Delphi gives Kettering a Boost

Oct 12, 2010

Kettering's Crash Safety Center will be able to expand research capabilities with some new "toys," including a girl dummy and data acquisition equipment, purchased at auction and donated by Delphi.

In an odd twist of fate, last year’s financial woes for the Big Three turned into a small boon for Kettering University crash safety researchers. The Kettering Crash Safety Center was able to purchase a crash dummy and other equipment, and was given additional equipment by Delphi Vandalia.

Delphi Vandalia, in Vandalia, Ohio, previously was the site where passenger seat belts and airbags were designed and tested.  Now shuttered, the facility had an auction of items while cleaning out the facility in preparation for closing at the end of 2009.

Brelin-Fornari and her team were able to purchase a few items for the Crash Safety Center through the auction, but the real benefit came when they went to pick up their purchases. “When we went to pick up, Delphi gave us equipment and materials that were left over after the auction, very useful equipment and will greatly increase our research capabilities,” said Brelin-Fornari.

At what would be considered garage-sale prices in the crash safety retail world, Brelin-Fornari was able to add a small side-impact female crash test dummy to the Kettering “family” of dummies. The newest member of the family represents a 5th percentile adult female which is also the same size as a 50th percentile 12 year old, and is scheduled for use in side-impact testing in booster seats by a graduate student working on a research project. According to Brelin-Fornari, side-impact crash testing with booster seats is an area that has never been researched.

Kettering was also able to purchase two data acquisition systems, one onboard the sled and one off-board, to test dummies before crash testing; two cabinets with every piece and fastener needed for crash test dummies (bolts, brackets and fasteners); accelerometers; and multiple load cells.

“The research we can do with this equipment is invaluable,” said Brelin-Fornari of the purchases. Parodying a familiar advertising campaign she added “Load cell: $200, Accelerometer: $20, Research capabilities: invaluable!”

Delphi staff gave the Kettering team additional accelerometers, a motion analysis system to analyze displacement on crash films, lights for high speed video-taping, load cells and dummy carts. “These types of materials may not seem exciting, but they are so useful to us,” said Brelin-Fornari.

Of the equipment gifts Brelin-Fornari said she found it heartwarming how caring and engaged the Kettering graduates working at Delphi Vandalia were in helping to support the Crash Safety Center lab. “They were going through a tough time, yet they were helping us build our research facility,” she said.

“It was sad to be at a facility like that with so much knowledge and technology, and see it  being cleaned out to the bare walls,” said Brelin-Fornari, “and yet they were doing anything they could to help us. It was a tough position for us to be in, to see what they were going through and yet we were benefitting from the situation. We are grateful to Delphi Vandalia.”

Brelin-Fornari said Kettering also received equipment from a Delphi facility in Auburn Hills, Mich., that did work to support seatbelt testing.  “We obtained some general purpose lab benches, rolls of seatbelt webbing and a programmable industrial sewing machine that we can use to sew seatbelts and/or airbags,” she said.

The Vandalia facility was closed following the purchase of Delphi Holdings LLP airbag, steering wheel and other passive safety component assets by Auotliv in November 2009, according to Crain’s Automotive.

The deal consolidated the acquired Delphi airbag and seatbelt operations assets into existing Autoliv facilities, which are part of Auburn Hills-based Autoliv North America Inc. Autoliv also acquired Delphi’s steering wheel manufacturing operations in Matamoros, Mexico, but it is unclear if the seatbelt and airbag assets being acquired by Autoliv include manufacturing plants, or are solely books of business, according to Crain’s.

The units acquired by Autoliv sell to General Motors Co., Hyundai, Ford Motor Co., Daimler and commercial vehicle manufacturer Navistar, with contracts totaling an estimated $125 million in revenue in 2010, Crain’s reported.

Contact: Dawn Hibbard