All-in-one lamella roof made from transparent plastic

Bayer MaterialScience AG sees itself as a development partner to the international automotive industry that independently provides innovative impetus for the future of the automobile. The latest example of this is the prototype of a highly integrated lamella roof based on the polycarbonate Makrolon®. The roof’s special feature is that it incorporates transparency, sealing, opening and closing functions in a single plastic component that can be manufactured in just one process step. “This lamella roof with a plastic-compatible design primarily represents an alternative to conventional fabric- or PVC-based sliding and folding sunroofs,” explains Florian Dorin, a specialist in Bayer MaterialScience’s Automotive Glazing Team. “We have incorporated cost-effective production technologies in this project and also given the prototype component a close-to-production design so that we can move straight on to concrete projects with system suppliers and OEMs,” he adds.

The new concept for lamella roofs is based on transparent and flexible polyurethane or silicone materials that are permanently molded onto the individual polycarbonate lamellae and also act as a folding hinge and seal. The prototype developed by Bayer MaterialScience is equipped with a total of four of these flexible lamella segments, forming four “roof windows” that can each be opened and closed separately. Tracks are used to connect the lamella segments to a solid, transparent polycarbonate roof skin. A tube, also transparent, runs lengthways along the middle of the roof structure to accommodate the folded lamellae after the “roof window” is opened. This creates a three-dimensional structure that makes the component more rigid than a flat lamella roof. It also significantly reduces the number of individual components.

The fact that the roof is made solely from plastics gives designers great scope. They are able to create three-dimensional geometries that would push glass/metal combinations to their very limits. There is also potential for saving money thanks to the cost-cutting integration of functions. For example, the prototype component incorporates a wind deflector, two indicator housings and, in the end of the transparent central tube, a housing for the brake light. It would also be feasible, for example, to incorporate roof spoilers and antenna holders plus roof railing and water management components. Storage compartments and housings for interior lighting could also be molded onto the inside of the roof.

Development projects with system suppliers and OEMs benefit from the extensive know-how of the Bayer MaterialScience Automotive Glazing Team specialists. This covers the entire process chain, from granule manufacture to ready-coated glazing module. The service ranges from plastic-compatible design using various CAE tools – including analysis of snow and wind loads, the component’s natural frequency and crash behavior – to rheological studies, mold design and the surface treatment of polycarbonate.

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