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By Steve Hoefer

Safety isn’t always the first thing on the mind of makers but the faster you go, the faster your safety devices need to be. A modern airbag can deploy 10 times faster than your reflexes can react, but it’s a lot more than an on-demand balloon. It’s a collection of inventions, made over decades, integrated to do a lot of complicated work in a blink of an eye.

Make: Inventions - Airbag

In this episode of Make: Inventions I do my best to make an airbag system that can detect a crash and deploy safely in 1/20th of a second. It takes sewing, metalworking, woodworking, programing, electronics, and pyrotechnics, some of which I had to learn along the way. And to be sure it works I break out the high-speed camera and build a crash test rig 15 feet high and 40 feet long.

The patents most referenced in this video:

  • #5,265,904 “Airbag cover with integral horn switch”
  • #5,071,161 “Air bag restraint system with venting means”
  • #3,414,292 “Inflatable Safety Device”

The code and schematic I used are also available.

See all projects in the series here

Stett Holbrook

Stett is a senior editor at MAKE with abiding interest in food and drink, bicycles, woodworking, and environmentally sound human enterprises. He is the father of two young makers.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

Contact Stett with tips and story ideas on:

*Sustainable/green design
*Young Makers
*Action sports