Clues on the Arcteryx Airbag Fan Trail

Post by blogger | September 27, 2013      
Arcteryx airbag fan system illustration from the PR.

Arcteryx airbag fan system illustration from the PR.

Readers, you’ve been asking where Arcteryx fits into this whole fan based avy-airbag schema. For more clues, the software company Arcteryx is using to design their turbo had this to say in a press release back in April.

For some reason this never blipped our radar. We were probably basking in the spring sunshine up at WildSnow HQ. Better late than never.

My take on the Arcteryx fan airbag has always been to wonder how a company that pretty much just does textile engineering could enter such a high-tech minefield. Taking a fan based avalanche airbag to market is most certainly a daunting task. Not only does a project like this combine textiles with electrical and mechanical engineering, but you’re also up against a challenge in Europe in that to sell an airbag pack there you need it to be TUV certified. But apparently there is no set of standards for TUV to certify a fan based pack. A case of standards stifling life-saving innovation? We shall see what blips our radar on that one!

Press release follows, edited for brevity, see full press release.

ARC’TERYX turned to ADT to optimize the blower system on its evolutionary new airbag rescue system

LONDON, NEW YORK and VANCOUVER – April 10, 2013 – Advanced Design Technology (ADT), a global leader in the development of advanced turbomachinery design methods and the TURBOdesign Suite today announced that its customer, ARC’TERYX Equipment Inc. hired ADT to assist in the design of an evolutionary avalanche airbag backpack system… battery-powered electric motor that inflates airbags instead of relying on compressed gas cartridges or cylinders. ADT optimized the blower system.

“I was initially drawn to ADT when looking for software to use in designing the blower,” said Gordon Rose, senior industrial designer for ARC’TERYX. “But, after contacting ADT and discussing the complexity of the project, we decided a much better solution was to use ADT’s design expertise and have them optimize the blower system.”

ARC’TERYX worked with London-based ADT to engineer the new avalanche airbag backpack using three-dimensional (3D) inverse design methodology, which now enables engineers to specify the desired flow field (via blade loading) along with the total work required and automatically generate the geometry that produces that flow field. By specifying the blade loading, engineers have direct control over the 3D pressure and velocity distributions, which allows for direct control of the 3D flow field and an intuitive connection between the design input and the resulting performance. This change allowed the engineers to explore a large part of the design space and arrive at the resulting breakthrough design.

“Our… design optimization technology provides innovative solutions while reducing development time and costs,” said Professor Mehrdad Zangeneh, founder and managing director of ADT. “By using TURBOdesign1 on the ARC’TERYX avalanche airbag backpack air blower we could achieve their stringent requirements in terms of small size and high efficiency. Furthermore we could achieve a design which could meet contrasting requirements in terms of high pressure at initial deployment of the airbag and then high flow rate for rapidly filling up the bag.”

Previous WildSnow post about Arcteryx fan airbag patent.


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9 Responses to “Clues on the Arcteryx Airbag Fan Trail”

  1. Carl September 27th, 2013 3:47 pm

    Looks like they outsourced the design to the experts. This is pretty common practice for companies making new products outside their field of expertise. I am very excited at the idea of 2 fan based airbag options coming out, both from companies that make pretty nice packs. If TUV doesn’t certify fan based airbags, I will want to see some pretty rigorous testing data but will be looking very closely at buying one to replace my non-airbag pack and standalone avalung. Any rumors on availability on this or the BD bag?

  2. Lou Dawson September 27th, 2013 4:05 pm

    Word is they’ll be taking dealer orders for BD bag pack at this winter OR show, for sale fall of 2014. My guess is they might do a beta release for this winter. My ear to the ground tells me there are quite a few customers out there waiting very impatiently for these packs. I heard Arcteryx is working on somewhat similar of a macro schedule but we don’t know the fine details. Lou

  3. Hacksaw September 27th, 2013 6:04 pm

    There are about 150,000 beacons made/sold each year world wide. There are currently about 50,000 airbag packs currently made world wide.

    The market is there for airbag packs. But, I personally want to see some things change with the current designs, but a lot of that is personal taste in ski backpacks.

    But, one thing I’d like to see is a tag on airbag packs that says, “This thing will not guarantee 100% survival.”


  4. Lou Dawson September 27th, 2013 6:25 pm

    Hi Halsted, indeed, the beacon as supernatural talisman was bad enough, but the airbag hype is worse. I think in a few years it’ll all settle down. Lou

  5. Bill B September 28th, 2013 9:51 am

    Not trying to be negative, but I am just wondering what the impact on this system is when it is sucking in snow as may be the case in real use.

  6. Lou Dawson September 28th, 2013 10:21 am

    Bill, you are not the only one wondering about this issue. Fact of the matter is that even the compressed gas bag systems suck air from the outside, as they use a venturi that utilizes power from the compressed gas to entrain additional air required to fill the bag to volume. Thus, both the compressed gas bags as well as the fan bags might be “sucking snow.” From what I’ve seen, this is not a problem with the compressed gas bags, so I’d imagine the fan bags just extrapolated whatever method the gas bags use to prevent snow from clogging their air intakes. Same for the Avalung, BTW.

    I’ve been trying to second guess the fan airbags since I first heard about the concept. Based on insider knowledge I already have, I’m not coming up with much in the way of negatives. Fill time might be an issue if the person delays triggering and the slide flows short distance and stops quickly, but the fans/turbines these guys are using are powerful howlers that blow up the bag incredibly fast. From what I’ve heard, nearly as fast as compressed gas. Cost is too high, but that could perhaps go down as the technology becomes ubiquitous and hopefully at least Arcteryx and BD compete for customers. Weight appears to still be onerous, but a smaller or better battery might take care of that, along with better balloon fabrics.

  7. Bill B September 28th, 2013 11:32 am

    It will be interesting to see.
    There are some big mechanical differences between current types and this one ,plus the addition of gases.
    It may only become an issue at warmer temperatures where the snow is more wet though.
    I had a Camaro that would form ice in the carburetor and freeze it up when it was foggy and cold. So the thought comes quickly.

  8. wyomingowen September 29th, 2013 9:49 pm

    I cannot stop thinking about fire extinguishers. Compressed gas just sitting there waiting for the moment. Then I think what happens to my really expensive Lion tools if they sit in the truck too long during the winter.

    Both those industries dwarf OR

  9. Lou Dawson September 30th, 2013 5:33 am

    Bill, your Camaro was missing the heat riser due to an aftermarket air cleaner install? (grin) Lou

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