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Renault, Webasto, ARRK-Shapers and Polyscope Polymers won the People’s Choice award for the most innovative composite part at the 18th annual Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE).
The winning nomination was for the first composite guide rails on a roller blind sunroof module for the panoramic roof on two Renault models of multipurpose vehicles (MPVs), the Scenic and the Grand Scenic, and have been in commercial production since 2016.
Representatives from Webasto and Polyscope accepted the award during closing ceremonies and also co-presented a technical paper on design and development of the guide rails during the first day of the conference, which took place on 5-7 September, Novi, Michigan, US.
The move from aluminium extrusions to thermoplastic composite lowered part weight and operating noise, simplified sunroof construction and installation on the vehicle assembly line, reduced costs, and increased headspace in the passenger compartment. Webasto engineered the injection moulded rails to include a high level of functional integration while simultaneously reducing part count, assembly operations, and manufacturing time, cost, and complexity. Polyscope’s XIRAN SGH30EB – a glass fibre reinforced copolymer of styrene maleic anhydride and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (GR-SMA/ABS) – was optimised to ensure high bond strength to the polyurethane adhesive used to mount the glass to the module and the module to the body-in-white (BIW) roof structure, and to ensure high dimensional stability critical for smooth operation of the roller blind. ARRK-Shapers tooling enabled eight GR-SMA/ABS composite parts for the sunroof module to be moulded in a family tool that also features modular blocks allowing both Scenic (five-seater) and Grand Scenic (seven-seater) rails to be moulded in the same tool without using costly tooling action (slides) or separate tools. Each rail was moulded in two pieces and ultrasonically welded after demoulding.
At Renault’s assembly plant, the new sunroof system, including the roller blind, arrives fully assembled and tested as a one-piece unit that is robotically bonded to the roof, eliminating two-to-three assembly steps and allowing an operator to be reassigned. The initial system cost reduction is around 20%. However, the new module has fewer parts and is expected to reduce long-term warranty costs as indicated by lower parts/million defects and higher quality already seen at Renault. Another benefit is that a z-axis element-stack reduction of »13 mm was achieved because the whole module is adhesively bonded directly to the body-in-white (BIW) roof structure instead of the conventional two-to-three-step process where rails are fastened with screws to the BIW and the module is then fastened to the rails. This not only provides more space on the assembly line for workers, but also gives taller vehicle occupants more headspace during vehicle use. Additionally, no grease was needed and noise/vibration/harshness (NVH) was reduced during sunshade operation. Like aluminium, the composite rails are fully recyclable, but less energy is needed to produce them initially and to recycle them at end of vehicle life.
Image provided by Polyscope
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