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ThinKing August 2018 Shedding pounds before your holiday: Lightweight core materials for interior parts of camper trailers reduce weight and the fuel consumption



Even small customized versions are possible with the new production process.

Packing up the caravan for the holidays is a challenge for many travelers: What can get packed into the caravan and what has to be left at home to stay below the maximum weight? The Baden-Württemberg based company Vöhringer GmbH & Co. KG has a new patented production process for helping camping trailers to “cut back”. For their  sandwich composite parts they use polystyrene foam instead of wood as a core material. This new core makes caravan panels about 75 percent lighter. Due to the reduced weight, travelers can benefit from an increased payload and less fuel consumption of their caravan. And in case you need an individual custom part like a kitchenette counter? No problem! Contrary to other manufacturing procedures, Vöhringer’s new process does not require any prefabricated molds. This enables reduced costs and a rapid preparation of smaller production batches.

The Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Württemberg is presenting this innovation as its ThinKing for August 2018. Leichtbau BW GmbH awards this distinction each month to offer a platform to innovative products and services in the Baden-Württemberg lightweighting sector.

The production process of the company based in Trochtelfingen is called “Vunder-Tech” and is most commonly used for the production of doors, kitchen counters, furniture flaps and design elements in caravans. The parts are sandwich composites which use light materials such as extruded polystyrene foam (EPS) or PET in the core. The surfaces are made of a high-pressure laminate. The parts are then coated with high-quality polyurethane. The result is a panel that is very water and weather resistant. Polyurethane coated materials are nothing new. The novelty of the patented “Vunder-Tech” process is that it can dispense with expensive prefabricated molds. “This allows us to produce small batches economically. Furthermore, by eliminating some of the costs of molds and tools, we can be very flexible in the production and react to the individual wishes of our customers,” points out Yannick Vöhringer, project manager at Vöhringer GmbH & Co. KG. The polyurethane coating also helps to stabilize the parts.

Sleek visual design
“It is often difficult to put edges on typical composite materials. Our coated edges are not only functional, but are visually attractive as well,” says Vöhringer. Another specialty is that curved parts can be produced, including creative designs for exhibition furniture according to Vöhringer. Diverse functionalities can be integrated into the components as required. “For example, we have created a desk with integrated USB ports,” explains Vöhringer. The required wiring can be easily installed into the parts, for example by inserting small metal tubes into the part which will hold the wires later. In addition, screw mounting points can be integrated into the part. The polystyrene core would not hold these points well on its own, so the holes are routed out and filled with polyurethane plastic to allow the mounting screws to be fastened securely.

A question of weight
A furniture made out of composite materials weighs much less and is ideal for mobile applications such as exhibitions. In camping trailers, weight is an even more decisive factor. “If the vehicle weight sinks, the fuel consumption is also reduced – and at the same time you can carry more cargo,” notes Wolfgang Seeliger, managing director of Leichtbau BW.

Vöhringer GmbH & Co. KG
The company is based in Trochtelfingen and was founded in 1921, initially as a woodworking enterprise. In recent years, the company’s primary activities grew to focus on surface layering, furniture production, profiles and coatings and polyurethane parts. Vöhringer currently has 320 employees. In 2011, the company won the Economic Medal of the State of Baden-Württemberg for its sustainable production methods.

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