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Lighter panels for upward swinging doors

08 March 2015

JSP, the manufacturer of lightweight material ARPRO, has delivered what it believes is a first in automotive interior design by enabling a new application of the material for the door panels of the BMW i8 electric sports car.

The BMW i8
The BMW i8

The global automotive supplier, Magna International has used JSP's ARPRO material to develop a completely new door panel carrier for the BMW i8’s upward swinging doors, reducing weight by approximately 22 percent while also improving crash performance. These doors are also a visual highlight and emphasise the sporty characteristics of this innovative electric sports car.

The structure of the door panel required a strong, yet lightweight material to ensure that the doors met all demands for performance and aesthetics. ARPRO’s ability to reduce weight, reduce tooling investment by 50 percent and provide insulation of the door panel, along with integration of the cable channels and switches, has proven fundamental to the use of a scissor door design for the first time in a series-production vehicle.

ARPRO has already been widely used in BMW models, including structural applications such as X5/X6 seat benches and the 5 Series seat back. Thanks to the material’s flexibility and the ease with which it can be moulded into customised shapes, it also proved the best choice for the BMW i8.  JSP president and CEO, Paul Compton, takes up the story:

“Every gram saved by the ARPRO door panel means less environmental impact, while the material’s energy absorbing capacity enabled crash pad functionality, despite small pack space and the constraint of a complex, aesthetic design.

"Increasing automotive sustainability and producing a door that opens with ease and style is a great achievement, especially as the technology didn’t exist when we started this project.

"Our part in the BMW i8 project has not gone unrecognised and it has now led on to other exciting developments that will see car production take great strides forward in the near future.”

The development of the door panel was revolutionary, so testing at JSP’s eureka facility was rigorous, overcoming a number of challenges. The engineering process was particularly complex because there were multi-functional requirements in one component. ARPRO needed to provide stability, structure and strength, as well as the ability to integrate components such as trims, loudspeakers and switches – as well as heat and sound insulation - all in a very thin walled component manufactured to tight tolerances.

Equally challenging was the moulding tool. The radical design required multiple iterations to achieve a perfect end result – in this case, a smooth, sleek product that contributes to the success of the car’s interior design. 

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