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1. WO2017130064 - INFRARED WELDED EXTERIOR PANEL ASSEMBLY AND PROCESS OF MAKING SAME

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CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A method of making a body panel assembly for a vehicle, comprising the steps of:

providing at least one first panel including predetermined weld surfaces;

providing at least one second panel including predetermined weld surfaces;

providing at least one infrared heating fixture having a plurality of infrared heat sources;

providing a first tool nest and a second tool nest;

loading the first panel onto the first tool nest;

loading the second panel onto the first panel;

moving the first tool nest and/or second tool nest to bring the second panel into contact with the second tool nest;

retaining the second panel in the second tool nest as the first tool nest moves away from the second tool nest and/or as the second tool nest moves away from the first tool nest;

aligning the at least one infrared heating fixture with the first tool nest and second tool nest;

positioning the first tool nest and/or second tool nest into predetermined proximity to the at least one infrared heating fixture to align the plurality of infrared heat sources with the respective predetermined weld surfaces on the first and second panels;

heating the predetermined weld surfaces of the first and second panels via the plurality of infrared heat sources for a predetermined heating time;

positioning the infrared heating fixture out of proximity with the first and second panels;

bringing the first panel and second panel into contact with each other, via the first and/or second tool nests, with the heated corresponding weld surfaces on the first and second panels aligned; and,

applying a predetermined clamping pressure for a predetermined clamping time to the first and second panels via the first and second tool nests forming a seal at the weld surfaces of the first and second panels.

2. The method of claim 1 , wherein the predetermined clamping time is about 5 to 10 seconds.

3. The method of claim 1 , wherein the predetermined heating time is about 15 seconds or less.

4. The method of claim 1 , wherein the at least one second panel has a finished part surface.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein the predetermined weld surfaces are located on the non-show surface welding side of the first and second panels and the wavelengths emitted by the plurality of infrared heat sources are medium length to prevent read through to the finished part surface.

6. The method of claim 5, wherein any heat transferred through the second panel does not exceed about 50°C on the finished part surface to prevent read through to the finished part surface.

7. The method of claim 4, wherein the heating applied to the second panel is a lower temperature than the heating applied to the first panel.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the difference between the second panel heating temperature and the first panel heating temperature is about 120-150°C.

9. The method of claim 4, wherein the second panel is a thermoplastic polyolefin material.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the finished part surface is selected from the group consisting of a Class A surface, a painted surface, a molded-in color surface and combinations thereof.

11. The method of claim 4, wherein the first and second panels have a weld joint geometry interface to provide a melt surface that is further from the finished part surface, wherein the weld joint geometry is selected from the group consisting of a plurality of stand-off ribs, long straight ribs, curved ribs, second panel ribs against first panel flatter surface, first panel ribs against second panel flatter furface, second panel ribs against first panel ribs, second panel flatter surface against first panel flatter surface, and combinations thereof.

12. The method of claim 1 , wherein the first and/or second panels are out of tolerance in the first and/or second tool nests, and are brought within tolerance during infrared welding with application of a clamping pressure of about 50 psi or less.

13. The method of claim 1 , wherein the plurality of infrared heat sources used to heat the predetermined weld surfaces are selected from the group consisting of bulbs, wires, spoils, mirror-welding metal hot plates, plaques, foils, vertical foils,

horizontal foils, single glass bulb tubes, double glass bulb tubes, quartz glass bulb tubes, meal foils and combinations thereof.

14. The method of claim 1 , wherein the weld is continuous, is about 0.2 to 0.4 mm deep, has no voids and seals the periphery of the assembly.

15. The method of claim , further comprising providing at least one additional panel that has a finished part surface and providing at least one additional tool nest, wherein the additional panel is infrared welded to the first panel at additional predetermined weld surfaces of the first and additional panel by repeating the sequence of loading onto the first panel, picking the additional panel up with the additional tool nest, simultaneously heating the additional panel and first panel with the plurality of infrared heat sources, and clamping the first panel and additional panel together to seal the first panel and additional panel together.

16. The method of claim 1 , wherein the first panel is an inner panel that is a structural thermoplastic or thermoplastic polyolefin, and one of the at least one second panels is an outer panel that has a finished show surface and another one of the at least one second panels is another outer panel that has a finished show surface, wherein the inner panel, outer panel and the another outer panel form the body panel assembly that is selected from the group consisting of a liftgate assembly, a front end carrier assembly, door assembly, hood assembly and bumper assembly.

17. The method of claim 1 , further comprising providing a first outer panel and/or a second outer panel including a finished part surface, said first outer panel and/or second outer panel are operably connected to the at least one second panel, wherein the at least one second panel is a modular panel and/or an upper reinforcement panel to reinforce the body panel assembly for strength.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising overmolding, in at least one location, a unidirectional tape into the modular panel and/or upper reinforcement panel to provide additional structure and tether the body panel assembly to take impact load.

19. A method of infrared welding two or more external body panels to form an integral part for a vehicle, comprising the steps of:

providing at least one large first panel that is a thermoplastic component and includes predetermined peripheral weld surfaces;

providing at least one large second panel that has a finished show surface and includes predetermined peripheral weld surfaces on a non-show surface, wherein the

peripheral weld surfaces of the first panel and second panel form predetermined joint geometry that decreases read through to the finished show surface;

providing at least one infrared heating fixture having a plurality of infrared heat sources;

providing a first nest and a second nest

loading the first panel onto the first nest;

placing the second panel onto the first panel;

bringing the first nest and/or the second nest toward one another until the second nest contacts the second panel to check fit the first and second panels with the first and second nests;

separating the first and second nests, wherein the large second panel is retained within with the second nest;

placing the infrared heating fixture between the first and second nests;

bringing the first and second panels, via the first and second nests, respectively, into close proximity with the plurality of infrared heat sources;

heating the peripheral weld surfaces on the first and second panels with the plurality of heat sources;

moving the first and second nests away from the plurality of infrared heat sources and removing the infrared heating fixture from between the first and second nests;

bringing the first and second nests toward one another until the peripheral weld surfaces of the first and second panels in contact;

applying a predetermined clamping pressure to the first and second panels sandwiched between the first and second nests to weld the first and second panels together and form a weather resistant seal all the way around the periphery of the first and second panels without adhesive or sealant.

20. A method of making an exterior body panel assembly for a vehicle, comprising the steps of:

providing at least one inner panel that is a thermoplastic component;

providing an upper reinforcement and a modular panel;

providing at least one first outer panel that is a spoiler panel that has a Class A, painted surface;

providing at least one second outer panel that has a Class A, painted surface; loading the inner panel onto a first nest;

placing the upper reinforcement or modular panel on the inner panel;

bringing the first nest and a second nest together to check fit the inner panel and the upper reinforcement or modular reinforcement with the inner panel;

separating the inner panel and the upper reinforcement or modular reinforcement and first and second nests, where the upper reinforcement or modular reinforcement is held by the second nest;

positioning at least one infrared heating fixture between the first and second nests, where the infrared heating fixture has a plurality of infrared heat sources;

bringing the first and second nests together to a predetermined distance from the plurality of infrared heat sources;

heating the material of the inner panel and upper reinforcement or modular reinforcement;

separating the first and second nests from the area of the infrared heating fixture; moving the infrared heating fixture away from the first and second nests;

bringing the first and second nests together and applying a clamping pressure to the inner panel and upper reinforcement or modular reinforcement; and

attaching the spoiler panel or the at least one second outer panel to the respective upper reinforcement or modular reinforcement using a mechanical connection.