Intelligent fasteners in airbags consist of shape-memory alloys that return to a predetermined form when heated to a specific temperature. Chips embedded in the fasteners have individual addresses and assemble and disassemble in response to signals from a remote electronic tool.
Dr. Seshu Seshasai, executive vice president of technology for Textron Fastening Systems, demonstrates an intelligent-fastening system in an airbag assembly.
A NEW LINE OF INTELLIGENT FASTENERS could soon change how products are designed, assembled, and serviced. The fasteners, from Textron Fastening Systems, Troy, Mich., are wired with embedded microchips that activate the fastening mechanism and network it to a remotely controlled tool such as a PC or PDA. In addition to managing and controlling assembly and disassembly, the technology also selfdiagnoses and documents each process.
"Our intelligentfastening technology represents the future of fastening," says Rick Clayton, president of Textron Fastening. "This technology will provide our customers with an unprecedented capability to design for assembly and disassembly, as well as security, by integrating the mechanics of fastening processes into the component."
The company's application engineers are examining the use of the intelligent fasteners for the automotive, aerospace, electronics, and construction markets. Currently, the most advanced application under study is a tamperproof fastening system for automotive-airbag modules. The idea is to integrate intelligent fasteners into a vehicle's power-anddata system and use secure, encrypted codes that respond only to remote instructions entered by authorized service technicians.
"Intelligent-fastening technology has the potential to be the fastening protocol for all automotive subassemblies," notes Clayton. Future applications include moldedbody components, accessories such as roof racks and spare tires, headlamps, radios, and interior trim. Possible applications in other industries include aircraftinstrument panels, doors and windows, building-panel security, and computer peripherals.
The company is bringing the new technology to market through an applicationdevelopment partnership with TZ Inc., Sydney, Australia, which has licensed worldwide industrial applications to Textron Fastening.