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Publication Date: 2003-Nov-11

Publishing Venue

The Prior Art Database


The present invention relates to modular vehicle construction and in particular, to a first embodiment having a clam shell-like arrangement in which the entire belt-line-up structure is pre-assembled for shipment to an OEM plant. Prior to assembly of the clam shell, interior components may be assembled in the easier to install Z-axis direction. In a preferred embodiment, the clam shell includes all upper vehicle structure and exterior class-a surfaces and may be prepared by a combination of forming techniques and may be finished to make the part compatible with other vehicle parts. In a modification of the first embodiment, the clam shell module is used along with box side modules which contain all door related features and body side class-a surfaces. All or a portion of the B-pillar structure, as well as for the other pillars, rockers, and upper side rails, are included with one or the other of the pre-assembled modules. Another variant covered by the present invention combines the content potential and positive interior loading/installation attributes and the value of "B-free" assembly. A further embodiment of the present invention employs a Targa Band to complete an entire belt-line-up zone when used with the clam shell. It provides structural support and occupant protection in crash situations. Belt-line-down systems can be more easily installed before the Targa Band attachment. Finally, within the scope of the present invention is a mortise and tenon half shell which includes a frame module for dimensional stability and roof module. The modules are combined prior to shipment to an OEM plant or combined during final vehicle assembly.

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[0001] Field - The present invention relates generally to the art of

motor vehicle construction, including the construction of cars, vans, SUVs, trucks, and the like. More specifically, the present invention relates to modules for facilitating assembly of vehicles, especially those which are considered part of the belt-line-up area of the vehicle. A clam shell-like structure representing a first embodiment includes the roof components, namely the headliner, roof panel, and overhead zone components, as well as pillars, glass, and optionally such features as windshield wipers, a cowel box, a package shelf, etc. Insertion of interior components into the vehicle at an OEM plant is facilitated by use of such a structure, in that Z-axis assembly may be used. In another embodiment of the invention, box sides are used with the clam shell-like module, which sides include B-pillars, as well as all door-related features and body side class-a surfaces. Still more specifically, another embodiment of the present invention includes B-pillars which may be added late in the overall assembly process, or a Targa Band which may be combined with roof and floor components during assembly, or a mortise and tenon arrangement in which a structural frame and capper combine to form a clam shell-like assembly.

[0002] Description of the Prior Art - In current vehicle assembly

practices, various components are supplied by Tier 1 suppliers to the original equipment vehicle manufacturers (OEMs). For example, seats, headliners, door trim panels, mirrors, windshields, chassis, brake systems, safety systems, etc., are typically shipped to the final assembly plant and added to the vehicle in white as it passes along an assembly line. Another factor


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which should be kept in mind as the present specification is read is the huge variety of options available to the ultimate customer. They may be dealer selected or chosen by the individual customer at the time of purchase. Not only are component colors and materials often subject to choice, such features as sunroofs, certain optional air restraint systems, infotainment systems, engine choices, etc. lead to an extraordinarily high number of potential vehicle configurations which may create at a single assembly plant. Many suppliers have located their own plants very near the OEM plants, so that just-in-time delivery will eliminate the need for the storage of various components until they are needed. In other words, component assembly may proceed with vehicle assembly and occur within hours of delivery to a specified installation area within the OEM plant.

    [0003] In recent years, with full encouragement by OEM companies, suppliers have been combining various vehicle components prior to the time of their shipment to the OEM plants. An example would be the assembly of overhead components with a headliner prior to shipment and installation into the sheet metal component...