1996-02-01

Design Advantages and Benefits of the Chrysler Dakota Fully Integrated Thermoplastic Instrument Panel 960398

Today's interior systems design engineer has been challenged with providing significantly lighter, simpler and more cost-effective instrument panel (IP) design solutions, while simultaneously meeting rigorous occupant protection and quality standards. These issues provided the motivation behind the fully-integrated structural instrument panel design developed for Chrysler's Dodge Dakota Truck Platform. This total system design approach greatly depends on the stiffness and ductility of the engineering thermoplastic substrate and cross-sectional design for managing the energy of unrestrained occupants during frontal collisions. The structural IP consists of a fully integrated, three-piece monocoque thermoplastic structure that replaces the traditional retainer, air delivery ducts, steel beams and reinforcements typically used in IP designs. Additional integration of support for the passenger side air bag, and packaging for the electrical harness as well as other IP components are provided through molded-in-features. The resulting design provided an overall weight savings of 2.5 kg, tooling cost savings of $1.5 million, and a 50% reduction in parts. Not defined yet is the total system cost reduction that should account for part cost reduction, assembly operation elimination, assembly simplification, and labor cost reduction. This paper discusses the design evolution of the Dodge Dakota structural instrument panel, and advantages and benefits of the structural solution compared to a traditional instrument panel approach.

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