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1. (WO2017152980) PANEL AND OPEN ROOF CONSTRUCTION PROVIDED THEREWITH
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Panel and open roof construction provided therewith

The invention concerns a panel and especially a panel comprising a panel main body and a reinforcement

assembly including at least one reinforcement member. The reinforcement member is made of plastic and is provided with a fiber based reinforcement, which could be in the form of a fiber bundle skeleton, a sheet, a combination thereof, or the like. Such reinforcement is much lighter than a conventional steel reinforcement member.

Hereinafter the invention will be elucidated while referring to the drawing in which:

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a vehicle roof having a roof assembly including a panel according to the invention .

Fig. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of a reinforcement assembly formed from a single reinforcement member according to a first embodiment.

Fig. 2 is a plan view of a reinforcement assembly comprising several reinforcement members in a second

embodiment .

Fig. 3 is a view according to the arrow III in Fig.

2 showing a part of the front reinforcement member in the reinforcement assembly.

Fig. 5 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the panel according to the invention.

Fig. 6 and 7 are enlarged cross sectional views along the lines VI-VI, and VII-VII, respectively, in Fig. 5.

Figs. 8 - 10 are plan views of further embodiments of the reinforcement assembly.

Figs. 11 - 23 are cross sectional views of different embodiments of a reinforcement member and part of the panel main body according to the invention.

Fig. 24 is a cross sectional view of the

reinforcement member of Fig. 23 in a slightly changed

embodiment .

Fig. 25 is a perspective view of the reinforcement member of Fig. 24.

Figs. 26 - 28 and 30 are cross sectional views of further embodiments of the reinforcement member and part of the panel main body according to the invention.

Fig. 29 is a very schematic illustration of a pultrusion or extension molding process to form the embodiment of the reinforcement member of Fig. 28.

Firstly referring to Fig. 1, an example is illustrated of an open roof construction for a vehicle, such as a passenger car, having a roof assembly. Said roof assembly is for opening and closing at least one roof opening 1 in a stationary roof part 2 of the vehicle and includes at least one movable panel, in particular a rigid, transparent panel 3 which, by means not illustrated in detail but known per se, can be moved for opening and closing said roof opening 1.

Commonly, as is known, movable panel 3 is guided in

longitudinal guides mounted to or formed in stationary roof part 2 along longitudinal sides of roof opening 1. A user operated device such as a motor or crank (not illustrated) is operably coupled to panel 3 via cables or the like to move panel 3 selectively between its open and closed positions. In Fig. 1 closure panel 3 has been illustrated in a position in which it opens roof opening 1. The invention can be used for all types of open roof constructions comprising one or more panels .

The panel 3 comprises a panel main body 4, in particular made of glass or plastic to reduce the weight of panel 3.

In order to increase the rigidity of panel 3 and thereby reduce deformation of the panel under load, panel 3 is provided with a reinforcement assembly made up of one or more reinforcement members 5 attached to the lower side of panel main body 4.

As illustrated in Fig. 2, reinforcement member 5 forms the complete reinforcement assembly and is formed as a rectangular ring, the four sides of which extending along and near each edge of panel main body 4.

Fig. 3 shows another embodiment in which the

reinforcement is made up of a front reinforcement member 5, a rear reinforcement member 5' and two side brackets 6, normally made of metal, in particular steel and used for connecting panel 3 to the operating mechanism for the panel. The side brackets may be encapsulated to panel main body 4 and to the front and rear reinforcement members 5.

Fig. 4 illustrates that the thickness of

reinforcement member 5 may vary along its length. Generally, the thickness will be greater near the center of panel main body 4 as the need for reinforcement is at a maximum.

The reinforcement member 5 according to the invention is made of fiber reinforced plastic in order to keep the weight to a minimum, and still provide sufficient

rigidity.

In the embodiment of Figs. 5 - 7, the fibers are arranged in the form of a bundle 7 of continuous fibers shaped into several loops extending substantially parallel to the length of the (side of) the reinforcement member 5 in

different planes, a transverse loop section connecting the parallel fiber bundles 7. The fiber bundles 7 may be wound by a robot and comprise commingled fibers which are attached to each other by means of a plastic matrix material which is heated and/or pressurized to form a rigid bundle. By shaping the loops into a three dimensional skeleton, the fibers obtain a three dimensional rigidity greatly improving the total rigidity of panel 3. The parallel fiber loop sections form, as seen in cross section, an end or corner of reinforcement member 5 which is made by molding, particularly injection molding with the fiber skeleton inserted in the molding tool so that it is incorporated in reinforcement member 5.

At the front and rear side of panel main body 4, as shown in Fig. 7, reinforcement member 5 forms a closed section with panel main body 4 to obtain maximum rigidity. Portions of reinforcement member 5 extending parallel with the lower side of panel main body 4 are used to attach reinforcement member 5 to panel main body 4, for example by encapsulation or gluing. A depending side section 8 of reinforcement member 5 is used to attach a seal 9, in this case a bulb seal, to reinforcement member 5 and panel main body 4, also by encapsulation, by gluing or otherwise.

Fig. 6 shows a side edge of panel 3 where reinforcement member 5 forms a side cover 10 and a section for attachment of bulb seal 9. The shape of side cover 10 varies along its length as is shown in Fig. 5.

Figs. 8 - 10 show embodiments of the reinforcement assembly having an increased rigidity, especially in a central section of panel main body 4. In the embodiment of Fig. 8, reinforcement member 5 comprises a central transverse portion 11 extending from one side of the reinforcement assembly to the other and being attached to the lower side of panel main body 4 to enhance the rigidity thereof, especially against warping. The front and rear portions of reinforcement member 5 and optionally also the corner portions are formed as closed sections (in combination with the panel main body), for example as in Fig. 7, while central transverse portion 11 preferably also forms a closed section with panel main body 4. The cross section of central transverse portion 11 of

reinforcement member 5 will be kept to a minimum to minimize the visual appearance on transparent panel 3.

In the embodiment of Fig. 9, which is based on that of Fig. 3, a central portion 12 of the reinforcement extends in longitudinal direction of panel 3 parallel to the side edges thereof.

The embodiment of Fig. 10, also based on that of Fig. 3, comprises a front reinforcement member 5 having an increased width in and near the center of panel main body 4 to increase the rigidity there.

Instead of or in addition to a skeleton of loop-shaped fiber bundles 7, it is also possible to use sheets 13 of woven fiber layers. The weft direction of the various unidirectional woven layers are preferably angled to each other, so that the fibers run in different directions to get rigidity in various directions. The sheets 13 are made by pressing the layers together, preferably using resin and heat to form a matrix material. The fiber sheet or sheets 13 can be used in a plane shape or in a pre-shaped non-planar shape.

Fig. 11 shows an embodiment having two fiber sheets 13, one in the bottom of an injection molded reinforcement member 5 and one in a separate top portion 5'' of

reinforcement member 5. The reinforcement member 5 here forms a closed section in itself, so without panel main body 4. The top portion 5'' of reinforcement member 5 may first be molded or glued to the bottom portion before reinforcement member 5 is encapsulated or glued to panel main body 4. The

reinforcement member 5 has a mounting section 14 outwardly of panel main body 4 to be able to mount a (bulb) seal to

reinforcement member 5. One or more drainage holes 15 may be made in reinforcement member 5 below the outer edge of panel main body 4 to drain off any water entered between mounting section 14 of reinforcement member 5 and the outer edge of panel main body 4.

The embodiment of Fig. 12 comprises a preformed fiber sheet 13 defining the shape of the semi-closed section of reinforcement member 5. The preformed fiber sheet 13 is attached to panel main body 4 by an outer encapsulation 16, whereas a foam 17 may be filled into the space between fiber sheet 13 and the lower side of panel main body 4.

Fig. 13 shows an embodiment in which fiber sheet 13 is arranged below sandwich material 18 which is attached to panel main body 4 by contact glue and the remainder of

reinforcement member 5 is then encapsulated around the

sandwich material 18 and fiber sheet 13 and to panel main body 4.

In the embodiment of Fig. 14, fiber sheet 13 is arranged on the bottom of a hollow in an injection molded reinforcement member 5. The reinforcement member 5 is made from a material having a coefficient of expansion which is close to that of panel main body 4. The reinforcement member 5 may be glued to panel main body 4 and a separate or integrated encapsulation 16 may be used at the edge of panel main body 4 to serve as a mounting member of or counter member for a

(bulb) seal.

The Fig. 15 embodiment again shows an injection molded reinforcement member 5, but now fiber sheet 13 is made as an adhesive tape attached to the bottom of the hollow in reinforcement member 5 before it is glued to panel main body 4.

Fig. 16 shows an embodiment of reinforcement member 5 in which fiber sheet 13 is preformed again, now with a W-shaped cross section, which is completely surrounded by encapsulating material 16 forming the rest of reinforcement member 5 and simultaneously attaches reinforcement member 5 to panel main body 4.

In Fig. 17, reinforcement member 5 is mainly formed by fiber sheet 13 which is preformed into the main shape of reinforcement member 5 and which may be covered by a foil or may be back molded in plastic material like PA, PET or like plastics. The hollow within fiber sheet 13 form may be fully or partly filled with stiffeners molded in PA, PET or similar plastics. The reinforcement member 5 may be glued to panel main body 4 and an encapsulation 16 may be provided again at the edge of panel main body 4.

Fig. 18 shows an embodiment in which a plurality of fiber sheets 13 is arranged side-by-side and perpendicularly to the panel main body. The fiber sheets 13 are molded into a plastic carrier material or into encapsulation material 16.

Fig. 19 shows again a reinforcement member 5 comprising a skeleton of fiber bundles 7 which, in this case, are over-molded by injection molding and encapsulated to attach it to panel main body 4. The hollow in reinforcement member 5 may be completely filled with encapsulation material 16 or also partly filled with a plastic foam 17.

In the Fig. 20 embodiment the skeleton of fiber bundles 7 of reinforcement member 5 is again over-molded by injection molding and then glued to panel main body 4.

Fig. 21 shows in a perspective view a possible form of the fiber skeleton, in this case as used in the embodiment of Fig. 19. It can be seen that fiber bundles 7 are formed from continuous fibers and are bent into the desired shape and frozen by setting the plastic matrix material using heat and/or pressure.

The fiber skeleton of Fig. 22 is over-molded by encapsulation material 16 by which it is also attached to panel main body 4. The hollow is filled with a foam 17. It is possible that only the parallel bundle portions remain in reinforcement member 5, while the end portions of the skeleton including the transverse connecting portions are cut away after the encapsulation step.

Fig. 23 shows again an embodiment having an over-molded skeleton which is W-shaped. The skeleton is formed into a reinforcement member 5 and attached to panel main body 4 by encapsulation .

Fig. 24 and 25 show a variation of the embodiment of Fig. 23, wherein the W-shape is different and wherein

additional transverse ribbing 19 is provided at regular intervals or with a specific spacing connecting the legs of the W-shape.

Fig. 26 shows again a combination of a fiber based sheet 13 and bundles 7 of a fiber skeleton which are over-molded by injection molding to form a reinforcement member 5 which is glued to the lower side of panel main body 4.

In the embodiment of Fig. 27 which shows a detail of a reinforcement member 5, fiber bundle 7 is pressed into a rectangular cross section.

Fig. 28 shows another embodiment of a reinforcement member 5 and Fig. 29 illustrates a method of making it. The fiber bundles 7 and matrix material are formed into a straight three dimensional shape by extrusion, extension molding or pultrusion, which is a well-known production method for fiber reinforced profiles. This pre-shape is then cut into the desired length and over-molded to a sandwich form. This is then glued or encapsulated to panel main body 4. If desired the straight reinforcement member 5 can be bent into a curved shape during a consequent manufacturing step, before it is attached to panel main body 4.

Fig. 29 shows a variation in which fiber bundles 7 are substantially regularly distributed over the cross

sectional area of reinforcement member 5.

The various parts of reinforcement member 5 may be made in different materials. The fibers may for example include glass or carbon fibers. The encapsulation material may be PU (polyurethane ) , PVC (polyvinylchloride ) , TPE

(thermoplastic polyethylene) or the like. Injection molded parts may comprise PA-6 (polyamide) , PA-66, PP

(polypropylene), PBT (polybutylene terephthalate ) and PET

(polyethylene terephthalate) , and may include glass and carbon fibers as well. Matrix material may also consist of e.g. PA-6, PA-66, PP, PBT, PET or similar plastics.

From the above, it follows that the invention provides a panel having a light (up to 60% lighter than a steel reinforcement), yet rigid reinforcement member.

The invention is not limited to the embodiments described above and shown in the drawings, which can be varied in different manners within the scope of the invention.

Although the panel has been described with reference to an open roof construction for a vehicle in which it can be used, the invention is not limited thereto. Reinforced panels could be used in all kinds of applications, although the main application is panels for vehicles, such as cars, trucks, caravans and the like, vessels and the like. However,

stationary applications are also conceivable if loads on the panel require a separate reinforcement for the panel main body .