Using TURBOdesign Suite to Design the ARC’TERYX Evolutionary Life-saving Airbag Rescue System

ARC’TERYX Equipment Inc., the Vancouver-based outdoor clothing and sporting good manufacturing company - named for Archaeopteryx Lithographica, the first reptile to develop the feather for flight, freeing itself from the constraints of the horizontal world - has taken flight again with an evolutionary avalanche airbag system design that will save lives while providing a far superior user experience via a battery-powered electric motor that inflates the airbags instead of relying on compressed gas cartridges or cylinders.


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The company, already known for its advanced and rugged outdoor gear, sought a new way to approach airbag rescue system design and worked with London-based Advanced Design Technology (ADT) to engineer the new avalanche airbag backpack using 3D Inverse Design methodology, which 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 them to explore a large part of the design space and arrive at the resulting breakthrough design.


“Even with investments in software and in-house training we would not have achieved as good a result
or have tested so many options”, commented Gordon Rose, Senior Industrial Designer.

“By working with ADT and doing physical testing inhouse, we avoided possible problematic design concepts. Having the ability to test concepts so quickly and thoroughly and then revise them as needed was a very valuable, though hidden, return”.


What is the challenge?


Skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and hikers familiar with existing avalanche airbag systems can attest that current products, while dramatically increasing one’s chances of surviving an avalanche, can be expensive, cumbersome and difficult to use and maintain due to many reasons including:• Once used, cylinders and cartridges must be refilled, which involves additional time and cost:
• Extra cartridges need to be stored in backpacks
• Refilling cyclinders is a time-consuming process requiring access to a compressor and leaving time for cylinders to cool down before being topped off
• A refilled cylinder requires a new O-ring and reapplying silicone grease before resealing
• Cylinders must be empty prior to flying within the United States according to US Department of Transportation restrictions


ARC’TERYX engineers set out to address these issues and others with their designs. They developed the concept of using an electrically-powered blower system to inflate an avalanche airbag backpack system.


Main advantages of the airbag


The main advantages of an electrically inflated airbag include:

• It allows for multiple inflations for training or repeated use
• It provides cost-free triggering of the airbag
• It’s compact and relatively lightweight
• It’s safe and legal for commercial air travel, including for use in helicopters
• There are different levels of performance depending on battery selection


AnyConv.com__ArcTeryx Case Study

Assuming from the start that, if the concept worked, the impeller would need to be optimized either by investing in software and training to do the work in-house - a very daunting prospect - or by an engineering consultant - also challenging for a one-off design for a product that did not exist - ARC’TERYX needed a partner with a diverse background in blower/compressor designs and technology rather than one committed only to one outdoor gear industry to develop the required blower style and be able to optimize the solution, taking into account feedback from the company’s tooling and manufacturing side.


Read the case study

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Mehrdad Zangeneh

Mehrdad Zangeneh is Founder and Managing Director of Advanced Design Technology and professor of Thermofluids at University College London.

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