Exeter-based commercial vehicle accessories manufacturer Van Guard has released its new aluminum and plastic roof rack which requires fewer fixings.
The roof rack was designed for Van Guard by design consultancy IDC and released at the end of 2015.
Alex Ambridge, the designer, who was tasked with designing the new roof rack, tells PRW: “Van Guard already had a roof rack which was made out of steel. It was welded together and would be supplied to the customer to assemble onto the top of the vehicle in a nut and bolt assembly model. The client noticed it was incredibly slow to install and that a bottleneck was forming in its supply chain. So they came to us first of all, saying they wanted to speed up installer assembly time.”
At the same time Ambridge explains that IDC's client wanted to change the manufacturing method using more mass production injection moulding and aluminium extrusion instead of the stock steel extrusions it was currently using; its aim was to produce the roof rack parts quicker in-house.
The newly designed rack does away with the need for welding. Instead it uses a combination of polypropylene and nylon and acetal with nylon where parts rub together. Ambridge says: “We designed the new roof rack so it could be assembled in the factory. There are fewer parts – assembly points so the rack parts come in flat-pack sections which can easily be assembled on top of a vehicle."
Ambridge worked closely with the client so it could consider the roof rack parts and any operational constraints.
The Van Guard roof rack parts are made by an unnamed UK moulding company. Ambridge says: “We went from concept to production release in about nine months. Work started in January and we did the actual product release in November. We bought in a couple of roof racks and assembled them ourselves so we could see for ourselves what took more time to assemble. We decided that where the crossbar joins the sidebars we would have moulded sub-assemblies which feature our patent pending ‘click and lock' mechanism which is crash tested to maximum carrying capacity at 20G.”
He adds the new roof rack can be manufactured in less time and requires less skill to assemble where as in the past it had to be welded together before being powder coated. Now it can assembled with riveting using the plastic parts meshed inside the extrusion parts. All the plastic parts are injection moulded. By introducing the innovative click and lock mechanism, the use of nuts and bolts can now be completely avoided to dramatically reduce installation time onto vans.