This invention relates to passenger side airbags deployed
from an instrument panel of a vehicle.
FIG. 13 shows a prior art conventional passenger side airbag
200 that is inflated by an inflator 280. The airbag 200 has a single inflatable
chamber 330. The face portion or front panel 320 of the airbag 200 impacts a vehicle
occupant 220 in the regions of the chest, shoulders and head. If the vehicle occupant's
seated position at the time of airbag deployment deviates from the normal seated
position by being too far forward relative to the seat back 260 of the seat 240,
the impact of the airbag with the vehicle occupant increases.
In the United States of America the National Highway Transportation
Safety Administration test criteria of a 1 year old, a 3 year old, a 6 year old;
a 47.6 kg female (5th percentile) are each considered sufficiently different
to warrant separate criteria for airbag deployment beyond that of a normal size
and weight adult vehicle occupant. Similarly, pregnant women have unique requirements
to insure survivability of the infant they are carrying. These and other factors
make the design and construction of such safety devices very complex.
The vehicle occupant safety restraints industry attempts
to provide vehicle occupant restraint devices with a maximum range of safety for
the greatest number of potential uses at the highest possibility reliability while
still being affordably priced. In science and engineering a constant truth is that
"simplicity leads to reliability". The trend toward complex sensors and controls
increases the number of components, which leads to increasing the risk of a component
malfunction that reduces the overall reliability. Engineers are forced to design
in redundancy that further increases cost.
Fig. 14 shows another prior art airbag 200a of a type proposed
US 2003/0218326 A1
US 2004/0232681 A1
US 2004/0155439 A1
. The prior art airbag 200a has spaced apart lobes 340a, 340b, separated
by a groove or space 360. When this airbag 200a is inflated the space or groove
360 is positioned in front of a normally positioned vehicle occupant 220 to avoid
a high impact contact with the vehicle occupant's head. The vehicle occupant contacts
the airbag 200a primarily between the lateral lobes 340a, 340b in relation to the
right and left sides of the vehicle occupant's torso and shoulders. Compared to
the prior art airbag 200 of Fig. 13, the impact is lessened if the vehicle occupant
220 is out of position relative to the center of the seat 240 or the seat back 260
at the beginning of airbag deployment.
To date none of the systems commonly used can accommodate
the deployment of an airbag towards an infant in an infant seat facing the rear
of a vehicle in the front seat of a vehicle. Accordingly all vehicle manufacturers
provide warnings against such an occurrence.
The present invention provides in accordance with Claim
1 an airbag that can meet the test criteria for a 1 year old infant, a 3 year old,
a 6 year old and a 5th percentile woman while still meeting the design
standards for a 50th percentile adult passenger.
- FIG. 1 is perspective view of an airbag according to the present invention shown
in a deployed and inflated condition.
- FIG. 2 is a top view looking down at the airbag of FIG. 1.
- FIG. 3 is a front view of the airbag of FIG. 1.
- FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the airbag of FIG. 1 with most of the left side
panel removed to show the internal tethers and diffuser components.
- FIG. 5 is the perspective view of FIG. 4 with both side panels removed.
- FIGs. 5A through 5H are plan views of the various airbag components shown prior
to being sewn together.
- FIGS. 6A through 6H are plan views of an alternative embodiment of the airbag
showing the panels and other components in plan view prior to assembly.
- FIG. 7 is a diagrammatic view of an inflated airbag showing the invention of
the Grooved Air Bag of
US Patent Application serial number US 11/252,426
- FIG. 7A is an isometric view of the airbag of FIG. 7 shown inflated in relation
to a vehicle's windshield and seat.
- FIG. 8 is an exploded view of the various airbag components of the airbag of
FIG. 7 shown prior to being sewn together.
- FIG. 9 is a side plan view illustrating one of the side panels of the airbag
of FIG. 7, as well as a center panel and a tether shown in dotted and dashed line.
- FIG. 10 shows an alternative for a component of the airbag of FIG. 7.
- FIG. 10A shows another alternative of the airbag of FIG. 7.
- FIG. 11 shows a further alternative of the airbag of FIG. 7.
- FIG. 12 shows still another alternative of the airbag of FIG. 7
- FIG. 13 is a top view of one type of prior art passenger airbag.
- FIG. 14 is a top view of another type of prior art passenger airbag.
- FIG. 15 is a cross sectional view of an exemplary inflator that can be used
in combination with the airbag of the present invention.
FIG. 1 shows an airbag 10 according to the present invention
that has a main panel 12 and two side panels 14,16. The main panel 12 has a top
portion, a front portion and a bottom portion and as shown in FIG. 5A can be made
from a single panel of airbag fabric. The combination of the main panel 12 and side
panels 14, 16 define a single inflatable chamber 301. The inflatable chamber 301
has an opening formed by the ends of the main panel cooperating with the side panels
to create a passageway 30 that allows inflation gas to enter the inflatable chamber
301 and inflate the airbag 10, In FIG. 1 a recessed portion 20 of the airbag is
shown. The recessed portion 20 illustrated in FIG. 3 has a center recess panel 22,
a left recess panel 24 and a right recess panel 26, the combination of which forms
a recessed portion 20 within the main panel 12. The term "recess" as used herein
and in the claims means a concavity in the surface, such as an enclosure that is
set back or indented. This recessed portion 20 divides the airbag 10 into two lobe
portions 40, 42. The lobe portions 40, 42 are spaced apart by the recessed portion
20 in an amount sufficient to allow each lobe portion to act somewhat independently
upon inflation. In FIG. 3 the lobe portions 40, 42 are in the front and lower portions
of the main panel 12 when the airbag is in a fully deployed state and are fully
open to form a part of the single inflatable chamber 301.
FIGs. 4 and 5 show the airbag 10 deployed with one or both
side panels 14, 16 removed so that the inflatable chamber 301 of the airbag 10 can
be more easily observed. In the interior of the airbag 10, the center recessed panel
22 of the recessed portion 20 is connected to a tether 50. The tether 50 extends
towards the gas inlet passageway 30. The gas inlet passageway 30 mates with and
is attached to an airbag module housing 303 adapted to house both the airbag 10
and an inflator 305 to form an airbag module assembly 310. When a crash sensor senses
a crash an actuating signal is sent to the inflator 305 that provides gases to inflate
and propel the airbag 10 from the instrument panel of the vehicle. The airbag 10
near the gas inlet passageway 30 has an end attached to the module housing 303 or
another component of the module to secure the airbag. The forward movement of the
recessed portion 20 is limited by the tether 50. Preferably, a second tether 52
is provided that further restrains the upward movement and forward movement of the
airbag 10 in such a fashion that both the upper portion of the airbag 10 and the
lower portion of the airbag 10 are restrained from excess forward movement by the
tethers. When the term "forward" is used herein and in the claims with respect to
the deployment of an airbag it is understood to mean a direction toward a vehicle
A diffuser element 60 is shown in Fig. 5H is a separate
fabric component; but the diffuser element 60 may be an integral part of one or
both of the tethers 50, 52. in either form the diffuser element 60 provides a means
for deflecting the flow of inflation gases entering the airbag laterally towards
the side panels 14, 16 as the airbag is unfolding. As a direct result of the position
of the diffuser element 60 the gas flow is not in a straight line. The inflation
gas follows a path that is first laterally directed toward either side of the airbag
10 and then moves forward which helps slow airbag deployment.
The recessed portion 20 is located only at a lower portion
of the deployed airbag that extends vertically from the front portion to the bottom
portion of the main panel 12. The recessed portion 20 is located at or below the
location of the gas inlet passageway 30 relative to a horizontal plane passing through
the gas inlet passageway when the airbag is deployed. The gas inlet passageway 30
has the inflation gas moving in an upward direction and then deflected by the diffuser
element 60. The recessed portion 20 that is attached by the tether 50 moves outwardly
as the airbag 10 is deployed to a point at which the tether 50 becomes taut. At
such a point the recessed portion 20 can no longer extend forward towards the vehicle
occupant, however, the side lobe portions 40, 42 continue to inflate and they can
absorb the impact of the vehicle occupant as he moves forward during a vehicle crash.
Preferably one or more vent openings 102 are strategically positioned on each side
of the airbag 10 to facilitate deflation of the airbag after deployment and interaction
with the vehicle occupant. Each vent opening 102 is sized to permit a release of
gases from the airbag. The vent openings 102 are located in an upper portion on
each side panel about midway between the inlet passage 30 and the front portion
12 and above each lobe portion 40, 42. The lobe portions 40, 42 provide a lower
force cushioning effect that is less severe than the top portion of the airbag 10.
Each lobe portion 40, 42 is free to move and deflect inwardly both laterally on
the side as well as internally relative to the recessed portion 20. An out of position
vehicle occupant might compress one lobe portion more than the other lobe portion,
but due to the structure of the single inflatable chamber 301 being fully open to
that portion created within the lobe portion an easy deflection of this portion
is possible such that a small child or infant will not receive a full impact of
a conventional airbag upon deployment. The lobe portion 40, 42 can deflect in both
directions laterally and also rearwardly back towards the instrument panel. The
airbag geometry is such that a small child or out of position child or a passenger
seated close to the airbag will be struck by one or both of the lobe portions 40,
42. The lobe portions being easily deflected reduces the amount of force applied
to the vehicle occupant to greatly reduce the risk of injury. If the vehicle occupant
is perfectly centered then portions of both lobe portions 40, 42 can contact him
as well as the recessed portion 20 which is restrained by the tether 50 as the airbag
The airbag geometry provides a low deployment force directed
at the vehicle occupant at the lower portion of the airbag 10 where children and
infants are most vulnerable. The upper portion of the airbag 10 beyond the recessed
portion 20 provides a more conventional single faceted airbag that is more than
capable of providing sufficient cushioning for an adult vehicle occupant. The airbag
10 can perform satisfactorily when inflated by a single stage inflator, many examples
of which are well known. The airbag 10 is functional with dual stage pyrotechnic
and hybrid inflators and is not limited to use with single stage inflators.
The new U.S.A. regulations requiring that airbags be suitable
for a generic family of vehicle occupant sizes means that either airbag systems
will become far more complex or the systems will have sensors that will prevent
deployment of the airbag. The present invention satisfies all these requirements
without requiring shutting off the airbag under certain circumstances. Under all
conditions including slow speed crashes at 40 kilometers per hour or less, the vehicle
occupants can be safely cushioned by the airbag without the risk of having a an
airbag propelled towards the vehicle occupant with too high of a force that could
FIGs. 5A through 5H illustrate each of the components or
panels used to make the airbag of the present invention. These panels are typically
made of woven airbag fabric of nylon or polyester. In FIG. 5A the main panel 12
forms a top, a bottom and a front portion of the airbag 10. The main panel 12 has
a symmetrical configuration wherein both of its ends 30a, 30b neck or narrow down
to provide a portion of the gas inlet passageway 30. An opening 11 is surrounded
by edges 12a, 12c, 12b, 12c of the opposite side. As shown the opening 11 is rectangular
FIG. 5B shows the side panels 14, 16 for the left and right
sides of the airbag. The side panel 14 is for the left hand side of the airbag whereas
the right hand side 16 of the airbag is illustrated being a mirror image of the
side panel 14. Each of the panels 14, 16 has a portion 30d, 30c to provide a portion
of the gas inlet passageway 30. Vent openings 102 are provided as shown in FIGs.
5B and 6B on each side panel 14, 16. The edges 14e, 16e of the side panels are attached
to the front main panel along the lateral edges 12e of the main panel. The edges
of these panels can be sewn or otherwise affixed to one another to make the inflatable
chamber 341. The opening 11 in the main panel is provided with a right hand recess
panel and a left-hand recess panel 26, 24. The right and left hand recess panels
24, 26 are sewn along their curved edges 24c, 26c to an edge 12c of the opening
11 in the main panel. Once sewn to each edge 12c of the rectangular opening 11,
the side recess panels 24, 26 are then sewn at their straight edges 24d, 26d to
the center recess panel 22 along edges 22d of the center recess panel. The recessed
portion 20 has a pocket shape that closes the entire opening 11 of the main panel
12. What in the deployed airbag will be the top and bottom edges 22a, 22b of the
center recess panel 22 are sewn to the corresponding edges 12a, 12b of the opening
11 in the main panel.
in FIGs. 5F and 5G two tethers 50, 52 are provided, In
FIGs. 4 and 5 the tether 50 is connected to the center recess panel 22 along a sewn
line 22c at location 50c on the tether 50. The opposite end 50g of the tether 50
is preferably sewn or attached at or near the bottom end 30b of the main panel 12
near the passageway 30 that is formed by the assembly of the main panel 12 and the
two side panels 14, 16. Preferably the tether 50 is centered on the main panel 12
and sewn in that location.
FIGs. 4, 5 and 5F show the second tether 52 attached to
the main panel 12 at a location 12f with the end 52f being sewn there. At the opposite
end 52g the tether 52 can be attached near the passageway 30. Although not shown,
a tether 50, 52 can be provided with an extension that can form all or a portion
of the diffuser element 60 which can either be an integral component of a tether
50, 52. In FIG. 5H the diffuser element 60 is a separate component in which case
both ends would need to be sewn to the main panel 12 traversing the passageway 30
on both sides of the main panel 12. The tether 52 secures the airbag 10 at an upper
portion near or on the top portion of the main panel 12 such that in a fully extended
position it has a slight vertical inclination and projects outwardly at about 45
degrees relative to the gas inlet passageway 30. This provides restraint of the
upward movement of the airbag. The lower tether 50 projects outwardly either horizontally
or preferably slightly below the gas inlet passageway 30 and is attached to the
center recess panel 22 which holds the recessed portion 20 open so that upon inflation
the recessed portion 20 maintains its open recessed shape relative to the inflatable
An alternative embodiment is shown in FlGs. 6A through
6H that is substantially identical to that as shown in the FIGs. 1 through 5H. In
FIGs. 6D and 6E the right and left recess panels 25, 23 have a curved side 23c,
25c with the ends of the curved side connected by a single straight side 23d, 25d
such that the outer contour of the airbag is maintained in a curvilinear fashion
as previously shown. However, the recessed portion 20 initiates at a point in both
locations as opposed to having a deepened flat upper portion as shown in the first
embodiment. In this embodiment the tether 50 should be attached preferably at a
location 22c to the lower portion of the recess along the lower corner at the location
where the side recess panels 23, 25 intersect the main panel 12. The recessed portion
20 is held in the open position at generally one end of the semicircular recess
panels 23, 25.
The airbag 10 can be modified such that the recessed portion
20 as formed can have a more complex configuration, however, the recessed portion
22 should be tethered such that forward movement of the recessed portion is restrained
and that the lobe portions 40, 42 can independently interact with a vehicle occupant.
The airbag can easily deform and collapse in that region in such a fashion that
the vehicle occupant will not be taking the full force of the deploying airbag 10
in the lower portion, as would be the case in the upper portion of the airbag striking
an adult vehicle occupant. As shown the center recess panel 22 and the opening 11
are rectangular and of similar width. The center recess panel can be made wider
or narrower relative to the opening 11 such that the side panels are inclined making
tapered sidewalls of the recessed portion 20. The recess center panel 22 and the
opening 11 can be oval or trapezoidal in shape or larger at the bottom of the recessed
portion 20 and narrower as the recessed portion 20 extends toward the upper portions.
The airbag 10 has at least one tether attached to the center
recess panel 22 at a location about halfway between the upper and lower ends 22a,
22b. The length of an upper tether 52 is greater than or equal to the sum of the
length of the tether 50 attached to the center recess panel 22 and the distance
from the location where the tether 50 is attached to the center recess panel 22
to the main panel 12 extending along the side recess panels 24, 26; 23, 25. The
recess portion 20 preferably has a width in the inflated airbag of at least 25%
of the width of the front portion of the main panel 12, preferably between 25% and
35% of the overall width. The overall length of the recess can be varied between
40% and 65% of the overall airbag height. The recessed portion 22 has a maximum
depth as measured along one of the side recess panels at or below a vertical point
of along the side recess panel that preferably is at least equal to or greater than
the width of the recessed portion 22.
An exemplary airbag 10 according to the present invention
was manufactured and tested. The exemplary airbag had an overall width of 500 mm
and an overall height of 650 mm with a 250 mm long recess 20 having a width of 120
mm and a depth ranging from 180 mm at the top of the recess to 235 mm at the bottom.
The exemplary airbag was deployed using an inflator of the type shown in FIG. 15.
This exemplary inflator is disclosed in
United States Patent Application Serial No. 11/241,222 filed 03 October 2005
. The exemplary inflator 505 has an inflator housing 511 filled with a
pressurized inert gas 506 and one or more gas heaters 501, 502 connected at an end
of the inflator housing 511. At least one of the gas heaters 501, 502 has an outer
shell defining the heater housing 501 a having a plurality of holes 560 in it. A
generant charge 527 is stored in a gas generating chamber 505. The gas generating
chamber 505 and the inflator housing 511 communicate with each other through the
holes 560. An ignitor 503 is connected to the gas heater 2 and is located at an
end of the inflator housing 511. An enhancer storage chamber 504 is disposed between
the ignition means 503 and the gas heater 501, 502. The enhancer storage chamber
504 is located between the gas generating chamber 505 and the ignition means 503
and is separated from the gas generating chamber 505 by a bulkhead 540. The bulkhead
540 has openings 542 leading to the gas generating chamber 505. Gas exits the inflator
through passageways 561 in the inflator housing 511, then passes through the opening
in the airbag to enter the inflatable chamber. This exemplary inflator 305 is a
multistage type hybrid inflator that was successfully used in an evaluation test
of an airbag 10 according to the present invention.
FIGS. 5A - 5G and 6A - 6G show the airbag panels may be
separate fabric components that are attached or sewn together. Alternatively the
fabric can be made by knitting or weaving wherein the individual components are
formed simultaneously or as a unitary knitted structure having a top, front, bottom
and sides with a vertically extending recessed portion 22 on the lower portion of
the airbag 10 similar if not identical to the sewn panel type airbag.
An airbag according to the present invention may be a part
of an airbag module 310 having a module housing 303. An inflator 305 is inside the
module housing 303 and an airbag 10 according to the present invention is attached
to the module housing 303 and may be folded inside the module 310.
Referring to FIGs. 7-12, the airbag of the present invention
airbag is a refinement of an airbag disclosed in an earlier filed
priority application US 11/252426 filed 17 October 2005
entitled "Grooved Air Bag".
The airbag 100 shown in FlGs. 7, 7A, 8 and 9 has a main
panel 102 having a face panel portion 103, which faces a vehicle occupant, and a
plurality of side panels 104a, 104b. Each of these panels is made typically from
woven airbag fabric comprising nylon or polyester. The side panels 104a, 104b are
substantially identical and are the mirror image of each other. Each of the side
panels 104a, 104b includes a neck portion 120 and a cushion portion 122, The main
panel has a pair of opposing neck portions 124 and a cushion portion 126; the face
panel portion mentioned above is part of the cushion portion 126. The cushion portion,
in the vicinity of the face panel portion 103 includes an opening 130, which as
will described below is used to form a recess in the inflated airbag 100. The airbag
is formed by sewing an edge 132 of the side panel 104a to an edge 134 of the main
panel 102. An edge 132 of the other side panel 104b is sewn to an edge 134a of the
main panel 102 in a known manner providing the airbag 100 with its general shape.
An inflator 308 is positioned within the neck of the airbag. The airbag is folded
and stored in a housing 306 of an airbag module 300 of which the airbag 100 is a
An opening 130 in the main panel 102 has one or more edges
140a, 140b, 140c, 140d. Even though the opening 130 is shown as rectangular, the
opening 130 can be oblong, as shown in FIG. 10, which shows an alternate face panel
102a with an oval opening 130a. The opening 130b in the face panel portion can be
a hybrid shape, for example a combination of trapezoidal or triangular 131 and rectangular
131a in shape, as shown in FIG. 10A, to minimize impact with a child or small adult
in an out-of-position seating position with their head or chest on or very close
to the cover of the airbag module.
The airbag 100 includes a concave or cup shaped structure
149 of fabric fitted within the opening 130 and sewn or otherwise secured to the
edges 140a -140d of the main panel opening 130. The cup shaped structure 149 is
located within the airbag below the exterior surface of the main panel and is used,
in cooperation with a tether and other panels of fabric, to create a groove or recess
110 between opposing lobe portions 112a, 112b. The cup shaped structure 149 is formed
by a shaped, single panel or by sewing one or more panels of fabric to the edges
140a -140d of the opening 130.
In FIG. 8 an airbag 100 includes a left recess panel 150
and a right recess panel 152. An edge 150a of the left recess panel 150 is sewn
to an edge 140d of the opening 130 in the main panel, while an edge 152a or the
right recess panel 152 is sewn to another edge 140c of the opening 130 in main panel
102. Both the left recess panel 150 and right recess panel 152 has a respective
side edge 156, 158 opposite edges 150a, 152a. When the side panels 150, 152 are
sewn to the edges of the opening 130 of the main panel 102, they provide depth to
the opening 130, as well as to openings 130a, 130b. The airbag 100 further includes
a center recess panel 160 having edges 162a, 162b, 162c, 162d. In general the center
recess panel will follow the shape of the opening 130, 130a, 130b in the main panel.
An edge 162d of the center recess panel is sewn to an edge 156 of the left recess
panel 150, while another edge 162c of the center recess panel is sewn to edge 158
of the right recess panel 152. An edge 162a of the center recess panel is sewn to
an edge 140a of the opening in the main panel, and another edge 162b of the center
recess panel is sewn to an edge 140b of the opening in the main panel. The panels
150, 152, 160 form the cup shaped or concave structure. The concave shape of structure
149 can be formed, for example, by creating pleats 163 positioned about a flat piece
of fabric 165.
If the cup shaped structure 149 including the three recess
panels 150, 152, 160, after being sewn to the main panel 102, is pushed rearward
through the opening 130 in the main panel, a recessed structure, that is, recess
110 is formed. If the motion of one or more of the panels 150, 152, 160 is not restrained
as the airbag inflates, this concave structure 149, upon inflation of the airbag,
will balloon outwardly in front of the face panel. To prevent this ballooning, the
airbag 100 includes one or more tethers 180. FIG. 8 illustrates one tether. The
tether 180 is a panel having opposed edges 182a, 182b and an intermediate point
184. The tether 180 can be secured to a portion of the module 300 such as a housing
FiGs. 7, 8 and 9 illustrate the placement and location
of the tether 180 in relation to the other panels forming the airbag 100. FIG. 8
illustrates, in regard to panel 160, dotted lines 186a, 186b, the connection line
or seam at which edges 182a, 182b of the tether 180 are respectively sewn to the
recess center panel 160. FIG. 8 also has another dotted line 188 to which the intermediate
line or section 184 of the tether 180 is sewn. Upon inflation of the airbag, the
tether 180 is stressed, thereby preventing the center recess panel 160, or in general
the center of the structure 149, from moving outwardly relative to the lobe portions
112a, 112b. This creates the groove or space 110 between the lobe portions 112a,
112b and permits the lobe portions 112a, 112b to inflate. FIG. 7A show the typical
inflated shape of the airbag 100. In FIG. 7A the airbag 100 is part of a top-mount
airbag module 300. The module 300 is placed, in a known manner, adjacent to the
top surface of an instrument panel 302 shown in phantom line. Upon inflation of
the airbag the module's cover is forced open and the airbag inflates upwardly toward
the windscreen 304 and forwardly toward the seated vehicle occupant. In FIG. 7A
the vehicle occupant is not shown, however, the vehicle 24 is shown.
As the airbag 100 initially deploys, the spacing between
the inflating lobe portions 112a, 112b might increase in size greater than the steady
state spacing. FIG. 11 shows a tether 400, preferably made of the same fabric as
the airbag, located on the face portion 103 of the main panel 102, which joins the
two lobe portions 112a, 112b and serves to limit the spacing of the lobe portions
during and after inflation. The material chosen for the tether, instead of being
airbag fabric, could for example be a length of woven seat belt webbing or any material
capable of absorbing a tensile load. In one embodiment a tether 400a joins the tops
of both lobe portions and is shown in phantom line and with the airbag inflated
will in general extend horizontally between the lobe portions. In the preferred
embodiment the tether 400 joins opposing middle parts of the lobe portions. In general
the lower tether 400 is positioned to be below the chest of a 6 year old vehicle
occupant when seated in an Out -of - Position location with his chest on the cover
of the airbag module, as well as below the neck of the normally seated 50th
percentile adult vehicle occupant.