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Laser Cutting Challenges Today’s Airbag Manufacturing
Post Time: 12-15-16

Recently, large-scale airbag recalls have sparked public attention to the need to incorporate stringent quality standards into the manufacture of airbags. The impact on safety of these lifesaving equipment is a sign that consumer confidence has been eroded by relentless cost pressures on suppliers. To win back the trust of the public, OEMs are taking extraordinary steps to ensure the safety of their passengers. These aims to improve the quality of airbag control level of new measures brought additional challenges to first-tier suppliers. In the ever-changing airbag supply ecosystem, they are still focused on reducing the unit cost of airbags.

 Increasingly complicated markets

With the average annual increase to 4% in light vehicle production by 2020, the airbag market is expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1% during this period. In part because of the overall shift in growth stemming from the introduction of new safety regulations in India, China and other developing countries. By 2020, emerging economies are expected to account for 58% of global vehicle production. Only China will account for more than 30%. The production of commercial vehicles and passenger cars will exceed Western Europe and North America.

For mature markets, increasing passive safety will enable new airbags to achieve a wider range of applications, such as in a single advanced vehicle can have up to 12 kinds of applications. For most new vehicles, the driver side, passenger side and side curtain airbags are standard, while many passenger and light trucks are equipped with eight or more airbags. In addition, with the release of recommendations by the Automotive Safety Testing Agency, such as the New Car Evaluation Procedure (NCAP), to promote the use of larger, wider side impact airbags, the size of the airbag products have also been in development and evolution.

The innovative use of new airbags continues to deepen both inside and outside the vehicle. Volvo and Land Rover are currently offering pedestrian airbags for selected models on the European market. In the range of 20 to 50 km per hour, these airbags are designed to minimize certain frontal impacts. Other concepts still under development include a rear airbag mounted on the front seat and roof.

 The challenge for the industry

Because of the aftermath of the airbag inflator scandal, the automaker has taken stringent measures to strengthen the inspection of the components of the airbag ignition system. The automated inspection system enables suppliers to ensure that their components meet stringent safety standards without slowing production schedule.

For the fabric part of the airbag, the type of inflator used generally determines the choice of material. In a similar way, automated visual inspection has become an important part of the quality monitoring process.

However, the strengthening measures only exacerbate the complexity of the manufacturing process. Despite these new development initiatives, airbag suppliers still maintain the same cost targets to make a profit. Airbag manufacturers are reaching the limit of cost optimization, so there is an urgent need to find a solution to the plight of a sharp decline in costs. This explains why many manufacturers are using less expensive materials, such as polyester fibers. However, the lower cost is bound to show weaknesses, because the intrinsic elastic properties of these materials tend to be more serious deformation.

Improve the road safety value chain

When combined with process optimization and resource optimization, the most advanced laser cutting technology can help airbag manufacturers overcome multiple business challenges. Advanced airbag design and cutting technology can meet these stringent new requirements, even in the use of low-cost materials such as polyester, but also to ensure that the final quality close to zero defects. By increasing productivity and efficiency, suppliers can achieve gains, remain competitive, and meet the increasingly demanding requirements of OEMs.

Identifying anomalies during the production process can result in severe losses such as downtime or expensive re-cutting, especially when the safety of the vehicle passengers is threatened. Today, the new airbag pre-production software and laser cutting machine is designed to standardize the entire production process by validating every step of the airbag fabric preparation process.

Since the geometry of the cutting part comes from the industrial design department, in various forms, the first step is to check the consistency the of unit and the scale. The second step is to remove all the geometries that are not needed for the cut, even if the naked eye is not visible.

High speed multi-layer laser cutting

The use of a high power laser beam to cut a thick stack of cutting and suturing materials at high speed conditions and without melting the material layer requires highly precise dynamic laser power control. In fact, cutting is done by sublimation, but this can only be achieved if the laser beam power level is adjusted in real time. When the strength is insufficient, the machined parts cannot be cut correctly. While the strength is too strong, the layers of material will be squeezed together, resulting in the accumulation of fiber particles between the layers. A new generation of laser cutting machine can effectively control the laser power intensity in the nearest wattage and microsecond range. (Figure 1)

A new generation of laser cutting machine for airbag

Figure 1: A new generation of laser cutting machine can efficiently control the laser power intensity in the closest range of wattage and microseconds to automatically compensate for minor temperature changes with the risk of melting the material.

In addition, several factors may be taken into account, such as the nature of the material to be cut, the geometry of the shape, the cutting speed and acceleration, and so on. It is also necessary to consider the workpieces cut a little earlier in order to adjust the temperature at which the risk of melting of the material in the vicinity of the zone is increased slightly and which may cause the adjacent zone to melt. This is precisely the risk of tangent, which cuts the flow through a single cutting path to ensure flawless quality.

Correct the cutting path, Eliminate airbag defects

Theoretically, cutting a molded airbag requires designing a starting point, and using a specific template to outline a consistent cutting path. If the material itself is completely rule-based, it will be the only operation to be performed. However, since low-cost polyesters are more elastic than other fibers, weaving and post-processing of the material may cause bending or skewing of all or part of the workpiece.

Advanced pre-production software

Figure 2: Advanced pre-production software enables the geometry of each airbag cut-out to be instantaneously adapted to the actual profile of the primary fabric.

These complex problems can now be easily solved with a new generation of cutting preparation software. By defining a specific area of the unchangeable primary molding airbag design, the laser cutter instantaneously adapts the geometry of each cut to the actual profile of the fabric (Figure 2), while meeting the positioning and spacing rules.

Golden Laser cutting software can create the size of the workpiece cutting and verification template exactly the same, with a constant system capacity, even in the cutting height deformation of the material as well.

The production process is a step that leads to profit or loss. By using the right pre-production software and the latest laser cutting technology, airbag manufacturers can reduce their unit production costs while producing flawless products that contribute to the road safety value chain.