Behind the impeccably smooth surface and the frameless exterior edges, the ARB Ascent canopy is a jaw-dropping product that displays a design years ahead of its time. In this article the canopy team provide further insights into the development of the Ascent canopy.
Listening to the voice of our customers, it was determined that the market was ready for a next generation ARB canopy packed full of features to complement the release of stylish late model dual cab vehicles. The ARB canopy team eagerly went to work, faced with the challenge of a blank canvas to generate a canopy that would leave competitor products in its wake.
To complement the existing Classic canopy range, and stay ahead of the market, ARB needed to ascend to new heights of innovation. After a review of several concept designs the team proceeded to finalise a design whereby the ARB canopy would integrate with the vehicle tub and give the illusion of a pick-up being transformed into a wagon.
Along with a sleek exterior, the Ascent canopy delivers key innovations, such as being ARB’s first centrally locking canopy that operates via the existing vehicle key, along with electronic latching to unlock the door and windows for increased security. The tinted side lift-up windows include frameless curved glass and an ‘invisible’ door hinge mechanism to remove unsightly exterior fasteners while increasing strength. ARB also removed any mechanical handles, replacing them with a push button sensor pad (similar to OEM vehicle boot lids) for operation of the frameless, three dimensional curved glass rear door.
Enhancing safety for consumers, ARB have continued the use of tempered safety glass to E43R standards on all canopy windows/doors, and an integrated internal safety release on the inside of the rear door. Easily identified, the yellow dial can be rotated to open the rear door from within the canopy when the door is closed, and even locked. The high mount brake light has been incorporated on the exterior of the canopy and is integrated into the rear spoiler. The rear spoiler improves air flow over the rear door to reduce dust and improve visibility.
Key design improvements have been implemented, with the canopy shell to provide a ‘vanishing edge’ design for excellent vehicle integration. The minimalistic exterior is the result of class leading vacuum forming for the window and door recesses.
The innovative attachment system for the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 Ascent canopies use a suspended attachment design, meaning the vehicle’s hard points are used for attachment. The hard point mounting brackets support the weight of the canopy and are superior in strength, durability and performance over clamping methods. The interior design is almost car-like with hidden fasteners, cover mouldings, special wiring channels and dimensionally stable thermoplastic door seals.
Developing a canopy from a blank canvas meant that ARB was required to validate new designs and put them through a rigorous testing regime. Utilising a combination of software, laboratory and real world testing the canopy team performed validation simulations using the latest software through Finite Element Analysis in CAD along with real life testing of a complete canopy in our specially built thermal chamber with temperatures up to 90°C. Further laboratory testing was undertaken on latches, actuators and relays via special ARB made life cycle rigs. To certify the design against water entry, canopy engineers utilised several high pressure water washing facilities.
ARB’s canopy manufacturing facilities in Melbourne have undergone significant capital improvement, including are layout to accommodate mass production of the Ascent canopies.
The most rigorous of testing was done on the test track in Anglesea, Victoria, where the canopy and vehicle were put through corrugation testing, high speed testing, articulation and the renowned Belgian blocks. A long term assessment vehicle was utilised to perform field testing on new mount rail configurations and the attachment system. Following numerous months of testing it passed with flying colours.
To ensure ARB’s canopies are manufactured to the highest level of quality, ARB’s manufacturing facilities in Melbourne have undergone major changes and an extensive re-fit to allow for mass production of the new Ascent canopies. New tooling for a completely redesigned range of windows has been developed, from extrusion dies, frame bending dies and glass moulding tools, all the way through to the latest assembly jigs, build assembly stations, adhesive and paint facilities.
Not just a pretty face, the new ARB Ascent canopy is backed by extensive testing, technological advancement and innovation from our diverse and highly skilled engineering team. The Ascent canopy is our flagship model, complemented by the popular Classic heavy duty smooth canopy and the Classic textured canopy to suit more than 35 vehicle models within 10 different vehicle brands.