The Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion did research on textile manufacture encompassing high-performance fabrics, colouration, textile finish, and fabric processing. Led by the Director of RMIT Professor Rajiv Padhye, they were able to develop a new method in fabric manufacturing for removable car seat covers. The research was focused on enhancing the efficiency of car seat cover textile manufacturing methods and increasing safety through deploying side airbags promptly, and decreasing fatality risks due to side-impact collisions.
The research was sparked by the removable car seat cover design problem which was unreliable and failed to release side airbags in cases of emergencies. Thus, such a design poses a greater threat to the passenger and driver seats. Padhye, along with his colleagues Dr Vijayan and Dr Jadhav performed laboratory research testing conventional removable car seat cover designs to measure reliability and efficiency in deploying side airbags. Forty per cent of the car seat cover design hinder the release of the side airbag. Thus, the industry questioned the safety of conventional car seat cover designs.
The inefficient design of conventional car seat cover prompted resellers about selling unreliable car seat cover products labelled as “airbag compatible”. Such false advertising can greatly impact many brands selling car seat cover that can’t deliver the promise of safety and comfort.
Padhye’s team was challenged by the problem and was motivated to identify different ways of manufacturing car seat covers and creating a design that can promptly rupture when side airbags are activated. Hence, the team came up with a solution of weakening the side airbag area of the car seat cover but making it durable enough to withstand daily wear and tear.
The use of laser cutting was a solution Vijayan came up with to par with the automobile manufacturing industry. These laser pulses are accurate and efficient in weakening specific areas of the fabric by forming a line of breakage. Laser cutting is like a microscopic needle piercing that has the ability to create minuscule piercings through the fabric without substantially decreasing its durability. Hence, the refined technique brought by laser cutting was a huge help ensuring the deployment of the side airbag in case of a collision while being able to combat everyday strain.
With Padhye’s collaboration with Who-Rae and the team, their successful research brought significant assurance in the efficacy of the removable car seat cover in cases of accidents. Following the success of the improved car seat cover design, the product penetrated the global market and is now sold in the United States, Australia, and Canada capturing almost 30% of all car seat covers in the said countries.
Not only did Padhye’s research deliver a product that efficiently serves its purpose, but it also created a social impact relative to the threat imposed by side collisions. The new removable car seat design with the combination of side airbags significantly reduced injury and casualty by almost 60%. The reliability and holistic design of Padhye’s car seat covers is the new generation car seat cover that can decrease fatalities due to a faulty side airbag deployment. Thus, Australia feels the need to introduce such standards to align with the uptake of adopting such technology.
Padhye, as being an expert in textile innovations focused on function, safety, and comfort, received the Australia New Zealand Sports Technology award for designing a new fabric for cyclists that prevents skin abrasions.