A small, inconspicuous piece of plastic, no longer than 10 cm and 4 cm in diameter, is contributing to the crash safety of motor vehicles. This plastic component, which is moulded from Ultramid® B3ZG6, a toughened nylon 6 from BASF, belongs to the inflator unit of a new side airbag system developed by TRW Automotive Corp. The new airbag, which deploys at head height and cushions the front and rear passengers during a side impact, is already being fitted to the new BMW X3 and is due to be introduced into other vehicles shortly.
Because of the explosive pressures involved when the bag inflates, the functional parts of airbag modules are often still made of metal. However, there are now plastics capable of withstanding-even at low temperatures-the high stresses due to the sudden pressure increase1 during airbag deployment. The new Ultramid part weighs much less than its metal predecessor and allows other functions (eg, the fixing bracket) to be integrated.
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