Colorado Springs, CO —The conventional wisdom on driving with children in your car is to switch off the airbags or, better yet, sit the kids in the back seat.
But one engineering firm has another solution—design an infant car seat capable of deflecting the air-bag impact in a crash. In fact, placing the child in the front seat will also reduce the risk that a driver will get distracted by a crying baby in the rear, says David Clement, engineering director at Xportation Safety Concepts Inc. (XSCi).
The company's Airbag Safe Infant Seat (ASIS) exceeds the safety standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), he says. The seat encapsulates an infant within an injection-molded polypropylene frame, and is attached to the car with a shock-mounted design.
"Basically, it's a helmet, a huge helmet," says Clement. "Since seatbelts are not too elastic, the cradle inside the canopy can move up to three inches in an impact. We actually get better results with airbags than without."
The problem with airbags is that drivers come in all different sizes, so small drivers are often too close to the bag when it deploys. "Air bags are great, unless you're young, short, tall, or an old woman (who may have osteoporosis)," Clement says.
XSCi designed the seat with SolidWorks 3D CAD, and used COSMOS/Works FEA from SRAC for simulation and stress analysis. First, they tested dozens of aluminum tubular prototypes versus the off-the-shelf models, and then reverse engineered the ASIS from test data. Their CAD program also had to be flexible enough to create different versions of the design—in one case, the company had to produce a full-scale, SLA prototype to display at a trade show.
Appropriate for infants from zero to 12 months, the ASIS will be sold in the upper price range for safety seats. It has five patents for its design, but is not yet on the market, still facing months of further testing. In the meantime, XSCi is making plans for an ASIS for older children (ages 1-3 years).