October '20

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20 • RV PRO • October 2020 rv-pro.com to McKay Featherstone, vice president of product development. Polser's Glanders elaborates, noting that wood can create a lot of warranty issues for the OEMs, or an extra repair expense for the owners of older units no longer covered. "The nature of the RV is that you cut holes in the floor so you can connect your various water tanks and other utilities," he says. "If there's a leak somehow, some way, and the wood gets wet, it swells. And, when it swells, it also rots, and you can have mold and mildew." Featherstone uses the word "inorganic" to describe Airstream's new flooring. He notes that wood floors can create other issues as well, right down to the fact that they sometimes squeak. "We now have an aluminum shell that has no organic material in it," he says. Still, there must be other advantages beyond reducing the squeaks – and there are. One is weight. The products are uni- formly referred to as "lightweight com- posites," although just how much lighter depends on the composite and the wood it's replacing. "Anytime we can take weight out while improving other things is always great," says Featherstone. However, in these cases, it's light enough – and flexible enough – to be installed in one piece. Glanders notes that these composites are often sold in a coil. "If you're an OEM, you're buying this in whatever your width requirement is," he says. "Say it's 96 inches wide. You're working with a 96-inch-wide coil, and it can be cut to whatever length is needed. Not only is it efficient, but there are no seams." Featherstone agrees that, not only is the stiffness of the composite Airstream uses attractive but it, too, felt drawn to the idea of being able to install it as a single sheet. At Airstream, that also gives it another advantage. "Because it's one large floor, we can print on the top of that floor the loca- tion information for our associates," says Featherstone. "If there's a screw that needs to go down, if there's a part that needs to be in the exact right place, we can print on the composite and that's going to help our associates be more accurate and more repeatable with the assembly." Yet another advantage: These products have good screw retention. "People know that wood has good screw retention," says Polser's Glanders. "But our material has a very high level of fiberglass in the resin, and the higher the content of fiberglass, the better it is for the screw to grasp the fiberglass strands in the product." Constant Improvement The fact that Polser's product has a very high level of resin also points out an important part of the lightweight com- posite story. The product can be created and adapted to meet each OEM's needs. From Glanders' perspective, that's a real advantage his company brings to the table. "We really listen to our customers, and if somebody wants a 2-mm or 2.5-mm or even 3-mm product, we can do exactly what the customer wants," he says. "We have the ability to fine-tune and tweak things so that we can hit that magic mark between performance and price – and both those things are very important." When Glanders' hiring was announced, he stated he planned to work closely with potential clients and their engineers to develop products that offer the best and most-innovative solutions for their spe- cific needs. Coming at it from the OEM perspec- tive, Airstream's Gehman says that com- pany didn't reinvent the wheel in finding its composite. Instead, it went out and evaluated numerous existing composite materials already in the marketplace. "We also looked at what are emerging products, because there's so much going on constantly within the composites field," Gehman says. "We found a company that was quite local here to us in Ohio that was Polser USA set up operations in Elkhart, Ind., earlier this year to be able to supply OEMs in the RV manufacturing capital with its fiberglass- reinforced plastic product and composite fiber-reinforced plastic materials. Pictured in the company's offices are Adam Glanders (left), operations manager, and Greg Glanders, president.

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