Mukilteo, WA - Even though airbags now play an augmenting role in automobile passenger safety, it seems like a paradox that the auto industry-which for years in the 1960s and 1970s fought every safety concept from seatbelts to safety glass-now touts the number of air bags per vehicle in a parody of “mine has more than yours.”
First was the single steering-wheel-mounted airbag, which debuted in the late 1980s, which quickly evolved into dual front airbags, followed by side-impact devices, and now side-curtain airbags for both front and rear seat occupants.
Cutting air bag materials is one of those success stories for low-power CO2 lasers. We can remember the first units sold were versions of ship sail cutting machines, later improved by purpose-built units. Part of the application difficulty was the ability to cut multiple layers of material, which was overcome by interleaving paper sheet that was thrown away after the pattern was cut.
There are other applications associated with the airbags that have or will produce business for laser processing. Synrad (www.synrad.com) was asked to trepan mounting holes that fasten the driver’s side airbag to its retaining hub inside the steering wheel.
A flying optics beam delivery system using a laser beam coaxial with a gas assist stream cut seven layers of 0.118-in. thick material at speeds of 155 ipm using 200 W of CO2 laser power. For the 3-inch diameter center hole this equates to 3.23 seconds cycle time, and for the 6.3-inch fastener holes the trepanning time is 0.26 inches per second per hole. As shown in the photo, all holes are clean and debris and discoloration free. - DAB