Monday, April 15

‘Open sesame’: the secrets of the sliding side doors

YE Madrid

The Renault Kangoo is an emblematic model in the light commercial vehicle market, it has never stopped reinventing itself. Whether with the first generation combi and its sliding side door, its different lengths or the electric version that came out in 2011, this model has always been synonymous with inventiveness and its third generation is no exception with its “Open Sesame” side opening that , with 1.45 meters, has become the largest on the market. This challenge was achieved by removing the central pillar of the bodywork, a true transformation that required multiple adaptations. We review with François-Xavier, Chief Engineer, the story of an invention that could very well change the world of commercial vehicles.

Although the absence of a central pillar is common in prototypes, it is not so common in series vehicles that are going through the industrialization phase. It was even something unprecedented for a commercial vehicle until it arrived on the market in New
Renault Kangoo Van equipped with its famous “Open Sesame” opening. To perfect this innovation, the engineering, design and manufacturing teams did not use any magic formula, but rather a thousand and one ideas and an obstacle course to rethink the entire vehicle architecture and overcome numerous challenges, such as resistance of the door in the event of a side impact. Even the manufacturing lines were adapted to meet all technical requirements.

It all started in 2011 when Renault presented a prototype without a central pillar at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. Known as Frendzy, this commercial and tourism vehicle at the same time anticipated an innovation that was to be born ten years later: the “Open Sesame” function. The one chosen to bring this transformation to market was New Kangoo Furgón, although there was still a long and hard way to go to get from a prototype to a series model.

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For engineering, this challenge was something out of the ordinary: it was the first time that the teams had to design a vehicle without a central pillar. It involved a new architecture for the vehicle and a different position for the multiple pieces that are fixed, in one way or another, to the central pillar. For example, the locks had to be placed at the top and bottom of the vehicle, while the passenger seat’s seat belt was passed to the other side, thus fastening from left to right. But the most important thing were the nine specific reinforcements that were added to both doors to guarantee resistance in the event of a side accident.

However, the technical challenge was only a first stage before an even greater one: manufacturing. The Maubeuge plant, where Kangoo has been manufactured for 25 years, adapted its production lines to accommodate the “Open Sesame” innovation. And the modification was not small, since it changed the entire body structure.

Thus, a new manufacturing process had to be found, something that was done in a very ingenious way: in the drawing process, the doors do not come out devoid of their central pillar. They are manufactured with a provisional brace to avoid any deformation during transport to the next manufacturing stage and, a little later, in sheet metal, this brace is trimmed. To consolidate its resistance, numerous reinforcements are added thanks to the six robots dedicated to this operation. At the same time, three geometry tools measure to the millimeter that everything conforms. Then, during the painting phase, hinges specially designed for this model are positioned on the car that keep the sliding side doors in place. Finally, in the assembly, a spectacular sealing gasket is placed that makes a complete revolution around the bodywork.

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In total, five kilos of material were added to compensate for the absence of the central pillar. But this is not all. The welding points also multiplied. If in a normal door there are about 60 points, in the one dedicated to «Open Sesame» they are nothing less than 101.

More than 60 patents

This year, Kangoo celebrates its 25th anniversary and celebrates great commercial success. His notoriety earned him 5 million copies sold, in commercial and tourism versions. But its rise went further and with its “Open Sesame” innovation, the New Kangoo Van once again established itself as a forerunner in its field, with more than 60 patents filed for the model. It was awarded several prizes right out of the box, including “International Van Of The Year” and “Commercial Vehicle of the Year 2022” at the Trophées L’argus.

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