The focus of R&D teams at Elkem Silicones
21st century, automobiles are changing, and users have growing expectations in terms of quality, aesthetic, comfort, and safety. Vehicles are becoming lighter, better equipped, and their environmental impact has come under scrutiny. And now, fully loaded with electronics, they are even autonomous!
The automotive industry needs sustained Research and Development in a constant quest for effective protection of occupants. Automotive airbags evolve with technology, regulations, and interior constraints. They will have new designs, they may be larger, but also need to be lighter, while withstanding high speed tensions and hot gases during their deployment. Silicone coatings are a critical component of airbag cushions, both to ensure proper deployment and also to guarantee the functionality of the airbag over its lifespan.
Some 20 years ago, Elkem Silicones made the commitment to the industry to keep working on these functional coatings, investing continuously towards ever-improving solutions and innovations in the field of airbags. Elkem Silicones’ R&D activities are managed by three main groups: the design team, the scale-up team and the technical service team.
The design phase is critical; it implies looking for answers to the evolving needs of end customers, being aware of new trends in textiles, processes, performances and of new road safety standards. Design must also ensure the quality of our products before they go on the market, with tests especially adapted to their use in airbags. Tests may be performed on the fresh products but must also be conducted after ageing to ensure that the continuing performance of airbag cushions no matter how old the car. For example, when polyester yarns became trendy, the team looked for solutions to create the first silicone coating compatible with these more difficult, lower cost, fabrics. BLUESIL™ TCS 7537 was created.
Scale-Up oversees the transition from the laboratory to the full production scale. During this phase, our team takes into account all possible scenarios linked to quality of raw materials, process optimization, waste reduction and robustness of the overall production process. This robustness is what guarantees our customers’ piece of mind: they can be ensured that the cushions they are producing will always be reliable, and that is why two-thirds of our customers have been using our materials for over a decade!
Technical Service’s role is to support our customers in many ways, helping them with every aspect of the use of our products: technical recommendations, testing, assisting in the design of textiles, helping the set-up of processing options, as well as developing brand new solutions via true developmental partnerships. The team is always open to new ideas, new challenges, and excited to support innovation. Because we care. By knowing perfectly the silicone chemistry, the various textile processes and the needs of airbag applications, Elkem Silicones’ technical service has what it takes to efficiently produce millions of square meters of coated fabrics for the most reliable airbag cushions.
Elkem Silicones has been rewarded by the industry many times during these past 20 years for our innovative solutions and their impact on the safety of the automobiles that are on the roads today. It is part of who we are, of our values, and these innovations have clearly shown proven performance and reliability: no wonder one car in four is equipped with airbag cushions using Elkem Silicones!
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