3D Printing test dummies for car safety

Pont de l’Alma tunnel, France- August 31st, 1997- 12:23 AM

A car struck the right-hand wall and swerved to the left of the two-lane carriageway before it collided head-on into a pillar. The driver was declared dead on the spot, the lady in the back, still, had some life in her, she was rushed to the hospital. However, the internal injuries were too extensive (which included her heart to be displaced) and she flat-lined around 4:00 AM

The world mourned that day, for the People’s Princess, Princess Diana was no longer among us.

1.35 million families are broken every year as a result of road accidents. Making it one of the leading causes of death worldwide, thus mandating that cars need to be safer than ever.

The gold standard of car safety testing, Crash test dummies were invented in 1949 and have ever since become more sophisticated, however, remain very pricey. Car test dummies should reflect the full variety of human body types. Going beyond the initial male only dummies, the family expanded to females, children, and infants too. However elderly test dummies were a bit of a hang in the industry. (Which was important to develop, as of 2015 there were about 40 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the USA alone)

The traditional process used a heat treated piece of spring steel to make the ribs. The piece is then glued to the inside of the rib cage to control response to impact testing. It is then left to set but requires several trimmings to deliver optimum performance. This makes the process expensive and inconsistent. It was only a matter of time before 3D printing reformed this process too.

After several failed attempts in 3D printing, Humanetics, the company that virtually makes all test dummies around the world turned to Adaptive Corporation for help who suggested 3D printing the test dummies with Onyx a carbon composite material reinforced with continuous Kevlar fibers. On experimentation, the ribs stood strong even after 150 attempts.

3D printing further allows fixing any broken parts to be replaced within 24 hours thus speeding up the process unbelievably along with saving around 40-60% labor costs.

The models now include softer internal organs that are represented in terms of regions like abdominal and thoracic. Elderly people also tend to have more flesh in the front of their bones, which affects how the person moves within a seat belt system. It also allows humanities to print organs like the liver or a spleen which allows researchers to better understand the impact of an accident.

Vehicular safety is definitely in good hands with 3D printing. Making the industry ever more efficient and sufficient we can only imagine how will the two evolve further. Drive Carefully!

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