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In the automotive field, the safety of passengers is key and drives research and development as well as quality control procedures. Each critical component has to be tested. Looking to gain larger market share in recent years, automotive producers have been including new and original features in car interiors. Besides aesthetics, all of these features have to meet precise technical specifications with regards to strength, durability, and safety. Some of the most critical parts are dashboards and surrounding items such as steering wheel columns, column switches, and airbags. In the event of an accident, the dashboard will absorb a significant amount of the impact energy and, when needed, airbags will deploy. Dashboards are designed to minimize and absorb shocks, their basic construction consists of foam padding and a cover made of PVC. This cover must break in a specific way when an airbag has to deploy to protect the occupants without causing additional injuries.
To understand the sequence in which the PVC cover breaks as the airbag is deployed, engineers perform impact tests on both samples of the materials used as well as the finished cover itself. The 9350 drop tower paired with both standard and custom fixtures is an ideal solution for this application. The addition of a thermostatic chamber and the high energy options allows the materials to be impacted over a wide variety of temperatures and speeds – up to 24 m/s. By testing both the raw materials and the finished product, engineers can investigate how changes in material selection, design, and manufacturing processes have an effect on impact performance of the cover. This is critical testing for the safety of vehicles passengers.