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Development of a Design Methodology for the Systematic Identification of

Optimum Joining Technologies in Automotive Body-in-White Design.

Dónal Gildea
University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland

The term ‘body-in-white’ (BIW) is used within the automotive industry to describe the
structural body of a vehicle onto which the various components (engine, suspension, interior
trim etc.) are subsequently attached. The construction of the BIW for a medium-sized vehicle
typically involves the need to join approximately 300 stamped sheet metal components
together to form a ‘bodyshell’ (Chen et al., 2006). This bodyshell represents the heaviest
singular component of a vehicle and has the largest influence on many of its key attributes
including handling and crash performance (Chapman & Pinfold, 2001).

Fig. 1: Illustration of the Body-in-White structure for the Audi Q7. (Erbert, 2006).

The primary factor influencing automotive BIW development practices has traditionally
arisen from the desire to achieve a stiff yet light-weight structure. However, in recent times
BIW structures are also required to meet many additional demands. Amongst the factors
outlined in Fig. 2 below, environmental legislation and safety performance in particular have
provided the motivation for many recent developments within the field of BIW construction.
Fig. 2: Principal factors influencing BIW design and construction (Incerti et al., 2005).

In order to meet the above objectives, car manufacturers are incorporating an increasing
amount of High Strength Steel (HSS) into BIW structures. Use of HSS means that thinner,
lighter components can be substituted for those thicker, heavier conventional mild steel ones.
At present HSS accounts for about 35% of the steel used in BIW structures, the remainder
being largely conventional mild steel. However, it is envisioned that that the proportion of
HSS steels in the BIW structure will rise to approximately 75% by the year 2015 in light of
increased crash performance and lightweight weight design requirements (Haimerl, 2006).

100% 3% 9%
Ultra high strength steels
80% Rigidity > 1000 MPa
34% 29%
Extra high strength steels
60% 560 MPa –1000 MPa
High strength steels
40% 36% 340 MPa - 560 MPa
Mild steels
100 MPa - 340 MPa
62% 26%

Old C-Class New C-Class

Fig. 3: Increased use of HSS in the BIW of in the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Image courtesy of Daimler AG

As the BIW structure continues to become very much a multi-material structure with
numerous material types used to meet the specific demands of each sub-assembly, it follows
that a much more diverse range of joining technologies is required. Indeed, a typical car body
will now contain any combination of spot welded, MIG welded, arc-welded and more
recently, laser welded joints. Mechanical joining methods such as clenching, riveting, nuts
and bolts are also utilised in numerous applications. On average, 20 different joining
technologies are required for the production of a BIW structure (see Fig 3).
Fig. 3: Multiple Joining Technologies used in the BIW of the BMW 5 series. (White, 2000)

The large number of joining technologies available, coupled with the new multi-material
nature of BIW structures has greatly complicated the task of the automotive designer in
selecting the optimal joining technology for a particular component. At present this a very
time-intensive task which relies greatly on the personal experience of the designer. This
research involves the development of a design methodology which will provide the designer
with a systematic framework to assist them in their task of selecting the optimal process type.

A provisional methodology has been developed and incorporated into a Microsoft Access
database. In addition to the investment and operating costs for each respective joining
technology, the methodology takes account of a number of key parameters relating to the joint
(joint length / type / accessibility, material combination / thickness, degree of permanence etc)
and guides the designer through the process of selecting an appropriate joining technology in
a structured, systematic manner thereby reducing design effort and development time.

Fig. 4: Overview of the developed methodology


Chen G., Zhou J., Cai W., Lai X., Lin Z. & Menassa R. (2006) ‘A framework for an
automotive body assembly process design system.’ Computer-Aided Design, Vol 38: pp 531-539.

Chapman C. B. & Pinfold M. (2001). ‘The application of a knowledge based engineering

approach to the rapid design and analysis of an automotive structure.’ Advances in Engineering
Software, Vol 32: pp 903 - 912.

Erbert, C. (2006). ‘Die lasergeschweißte Heckklappe das neuen Audi Q7.’ Proceedings of the
European Automotive Laser Application (EALA) Conference, 26th -27th January 2006, Bad

Haimerl, W. (2006). ‘Lasers Changing Cars – How the Automotive Industry Addresses
Tomorrows Needs Utilizing Laser Technology.’ ALAW 2006, 14th Annual Automotive Laser
Application Workshop, 29th – 30th March 2006, Plymouth, Michigan.

Incerti E., Walker A. & Purton, J. (2005) ‘Trends in vehicle body construction & the potential
implications for the motor insurance & repair industries.’ International Bodyshop Industry
Symposium, Montreux, Switzerland 2005

White, M. (2000): ‘Das system CAWIS und seine Intergrationsanforderungen.’ PhD Thesis,
Technische Universität München.