This paper presents a design methodology to modularize integrated fixtures, such as automotive framing systems, to be quickly and cost effectively reconfigured to accommodate a variety of products. Automotive assembly framing systems are used to accurately position and spot-weld the loosely pre-assembled body-in-white (BIW) car body parts. Auto-assembly systems can handle many car body styles; however, the used model-specific BIW framing systems are large, expensive, and the changeover to accommodate different car models takes considerable time. The proposed modularization design methodology aggregates a set of design structure matrices (DSMs) to represent the required changes in the fixtures, the spatial relationships between the used tools and fixtures, and the flow of exchanged information between them. The best granularity level of the modular fixture design architecture is determined using “Cladistics”: a hierarchical biological classification tool. Different tools within the framing system are combined into switchable modules, which allows these integrated systems to be easily reconfigured between different car body styles (product variants). A case study involving four car body styles is used for illustrating the presented design methodology. Results show the validity of the proposed methodology and demonstrate the obtained design of new modular automotive BIW framing system and the methods used for postprocessing and redesigning to improve the framing system's changeability.

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