SINGLE BOUNDARY LAYER OPTIMIZED RECALLED AIRBAG INFLATOR CONTAINER
1. A method for transporting airbag inflators that have ammonium-nitrate-based propellant, comprising:
- placing the inflators into a perforated steel container including;
six sides, including two single-layer perforated steel sidewalls, the two single-layer perforated steel sidewalls having openings with a maximum width between 1.3 millimeters and 75 millimeters and a thickness between 1.4 millimeters and 9 millimeters, wherein the six sides define a container volume of less than 50 cubic feet; and
an access door for opening one of the sides for adding or removing the airbag inflators; and
transporting the perforated steel container.
Embodiments described herein include layered mesh containers and methods for using the containers to safely transport and dispose of airbag inflators having ammonium-nitrate-based propellant. For example, a container with at least two single-layer sidewalls is provided that can hold multiple airbag inflators and withstand up to 4 moles of matter being deployed from an inflator having ammonium-nitrate-based propellant. The container can contain the inflator and any shrapnel associated with the explosion while also venting gases expelled as a result of the explosion. Various container designs are provided, along with methods for using these containers.
- 1. A method for transporting airbag inflators that have ammonium-nitrate-based propellant, comprising:
placing the inflators into a perforated steel container including; six sides, including two single-layer perforated steel sidewalls, the two single-layer perforated steel sidewalls having openings with a maximum width between 1.3 millimeters and 75 millimeters and a thickness between 1.4 millimeters and 9 millimeters, wherein the six sides define a container volume of less than 50 cubic feet; and an access door for opening one of the sides for adding or removing the airbag inflators; and transporting the perforated steel container.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
- 8. A perforated steel container for transporting airbag inflators with ammonium-nitrate-based propellant, comprising:
six sides, including two single-layer perforated steel sidewalls, the two single-layer perforated steel sidewalls having openings with a maximum width between 1.3 millimeters and 75 millimeters and a thickness between 1.4 millimeters and 9 millimeters, wherein the six sides define a container volume of less than 50 cubic feet, wherein the six sides define a breathable containment space that holds the airbag inflators and can withstand an inflator detonation of at least 4 moles of material; and a hinged door for adding and removing the airbag inflators to the breathable containment space.
- View Dependent Claims (9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
- 15. A method of transporting airbag inflators containing ammonium-nitrate-based propellant, including:
placing the airbag inflators in a container, the container including; a hinged door for adding and removing the airbag inflators to the breathable containment space; and locking the hinged door from opening; and transporting the container to a disposal facility.
This nonprovisional patent application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application No. 62/680,640 (“Single Boundary Layer Optimized Recalled Airbag Container Design”), filed Jun. 5, 2018, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. This nonprovisional patent application also claims priority as a continuation-in-part to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/832,863 (“Containers for Transporting and Disposing of Recalled Airbag Inflators”), filed Dec. 6, 2017, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/373,052, entitled “LAYERED MESH CONTAINERS FOR TRANSPORTING AND DISPOSING OF RECALLED AIRBAG INFLATORS” and filed Dec. 8, 2016, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/360,910, entitled “TRANSPORTING AND DISPOSING OF RECALLED AIRBAG INFLATORS” and filed Nov. 23, 2016, both of which claim priority to U.S. Provisional Application Nos. 62/401,142 and 62/336,558. All of these applications are incorporated herein in their entireties.
The embodiments described herein related to transporting and disposing of recalled airbag inflators using ammonium nitrate propellant, and specifically barrels constructed and used for doing so.
Airbags for passenger vehicles commonly use an “inflator” to inflate the airbag in case of an emergency. A typical inflator includes an ignitor and a propellant that inflates an airbag in the event of a vehicle crash. One of the world'"'"'s largest airbag suppliers—Takata®—has produced a large number of defective airbag inflators. As of November 2016, over 100 million Takata® inflators have been recalled worldwide. The scale of this recall has introduced safety, logistical, and environmental challenges involved with transporting and disposing of explosive and unstable airbag inflators.
The defective inflators use ammonium nitrate (“AN”) propellant. While designed to deploy upon receiving an electrical current at the inflator'"'"'s initiator pins, the defective inflators can also deploy with exposure to an external heat source such as fire. According to news sources, the current, unregulated process of transporting recalled Takata® airbags has already caused at least 16 deaths. As a result, a comprehensive protocol for ensuring safe transport and disposal of recalled inflators is needed.
To gain approval for shipping on U.S. roads, all production automotive airbag inflators and energetic assemblies, such as seat belt pre-tensioners, are subjected to a Department of Transportation (“DOT”) “bonfire” test. Europe'"'"'s DOT equivalent, BAM, requires a similar “gas burner” test. Both the DOT and BAM tests involve exposing airbag inflators to an open-flame heat source sufficient to cause auto ignition of the inflator'"'"'s main generant bed. To pass the test and be approved for shipping, an inflator must function without fragmenting due to the external heat source. Bonfire testing is the most rigorous structural test of an AN-based inflator design because ammonium nitrate propellant can melt before it burns, resulting in conditions inside the inflator that amplify challenges of ensuring the design does not fail structurally during the open flame deployment scenario.
The U.S. government, and other governments around the world, will likely classify AN-based airbag inflators as explosives or change the existing classification for recalled inflators. That new classification (or reclassification) would prevent traditional shipping methods from being used to transport these inflators. AN-based airbag inflators that are known to fragment due to over pressurization of the inflator'"'"'s pressure vessel housing during normal deployment conditions at ambient outside temperature are generally expected to fail at a higher rate (or are more likely to fail) when exposed to an external heat source such as DOT Bonfire testing. An inflator sample population that exhibits any structural failures when deployed at ambient temperature is likely to exhibit a significantly higher rate of structural failure when an external heat source causes the inflator to deploy. This is because operating pressure of the inflator'"'"'s internal combustion chamber tends to increase with temperature, while the steel pressure vessel strength decreases with temperature. This problem can become significantly worse if propellant melts.
Common auto-ignition materials ignite at temperatures above 130° C., which is significantly higher than any upper temperature limit the inflator design was intended to operate at during normal deployment conditions. Hence, an inflator suspected of structural failure when functioning at ambient temperature has an increasing likelihood of structural failure as temperature increases. Defective AN-based Takata® inflators can fragment even at ambient outside temperatures. Thus, they are expected to fragment more frequently if exposed to an external fire such as the DOT Bonfire test. These defective inflators are therefore not fit to be shipped using traditional methods used for non-defective inflators.
Currently, these recalled inflators are being shipped in steel drums with lids secured with tape, or in cardboard boxes, depending on the relevant state laws. These state laws have proven ineffective, as illustrated by a fatal explosion of a truck transporting recalled Takata® inflators in August 2016, in Texas. In some cases, specially designed thick-walled metal containers are being used to transport recalled inflators. However, these containers are expensive to build and are not suitable for mass production on the scale required for the current recalls. Lack of a common protocol at the national and global levels for the handling, packaging, storage, and shipment of inflators containing unstable ammonium-nitrate-based propellant may result in further human injury as well as economic and environmental damage.
Monetary savings could be realized by optimizing the container design and tailoring it to a configuration worthy of a non class 1 shipping hazard classification such as class 9. Such an optimized container design could be achieved by using a single layer of metal material on all sides or boundary walls of the container, instead of multiple layers. However, container design optimization testing, such as bonfire or “cook-off” test iterations, would need to be conducted on specific subgroups of recalled inflators in order to validate the optimized container design. At the time the provisional patent was filed (June 2018), recalled Takata airbags could be purchased at salvage auto parts vendors, as was the case for the aforementioned 156 recalled Takata inflators that were bonfire tested on Jun. 11, 2018 in the two containers shown on pages 2-8 were. However, once the two specific containers shown in this document were subjected to the UN6(c) bonfire test, and the results were known, guidelines and regulations were implemented about 5 months later which prevent such recalled inflators from being purchased. Specifically the EPA announced an Interim Final Rule on Nov. 13, 2018 declaring recalled Takata inflators are “hazardous waste” the moment they'"'"'re removed from a vehicle, and therefore they'"'"'re prohibited from being purchased/sold as replacement parts. Such regulations are in the public'"'"'s best interest. However, unless recalled inflators are made available for container optimization testing by some other means, it will be challenging for any entity that does not have access to recalled Takata airbag inflators for the purpose of testing, to validate an optimized container design.
As a result, a need exists for a nationally implementable, low-cost method for transporting recalled inflators. Safety concerns can be addressed with a process of modifying common containers or entire vehicles to achieve a structure and method suitable for the safe, bulk transport of recalled inflators using materials that are common across the continent, nation, or state. A method of construction and validation of the proposed shipping container designs is described for both large and small scales below.
An optimized container design could be achieved by using a single layer of metal material on all sides or boundary walls of the container, instead of multiple layers. However, container design optimization testing, such as test bonfire test iterations, would need to be conducted on specific subgroups of recalled inflators in order to sufficiently optimize such a container. Currently recalled Takata® airbags can be purchased at salvage parts vendors, like the inflators scheduled to be tested in these two containers were.
However, once the containers described herein are subjected to the UN6(c) bonfire test, and the results are known, it is highly likely that guidelines and regulations will be implemented which prohibit such recalled inflators from being purchased, which is good. Such regulations would be in the public'"'"'s best interest. However, unless recalled inflators are made available for container optimization testing, it will be technically challenging to validate an optimized container design.
A metal container can be built with at least two of six sidewalls consisting of one layer of perforated steel sheet material having a specific hole pattern and thickness uniquely suited for this application. Up to four of six sidewalls can have a double layer of mesh with an inner layer of expanded metal steel sheet pattern uniquely suited for this application. Either of these materials, the perforated steel sheet or the expanded metal, could be used to construct an optimized container design with a single layer sidewall as described above.
Additionally, a method for sorting inflators into optimized containers based on optimized container load can be incorporated. A device can be used to sort inflators based on size into multiple adjacent containers, each container being optimized to handle a different load. For example, a first container can be optimized for driver-side inflators and a second container can be optimized for passenger-side inflators. Driver-side inflators include less powerful inflators than passenger-side, and therefore can be sorted into smaller single-wall containers, in an example.
The words “detonate,” “explode,” and “deploy” are used interchangeably herein, and can refer to any condition where the metal housing fragments or fails, and/or propellant exits the body of the inflator, either intentionally or unintentionally. The propellant, along with any other chemicals or substances within the housing of an airbag inflate, can be collectively referred to as “energetics” or “energetic material.”
The method can also include measuring a first weight of the container including the live airbag inflator. The method can further include applying heat to the container sufficient to deploy the live airbag inflator. In some examples, this includes heating the container such that the inflators reach a core temperature of at least 130 degrees Celsius. In some examples, the container is heated such that the inflators reach a core temperatures of at least 180 degrees Celsius. This can include, for example, heating the container via convection, conduction, or radiation. In order to ensure complete disposal of an inflator, the inflator must reach auto-ignition temperature. The main generate bed of an inflator will typically automatically ignite at temperatures between 130 and 185 degrees Celsius. Therefore, in some examples, the inflators are heated to a temperature of about 200 degrees Celsius to ensure ignition.
A second weight of the container can be measured after applying the heat. Based on initial information such as the weight of the container and the number of inflators in the container, the difference between the weights can inform whether the inflators deploy, and if so, how many deployed. Based on the difference being above a threshold value, the deployed inflator(s) can be removed from the container.
In one example, a temperature sensor can be used to measure the temperature of an inflator in the container. In another example, the container is placed inside a disposal container prior to heating the container. The disposal container can be heated in addition to heating the container.
The container can take a variety of different forms. In one example, the container includes multiple lattices coupled to one another to form an enclosure. The enclosure can be shaped to contain multiple airbag inflators. At least one of the lattices can be coupled to another lattice via a rotatable coupling that allows a user to open and close the container. Each lattice can be strong enough to withstand deployment of one or more airbag inflators without substantial deformation of the lattice. Substantial deformation can include, for example, deformation sufficient to compromise the structural integrity of the lattice or otherwise allow any solid portion of the airbag inflators to exit the enclosure upon deployment. The lattices can be made from metal strands having sufficient thickness to provide the desired strength. For example, each strand can have a thickness of between about 0.04 inches and 1 inch.
Continuing the example, the container can include a mesh layer positioned on an inner surface of at least one of the lattices. In some examples, the mesh layer can be positioned on inner surfaces of all the lattices making up the enclosure. The term “surface” is used broadly, as the lattices can be constructed from metal strands and therefore not have a continuous inner or outer surface. However, the inner and outer sides of the plane formed by the lattice can be considered surfaces for the purposes of this disclosure.
The mesh layer can include apertures or perforations sized to allow passage of gas while preventing passage of shrapnel from a deployed airbag inflator. For example, the apertures can be sized to prevent a sphere having a diameter of at least 0.9 inches from passing through the mesh layer. The container can also include an environmental barrier layer positioned on an outer surface of at least one of the lattices. The environmental barrier layer can include a material, such as plastic or a high-temperature, fire-retardant silicone foam, that prevents moisture from passing through that lattice. In some examples, the environmental barrier can be attached in such a way that it rips or detaches from the container to allow sufficient venting in the event of an inflator deploying.
In another example, a container can include a cylindrical sidewall and a solid cap coupled to a first end of the cylindrical sidewall. For example, the container can include a metal barrel with one end welded closed. The container can also include a vented cap removably coupled to a second end of the cylindrical sidewall. The vented cap can be shaped to allow passage of gas through the vented cap while preventing passage of shrapnel from a deployed airbag inflator. For example, the vented cap can include apertures sized to allow passage of gas but not shrapnel.
Continuing the example, the container can include a baffle positioned to redirect shrapnel from a deployed inflator away from the vented cap. The baffle can include, for example, one or more metal plates positioned near the vented cap. The baffle can be coupled to the cylindrical sidewall or to the vented cap. An environmental barrier can be coupled to the vented cap to prevent moisture from penetrating the container.
In yet another example, a container can include multiple solid metal sidewalls coupled to one another. In that example, at least one side of the container can include a lattice or grate that allows passage of gas but retains the inflators and any shrapnel associated with a deployed inflator. At least one of the solid metal sidewalls can be rotatably coupled to another sidewall such that a user can open and close the container.
A detailed description of these examples, and other examples, is provided below. Both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not intended to restrict the scope of the invention as claimed.
The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this disclosure, illustrate various embodiments and aspects of the present invention. In the drawings:
Reference will now be made in detail to the present exemplary embodiments, including examples illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Wherever possible, the same reference numbers will be used throughout the drawings to refer to the same or like parts.
This disclosure describes a variety of containers that can be used to safely transport or dispose of airbag inflators. While these containers, and the methods of using them, can be applied to any type of airbag inflators, they are also intended to safely handle recalled airbag inflators produced by Takata®. Due to manufacturing defects, these recalled inflators have an increased likelihood of exploding when subjected to heat. References to “inflators” or “airbag inflators” herein are also assumed to encompass the recalled defective inflators from Takata®.
The containers described herein can be used for transporting inflators, disposing of inflators, or both. During the transportation stage, a container should provide safety from explosions while also aiding a user in filling the container, locking the container, and loading or unloading the container on or off a vehicle. Of course, the container must also be able to withstand forces generated from structural failure of inflator housings inside the container while venting gases appropriately.
At the disposal stage, a container can be used to intentionally deploy inflators by applying heat, such as fire, to the container. In the disposal process, the container might experience high temperatures and/or come in direct contact with an open flame. The container should be able to withstand these temperatures while still retaining all shrapnel related to inflator deployment and venting gases appropriately. Ideally, the container should be reusable. In some examples, the container can be used both for transportation and disposal, improving efficiency of the overall recall process.
Containers can come in a wide range of sizes. On the small end of the spectrum, a container can be sized to hold a single inflator. On the other hand, a container can be sized to occupy the bed of a dump truck or a large, intermodal shipping container. In some examples, a container can be sized between these two extremes, such that the containers can be easily moved while also holding a moderate number of inflators. For example, a container can be sized to accommodate a forklift, allowing a forklift operator to handle the containers without getting closer than necessary.
Due to the extent of the Takata® recall, many containers may need to be constructed. To keep costs low, these containers can be constructed from readily available materials. For example, the containers described for
The aforementioned recalled inflators deemed hazardous waste by the EPA are capable of presenting a Division 1.2 Explosive hazard. However, not all inflator subgroups present the same level of risk. Recalled Inflator populations could be sorted and grouped according to characteristics such as:
1) NHTSA Recall Priority Group
2) Net Explosive Weight (NEW) per inflator
3) Inflator year of manufacture
4) Inflator housing content (ex. desiccant or no desiccant)
5) Inflator type (driver-side, passenger-side, side impact, single level, dual level, etc.)
6) Likelihood of initiator ejection: aluminum booster housing or steel.
The inflator subgroups could be packaged in a single layer container or “Receptacle for Hazardous waste, formerly recalled airbag inflator,” that is optimized to mitigate the hazard of that specific population or subgroup
The container 100 of
Shrapnel barrier 120 can be made from a resilient material, such as steel, to ensure that deployed inflators and the resulting shrapnel does not damage the shrapnel barrier 120 and form larger openings that can allow shrapnel to pass through. The shrapnel barrier 120 can be a removable component, as shown in
The lid 130 can include openings 134 to allow gases to vent from the cylinder 110. For example, the lid 130 can be made from one or more solid pieces of steel with multiple apertures formed in the lid 130. In one example, the lid 130 includes apertures formed by drilling. In another example, the lid 130 includes apertures punched through the lid 130. In yet another example, the lid 130 includes a mesh portion that allows gas to vent. The mesh portion can include, for example, a section of a chain-link fence.
When used with a shrapnel barrier 120, the openings 134 in the lid 130 can be larger than the openings in the shrapnel barrier 120. For example, the openings 134 in the lid 130 can be between about 0.5 to about 8 square inches. The total surface area of the openings 134 in the lid 130 should be sufficient to allow gas to flow through at a rate that prevents unwanted pressure build-up in the container 100. In some examples, the total surface area of the openings 134 in the lid 130 is equal to, or greater than, the total surface area of the openings 134 in the shrapnel barrier 120.
The container 110 can also include an environmental barrier 140. The environmental barrier 140 can be made from a moisture-impermeable material, such as a plastic sheet. The environmental barrier 140 can be sized to cover the lid 130 and/or shrapnel barrier 120, preventing moisture from entering the openings in the lid 130 and/or shrapnel barrier 120. The environmental barrier 140 can be secured to the container 100 using, for example, a band 150 as shown in
The environmental barrier 140 can be designed and attached such that it prevents moisture from entering the container 100 when attached, but also allows gas to vent from the container 100 in the event of a deployment. In one example, the band 150 maintains tension sufficient to hold the environmental barrier 140 in place under normal circumstances, but allows the environmental barrier 140 to release when subjected to a high-pressure event such as an airbag inflator deployment. For example, when an airbag deflator explodes, the resulting pressure can force at least a portion of the environmental barrier 140 to release from under the band 150, allowing the gas to escape. In another example, the pressure due to a deployment can cause the environmental barrier 140 to rip. This can provide a visual cue to determine whether any inflators in a container 100 have deployed.
The lid 200 can also include an upper baffle plate 220 and a lower baffle plate 230. The baffle plates 220, 230 can be oriented such that shrapnel from a deployment within the container is unlikely to escape. As shown in
If shrapnel enters the space between the upper and lower baffle plates 220, 230 traveling in a trajectory that is not parallel with the longitudinal axis of the container, a grate 250 oriented between the baffle plates 220, 230 can block the shrapnel from passing through the lid 200. The grate 250 can be any type of material that blocks shrapnel but allows gas to pass through. For example, the grate 250 can be a wire mesh, a metal plate with openings in it, parallel slats, chain-link fencing, or any other suitable material. The openings in the grate 250 can be less one square inch in one example. In another example, the openings in the grate 250 can be greater than one square inch, but less than half an inch wide at any point.
In the example of
In the example of
Meanwhile, gases 350 expelled from the deployed inflator 340 can travel between the upper and lower baffles 310, 320 of the container and escape into the atmosphere. The distance between the upper and lower baffles 310, 320 can be optimized to provide the smallest opening without unduly restricting the flow of gas 350. This size can depend on the containable load for the container 300, as a larger containable load will require a larger exit port for gases 350. In practice, the baffles 310, 320 can be oriented such that they allow sufficient venting for a deployed containable load while maintaining the smallest opening possible. Additionally, the lengths of the baffles 310, 320 can be optimized to reduce the chance of shrapnel 345 exiting the container 300 while still allowing gas 350 flow. For example, the overlapping portions of the upper and lower baffles 310, 320 can be increased or decreased relative to the overlap shown in
The lattices can be constructed from wire mesh, such as a metal wire or fencing. The thickness of the wire can be between about 0.09 inches and 0.6 inches, in one example. The openings in the lattice structure can be sized such that a sphere having a diameter greater than 0.5 inches would not fit through the openings. Other sizes can be used as well. If the lattice structure has openings that are small enough, then an inner mesh layer is not necessary.
In the example of
In some examples, an environmental barrier can be used with the container 400 to prevent rain or other moisture from entering the container 400. For example, a plastic sheet can be secured to the top of the container to prevent fluid from dropping down into the container 400 while also allowing the sides of the container 400 to vent gases. In some examples, the environmental barrier can cover multiple sides of the container 400. The environmental barrier can be configured such that it releases from the container 400 or rips apart when deployment occurs.
An example bracket 540 that can be purchased off the shelf is 90-degree-angle steel, 0.25-inch-thick, 2 feet long, and 2 inches wide and deep. The brackets 540 can be positioned such that they extend beyond the base of the sidewalls 510, as shown in
A top plate 520 can be used to seal the top portion of the container 500. The top plate 520 can be made from a similar steel plate as used for the sidewalls 510. The top plate 520 can be coupled to one of the sidewalls 510 via a hinge joint 530. In this example, the hinge joint 530 spans one edge of the top plate 520, although in other examples the hinge joint 530 can be smaller, such as an embodiment using two or three hinge joints 530. The top plate 520 can include a locking mechanism that locks the top plate to one of the sidewalls 510 when closed.
A grate 550 can be coupled to the sidewalls 510 via one or more brackets 540. The grate 550 can be an off-the-shelf item, such as a 2-foot by 2-foot grate with slats having a height of 1 to 1.5 inches, width of 0.25 inches, and about 1 inch between slats. These types of grates are commonly used for roads and sidewalks, for example. Other types of grates or mesh can be used as well, such as a metal-wire mesh, chain-link fencing, or other suitable types. An additional steel plate can optionally be attached to the base of the brackets 540, such that the container 500 is fixed on the optional steel plate and includes a gap between the optional steel plate and the grate 550. Fixing the container 500 to the steel plate improves safety in the event of a tip-over, due to fire, explosions, or an accident involving the transport vehicle.
When deployment occurs within the container 500 of
In some examples, wheels can be affixed to the container 500 to allow the container 500 to be more easily moved from one location to another. For example, commonly available caster wheels can be mounted to the container 500. In one example, metal fasteners are used to fasten the caster wheels to the container 500. Similar wheels can be attached to any of the containers disclosed herein.
As shown in
During the disposal process, large amounts of energy can be released from inflators by the combustion of inflator propellant. A single passenger-side airbag inflator can release 4 moles of matter, in the form of gas, at temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Celsius.
As shown in
The filter 750 can prepare the gas flow for entering a turbine 760. Based on the needs of the turbine 760, the filter 750 can be designed to provide an appropriate level of filtering. For example, the filter 750 can be a simple grate or mesh that prevents solid shrapnel particles from entering the turbine 760. In another example, the filter 750 can include a filter medium, such as paper or charcoal, that removes certain particulates from the gas flowing through the piping 740. The filtered gas then enters the turbine 760 and causes the turbine 760 to produce power that can be harnessed and reused. For example, the turbine 760 can be used to power a heating mechanism that produces and applies heat to the heating surface 710. Other energy-recovery mechanisms can be used in place of a turbine. For example, the expelled gases can be used to heat a boiler.
In one example, the containers are heated using excess heat created from a process unrelated to the inflators. For example, the containers can be heated using excess heat from a power generation process at a coal plant or nuclear plant. In that example, the containers can be made to interface with a heat source that provides rejected heat from the power generation process. For example, if the heat is rejected from the power generation process via air, the exhaust manifold that exhausts the heated air can be attached to a container. The container can include an a manifold that mates with the exhaust manifold to direct the heated air toward the inflators in the container. In an example where the heat is rejected from the power generation process via a liquid, the container can include a heat exchanger that can intercept the heated liquid, extract heat from the liquid, and direct the liquid back to its original path. The shape and size of the container can be modified to fit any type of heat source. Using heat waste from an industrial process can lower the costs for disposing of the recalled inflators.
Stage 820 of the method can include positioning the container in or on a transport vehicle. This can include, for example, lifting the container by hand and placing it in a truck bed. In another example, a forklift, crane, or other lifting mechanism can be used to lift the container and move it. The transport vehicle can be any type of vehicle, including a car, truck, ship, train, or airplane. In some examples, the container is already positioned on a transport vehicle before stage 810 takes place. For example, a container can be constructed using a standard inter-modal shipping container. The shipping container can include a lattice structure similar to that described with respect to
Stage 830 can include measuring a first weight of the container including the live airbag inflator. For example, the container can be placed on a large scale to determine a total weight. In another example, a lifting mechanism can measure the weight of the container as the container is positioned on a transport vehicle at stage 820. This stage can also include noting the total number of inflators in the container, as well as the number of driver-side inflators, passenger-side inflators, side-impact inflators, and curtain inflators.
Stage 840 includes applying heat to the container sufficient to deploy a live airbag inflator. This can include, for example, applying a flame directly to the container. In another example, heated air can be directed toward the container. In yet another example, a heating surface can conduct heat into the container. In one example, the container is heated such that the inflators reach a minimum internal temperature of 130 degrees Celsius. In another example, the container is heated such that the inflators reach a minimum temperature of 180 degrees Celsius. In yet another example, the container is heated such that the inflators reach a minimum temperature of 200 degrees Celsius.
Stage 850 can include measure a second weight of the container including the inflator. For example, at the conclusion of the heating process, the container can be placed on a scale. A single passenger-side inflator typically loses approximately 80-140 grams of mass due to a deployment. A single driver-side inflator typically loses approximately 20-50 grams of mass due to a deployment. A single side-impact inflator typically loses approximately 20-40 grams of mass due to a deployment.
Stage 860 can include calculating a difference between the first weight and the second weight. The difference between these two weights can indicate whether any inflators within the container have deployed, and if so, how many. The difference between the first and second weights can also be divided by the number of inflators in the container to determine an average weight difference per inflator.
Based on the difference between the first and second weight being above a threshold value, at stage 870, the exploded inflator can be removed from the container. The threshold value can be based on the number of inflators in the container. As an illustration, an example container can hold 10 driver-side inflators and 10 passenger-side inflators. An estimation can predict that the driver-side inflators will lose 300 grams (30 grams each) if all inflators deploy, while the passenger-side inflators will lose 1000 grams (100 grams each) if they all deploy. In that example, the difference between the first and second weight should be above a threshold that is close, or equal to, 1300 grams. If the difference is substantially less than 1300 grams in that example, then the container can undergo further heating, including being heated at a higher temperature than previously. After the additional heating, a replacement second weight can be obtained and used to calculate a weight difference from the first weight.
In one example, a large-scale shipping container can be used for transporting airbag inflators. For example, a commonly used 30-yard dumpster or dump truck bed rated for 20-ton gravel loads can be used. A smaller metal shipping container could also be nested inside a larger one to achieve sufficient container integrity, such as small dumpster housed inside a larger dumpster. The purpose of the shipping container can be to prevent inflator metal fragments from exiting the sidewall of the container and directing all energy that results from inflator deployments up toward the top of the container.
Another purpose of the shipping container can be to prevent propagation of an explosion. In some examples, recalled inflators can have characteristics that create a risk of an explosion propagating to nearby inflators. This can be specified in the new classification, or reclassification, that applies to recalled inflators. The risk of propagation can be lessened by controlling the size of the “containable load” used with each container. However, the containers can be designed to withstand propagation and prevent explosions from propagating across containers.
Continuing the large-scale shipping container example, a containment blanket can be used to prevent shrapnel from escaping the container. The containment blanket can include a net or mesh structure that prevents shrapnel from passing through the containment blanket. The blanketing structure on top of the inflator load can prevent over-pressurization of the shipping container if inflators deploy inside the container, allowing inflator combustion gases to vent while preventing metal inflator fragments of critical mass from exiting the top of the container. Examples of suitable material for the containment blanket are expanded steel mesh or grates with properly sized openings. Another example of a suitable material is a chain-link fencing material.
The large-scale shipping container can also be implemented in a similar manner with respect to rail cars or barges, such that the inflators can be shipped via rail or water.
The perforated steel container 900 can include four steel reinforcement members 960. These reinforcement members 960 can each attach to at least one of the single-layer perforated steel sidewalls 970. The reinforcement members 960 can be located on the outside of the perforated steel container 900, as shown in
In one example, the pitch P and hole diameter D can be selected to result in an open area range of 19% to 64%. The open area can be a ratio of open holes to metal, such as at bar B. In one example, using round holes with a bar B of 6.35 millimeters, hole diameter D of 6.35 millimeters, and pitch P of 9.95 millimeters results in an open area of 40%. This can provide breathability while still allowing for structural integrity to contain inflator shrapnel with the sidewall has the requisite thickness.
With regard to thickness,
In one example, the Overall Thickness shown in
However, each of these dimensions can vary. For example, the opening Width can range from 7 millimeters to 70 millimeters. The opening Length can vary from 3 millimeters to 17 millimeters. The Strand Wd. can range from 1.1 millimeters to 5 millimeters. The Strand Thick. can range from 1 millimeter to 4.9 millimeters. The overall Thickness (
Any of the perforated steel sheets can be used to make the cylindrical sidewall of the container in
Other embodiments of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the invention disclosed herein. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope and spirit of the invention being indicated by the following claims.