Air bags supplement the safety belt by the steering wheel (a
reducing the chance that the driver slumped over the
occupant's head and upper body will steering wheel could be
strike some part of the vehicle's seriously injured by an
interior. They also help reduce the risk air bag deployment).
of serious injury by distributing crash  Conclusion
forces more evenly across the • Air bags
occupant's body. reduce the
"One recent study concluded that as risk of
many as 6,000 lives have been saved dying in a
as a result of airbags." direct
However, the exact number of lives frontal
saved is almost impossible to crash by
calculate. about 30
 Future percent.
• The air bags of the • Airbag
future will be more system
economical to produce needs
and lighter in weight; will costly
involve smaller, more manufactur
integrated systems; and ing process
will use improved which
sensors. Head and/or increases
knee bolsters (energy the cost of
absorbing pads) to vehicle
complement the air bag which is
system are also being not
investigated. affordable
• Rear-seat air bags are to middle-
also being tested but class
consumer demand is not customer.
expected to be high. • Airbag
• In the future, more system is
sophisticated sensors mandatory
called "smart" sensors in western
will be used to tailor the nations,
deployment of the air such
bag to certain awareness
conditions. is needed
• Sensors could be used in india
to sense the size and also.
References:

Periodicals

• Gottschalk, Mark A.
"Micromachined Airbag Sensor
Tests Itself," Design News.
October 5, 1992, p. 26.
• Grable, Ron. "Airbags: In Your
Face, By Design," Motor Trend.
January, 1992, pp. 90-91.
• Haayen, Richard J. "The Airtight
Case for Air Bags," Saturday
Evening Post. November, 1986.
• Reed, Donald. "Father of the Air
Bag," Automotive Engineering.
February, 1991, p. 67.
• Sherman, Don. "It's in the Bag,"
Popular Science. October, 1992,
pp. 58-63.
• Spencer, Peter L. "The Trouble
with Air Bags," Consumers'
Research. January, 1991, pp. 10-
13.

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