DIY Composite Flatbed Camper Build

DzlToy

Explorer
How carbon fiber + honeycomb panels are made and some of the differences between Nomex and Hexcell are highlighted in this video:


OP: PM me if you don't want this in here and I will delete it.
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Good video, definitely strong panel. I wonder how the R value compares of this and similar panels to those with xps foam.
 

DzlToy

Explorer
Plascore, Nomex, Hexcell and other 'hollow' cores all have quite poor R-value, only trapping air between the skins to reduce convection. XPS is about R-5 per inch, structural foams are about R-4 per inch. The solution here is to avoid targeting one product that does everything and focus on maximising performance of each material.

Sylomer and Acousti-Blok are really good at damping vibration (sound), but they cannot be used to make sandwich panels. Temp Coat, SpaceLoft, Vacuum Insulated Panels and closed-cell spray foam are really good thermal resistors, but they cannot be used to make sandwich panels either. Triple-pane Argon, Krypton or Xenon-filled windows are better at blocking thermal transfer than single pane RV windows, etc.

Depending on your goals, you may not need any of these products. However, consider a robust sandwich panel, maybe 1/2" to 1" thick, a ceramic-based radiant barrier coating on the exterior and 1" - 2" of 'soft' insulation and sound damping material on the inside. This design, as a package is far superior to any insulation-based panel you could build because each product chosen is doing that which it was designed to do. Another option is a multi-layered SIP: 1/2" exterior sandwich panel made from Nomex or structural foam and carbon, S-glass or Kevlar, with a 1" - 2" hard insulating foam bonded to it on the inside and a Celtec, wood veneer or fiberglass interior skin. Think of it as a heavy coat. The inner lining would not hold up long if it were on the outside, neither would the fill material sewn into the coat. So each layer is chosen to accomplish a specific goal and it only performs that task.
 
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Shadewalker

Member
Depending on your goals, you may not need any of these products. However, consider a robust sandwich panel, maybe 1/2" to 1" thick, a ceramic-based radiant barrier coating on the exterior and 1" - 2" of 'soft' insulation and sound damping material on the inside. This design, as a package is far superior to any insulation-based panel you could build because each product chosen is doing that which it was designed to do. Another option is a multi-layered SIP: 1/2" exterior sandwich panel made from Nomex or structural foam and carbon, S-glass or Kevlar, with a 1" - 2" hard insulating foam bonded to it on the inside and a Celtec, wood veneer or fiberglass interior skin. Think of it as a heavy coat. The inner lining would not hold up long if it were on the outside, neither would the fill material sewn into the coat. So each layer is chosen to accomplish a specific goal and it only performs that task.

Thank you for posting your detailed essay a page back.


Curious if you've found any premade panels as you described above? After finishing my 3rd "Box" design this past year, I am really not keen on building my own panels again, as their construction took up over half the build time. And I was not working slow either.. :-(...aaaaaand, even tho I built a large work area to make them on, (3 sheets of 4x8 framed plywood leaned about 70deg against a shop wall) the plywood still warped a bit, so the work area is not totally flat ...so flatness is doomed from the get-go..🤪 🤣


I am concerned gluing interior items such as shelves, bed frame to the walls will backfire on my current box, considering the bubblling, as anything attached could/may pull the skin the rest of the way off. Gluing items to the walls WAS part of my overall plan, so I am a bit..flummoxed :-( .There are some hard points in the walls for fastener type attachments, but plans change, thus those points are no longer viable. 😅

Last query, in your searches, have you found any adhesives that are thin, quick to apply (like painting house walls), and don't off gas too much afterwards? My current box showed me that I may want to use cloth as the interior decor (Looks only) perhaps a canvas or soft svelt type. obviously, NOT all the way to the floor. basically, a nicer wall paper, as it were. Reason is, there is quite a few smudge marks from glue while I was assembling panels, which just painting over would not easily hide.
This looks like it may have potential....https://www.amazon.com/3M-30NF-Fastbond-Contact-Adhesive/dp/B000660IJ6/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=3m+adhesive+quart&qid=1633797093&sr=8-3

20210623_104036.jpg

🙂🙃😉Posted as everyone likes pictures, not words...
 

DzlToy

Explorer
There are many companies that make composite sandwich panels to your specs, but you better get out your credit card. Plascore in Zeeland Michigan has been great to work with and they offer a myriad of combinations to suit your needs. You can choose polypropylene, Aramid or 5052 core and nearly any appropriate skin. As you noted, DIY panels are quite labour intensive and if you are paying shop rates, this translates into a high, up front purchase price. A well-built panel however, should last a lifetime.

Nearly any spray glue or contact cement would work to install your 'wall paper', but if you use a cloth, you may still see the glue. Wallpaper is almost like a thin vinyl sheet, which helps prevent the glue from coming through. Contact a local upholstery shop and see what they use to glue door cards and headliners in.
 
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highwest

Active member
Thank you for posting your detailed essay a page back.


Curious if you've found any premade panels as you described above? After finishing my 3rd "Box" design this past year, I am really not keen on building my own panels again, as their construction took up over half the build time. And I was not working slow either.. :-(...aaaaaand, even tho I built a large work area to make them on, (3 sheets of 4x8 framed plywood leaned about 70deg against a shop wall) the plywood still warped a bit, so the work area is not totally flat ...so flatness is doomed from the get-go..🤪 🤣


I am concerned gluing interior items such as shelves, bed frame to the walls will backfire on my current box, considering the bubblling, as anything attached could/may pull the skin the rest of the way off. Gluing items to the walls WAS part of my overall plan, so I am a bit..flummoxed :-( .There are some hard points in the walls for fastener type attachments, but plans change, thus those points are no longer viable. 😅

Last query, in your searches, have you found any adhesives that are thin, quick to apply (like painting house walls), and don't off gas too much afterwards? My current box showed me that I may want to use cloth as the interior decor (Looks only) perhaps a canvas or soft svelt type. obviously, NOT all the way to the floor. basically, a nicer wall paper, as it were. Reason is, there is quite a few smudge marks from glue while I was assembling panels, which just painting over would not easily hide.
This looks like it may have potential....https://www.amazon.com/3M-30NF-Fastbond-Contact-Adhesive/dp/B000660IJ6/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=3m+adhesive+quart&qid=1633797093&sr=8-3

View attachment 686384

🙂🙃😉Posted as everyone likes pictures, not words...
So, uh… you got a build thread? Inquiring minds want to know.
 

Shadewalker

Member
There are many companies that make composite sandwich panels to your specs, but you better get out your credit card. Plascore in Zeeland Michigan has been great to work with and they offer a myriad of combinations to suit your needs. You can choose polypropylene, Aramid or 5052 core and nearly any appropriate skin. As you noted, DIY panels are quite labour intensive and if you are paying shop rates, this translates into a high, up front purchase price. A well-built panel however, should last a lifetime.

Nearly any spray glue or contact cement would work to install your 'wall paper', but if you use a cloth, you may still see the glue. Wallpaper is almost like a thin vinyl sheet, which helps prevent the glue from coming through. Contact a local upholstery shop and see what they use to glue door cards and headliners in.

Thank you for your kind reply. Pulling up Plascore as soon as I finish this reply. 😃 (Considering the time spent, as well as materials on this last box, I'm not so concerned with the ol credit card "melting" this time around. Also appreciate the tip of asking the upholstery boys as that had not crossed my mind.


So, uh… you got a build thread? Inquiring minds want to know.
Not yet. I'll post a reply/edit this, to this thread with the link, once I do. ...I'll attempt to not make ya'll wait too long.. 😅😅

Here you go. :)

 
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Shadewalker

Member

details of Box#3
 

cgav8r

New member
Saw your truck at Expo East - Missed a great opportunity talk and pick you brain. You left too soon. Very nice build!
 

Terra Ops

Adventurer
Saw your truck at Expo East - Missed a great opportunity talk and pick you brain. You left too soon. Very nice build!
Thanks, decided to leave Saturday after lunch, figured we saw enough. Also, it didn't help the drunks kept us awake past midnight. What happened to quiet time?
 

TOU47

New member
I spent this weekend reading this entire thread & hope to remember some of it. 😉 It has been extremely informative & inspiring...thank you for sharing & taking the time, energy & generosity...& graciousness.

In 2012, my family of four experienced our first camper. It wasn't perfect for various reasons, but it brought adventure and a closeness to our family, not to mention many memories.
Agreed 100%. After raising 5 children, we became empty nesters this last year...4 are married in 3 different states with 6.5 grandchildren. We had a simple family camping trip this summer with all in attendance...it was the first with all the grandchildren...so awesome! Many a memory camping in tents, tent trailers & backpacking...zero regrets beyond just not going even more. Had a couple travel trailers for a very short time. Never had disposable funds for much more. Thinking differently these days...

This past April we lost our daughter unexpectedly. She had just turned 22. The loss has been overwhelming, life has forever changed.
No words are adequate but want to express my sincerest sympathy to you & your family...nothing can be harder. My thoughts & prayers are with you all.

I share this so that those who are waiting to build or buy the perfect camper keep in mind that its not the camper but what the camper brings to your life.
I will forever cherish those memories of adventure and family. Everything in this world is temporary, make the most of it while you can.
Amen...and amen. Thank you.
 

TOU47

New member
Sorry to clutter up this thread & don't mean to derail it but this thread has been very inspiring. Thx again so much for your generosity & graciousness.

The last couple of years my wife & I have camped out of our truck with tent &/or canopy. We like the simpleness, accessibility and capability of doing so in a 4x4 rig.

I've been inspired by this amazing build & others like Ambition Strikes & Everlander anong others that are more simple.

I would really love a serious 1-ton 4x4 self contained rig for boondocking etc. like these but not sure we need that...yet. That all said, as I posted elsewhere, we already have a paid for...2014 Chevy Silverado, 4x4, LTZ-2, 6.2L, Crew Cab, 6.5' box that has 60k & is in pristine shape. (1/2 ton) Again...it's paid for.

So since we aren't looking to do this full time, don't have an HD rig but just want a bit more, room, comfort & protection from the elements & a decent bed to crawl into...I've been looking at things like the FWC light(er)weight Project M pop-up. It seems very close to what I'd like... but moderately optioned up is more than I want to pay...for what it is.

So I've thought about building something of my own after reading & watching others builds. With many off the techniques utilized here, I'm thinking about a shell style pop-up. ( I actually bought a 150#, 8.5' fiberglass, tonneau cover as a starting point...probably too heavy.) But I'm starting to wonder though if building a basic cab over slide-in box withOUT the more weightier options might be a better option? (More protection & better R value.) Could it be done under #500 like a shell version for my 1/2 ton?
 

DzlToy

Explorer
If you want to take the camper in and out, either buy something like an Alaskan or a FWC or be prepared to engineer that capability into whatever you build. Personally, I would ditch the factory bed for a few reasons, namely weight. A 6.5' pickup bed has to weigh a few hundred pounds. With the camper in the bed, you can't get much else in there, so ditch it.

Assuming the bed weighs 250 pounds, you can now add that weight to your camper, or have a lighter truck. EDIT: A FWC-style box measuring 6.5' L x 6.5' W x 6.5 H and having a "Mom's Attic" space measuring 2.5' high and 6.5' deep, made using Foamular 150 and a single layer of 1100 GSM carbon per side weighs ~425 pounds. Build in your cabinets, benches and hatches using the same techniques. If you removed 250 pounds off your truck by ditching the bed, you likely have 750 - 1000 pounds of weight carrying capacity remaining, depending on your axle, tires, suspension, gearing, etc. Window and door weights vary, but a lightweight, strong camper is not difficult to build. The 550 - 600 pound numbers from my original post presumed a heavier foam and lighter carbon.

If you are up for a DIY project, build the box and integrate furniture, lower body storage bins, doors, hatches, windows and skylights, right into the camper shell, creating what is called a monocoque. This is how Formula 1 cars and exotic sports cars, such as McLaren's 720, are built. The more dividers, boxes and compartments you tie together into the main structure of the house/box, the stiffer and stronger it becomes.
 
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