By Russ and Tiña De Maris
RV manufacturers are using “high tech” to a higher degree each day. But the average U.S.-based RV builder will have to hurry to catch up with a high tech plan coming out of Canada: Build an RV with a 3-D printer.
On Thursday, the public can watch what’s billed as North America’s largest 3-D printer as it sets to work on building a plastic, unibody travel trailer in Saskatoon. While the rig may not exactly be suited to fulltiming, when the printer squirts its last bit of plastic, the 12-foot-plus rig will scale in somewhere between 600 and 700 pounds – a real lightweight, complete with seats and walls.
Randy Janes is the brain behind the design, and his reason for “printing” a travel trailer comes from his experience in the RV industry. For a decade Janes sold and specialized in the RV lifestyle, and recognized one of the industry’s biggest product headaches: water leakage. Three years ago, Janes got involved with 3-D printing and says, “I thought, ‘If I can build a trailer using this process, I would eliminate a lot of issues.'” Those issues include joints, seams, screws and other fasteners, all of which provide a toe-hold for moisture intrusion, which can bring damage or outright ruin to an RV, left unchecked. Using 3-D printing technology, the “coach” portion of Janes’ travel trailer will be constructed as a single piece.
The material used in the process is PETG that has a life expectancy of 100 years. If the thought of the glut of dead RVs cluttering up the countryside concerns you, there’s a little good news here: PETG recycles like a plastic drink bottle. However, the material can be colored to your specifications.
When the command to “print” is issued, the massive, 28′ by 5′ by 7′ ErectorBot printer will take ten days to churn out the record-breaking trailer. Record breaking? Randy points out the present world record 3-D printer construct is a mere 80 cubic feet. The new travel trailer will represent a 500-cubic-foot product. When the trailer is done, it will be equipped with some non-printable pieces: a furnace and stove, for starters.
Can’t make the trip to Randy’s “Create Café” in Saskatoon? Randy’s outfit will live-stream the project at noon (Central time) each day, with an opportunity for viewers to ask questions. You can “tune in” on the company’s Facebook page.
If the prototype works, Randy hopes to go big – starting up a factory that will “print” customers travel trailers. The first rigs, the company says, will move out for $25,000.