Composites Today

Magazine For Composites Professionals

Recreational vehicles made with novel styrene-free technologies

Indupol, AOC and BÜFA have worked together on using a styrene-free gelcoat and a styrene-free RTM formulation for manufacturing camper roofs for customer Knaus Tabbert. Combining these novel materials yielded molded parts with great aesthetics and mechanical strength, with close-to-zero emissions inside the vehicle at the same time.

Knaus Tabbert is one of the leading manufacturers of motorhomes, caravans, camper vans, and crossover utility vehicles in Europe. The company offers a broad selection of vehicles, ranging from compact entry-level models to the absolute luxury class. Knaus Tabbert stands for first-class quality, innovations and many years of experience.

Indupol has been a long-standing supplier to Knaus Tabbert, making high quality roof assemblies used in multiple series of recreational vehicles.

Change in legislation

Upcoming changes in European legislation require the camper interior to have very low levels of volatiles, in order to make the stay inside as healthy and comfortable as possible for the camper user. With the traditionally used styrene-based gelcoat and injection formulation systems this is difficult to achieve. So Knaus Tabbert asked Indupol to come up with a solution.

“Indupol is pushing the limits in composite part manufacturing and is used to working very closely both with customers and suppliers”, explains Frank Jansen, Managing Director of Indupol. “So we like introducing new material solutions, as well as developing in-house any necessary production technology. In this way, we build robust and consistent manufacturing processes for meeting the challenging needs of our customers.”

Styrene-free system

Indupol used an innovative styrene-free gelcoat and RTM formulation combination for making components with close-to-zero emissions. BÜFA supplied a styrene-free gelcoat that can be easily applied inside the mold. AOC proposed the novel styrene-free Beyone® 215-A- 01 formulation, enabling a smooth injection process. Both BÜFA and AOC have spent many years of intensive research developing these products, and are expecting the technologies to be broadly commercialized in the near future.

“This is the first time a part with such high aesthetic requirements is made on commercial scale with these innovative materials,” comments Lothar Kempf, Managing Director of BÜFA Composites GmbH. “BÜFA has been continuously pushing the limits of chemistry and application technology. I am very happy we were able to put our knowhow to work.”

Benefits for End Customer

The styrene-free feature ensures that the interior of the camper remains practically odor-free and is healthy and comfortable during use. At the same time, great surface aesthetics, high mechanical strength and a nice aerodynamic shape can achieved, ensuring the roof is fully integrated with the rest of the vehicle. The final roof assembly can be pushed out at the camping site, enlarging the space inside the camper considerably. The highly functional and good-looking campers provide a superb, long-lasting recreational experience to the traveler. “AOC has a track record of developing new material solutions and bringing these to commercial reality,” adds Stefan Osterwind, Managing Director EMEA for AOC. “We like very much to run such projects closely together with our customers, so we learn as a team and can accelerate our new product introductions. We are convinced the open collaboration helps to build a sustainable and successful business.”