DIY Composite Flatbed Camper Build

#1
This idea came to me from another build involving carbon fiber laminated over foam board. I then came across FRP manufactured composite panels. After an exhaustive search
and brief "horrible" experience as a panel sales rep, I decided to build my own panels from scratch.

First step was to locate the fiberglass skin. This actually took longer than I thought it would, but found a manufacturer practically in my own back yard. http://www.vetroresina.com/?lang=us

After visiting the plant and learning a lot about their various products, I left with some test samples. I can't say enough about how helpful and friendly these people are.

Test Time:
Using a sample of single weave frp and 3/4" foam board, I bonded the components together using high strength epoxy from Soller Composites. http://www.sollercomposites.com/NewSoller/index.html

The result was impressive and encouraging enough to proceed. Super strong light weight insulated panel.

Only 3/4" thick supporting my weight of approx 210 lbs.

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#2
FRP is great stuff. Do you think you can create large panels without getting voids or air pockets? One of the vexing problems for FRP manufacturers is creating uniform adhesion. One other thought. Nearly all of the weight in the panel, probably 90%, is created by the skins. Going up a bit in core thickness wouldn't add much weight, but would increase rigidity and insulation. Still, I think a 3/4" panel would make a fine camper. Most of the FRP builds are way overkill IMHO.
 
#4
This picture is from a few days ago. The camper is not near complete, just the exterior box and some interior framing for the dinette, bathroom, and cabinets.
More windows also need to be installed. I wanted to see just how "strong" this construction was before posting and proceeding further with the build. Needless to say I'm
posting and proceeding. When the camper was lifted it felt solid with no flexing or seam expansion.

I don't have a lot of time, so this build gets worked on in my spare time. There are even days I don't feel like working on it:) That being said, its taken about 4 months to get
to this point in the build. I have had some help with the panels for placement, but everything else has been just myself. I'd estimate about a month had I been able and wanted to
devote more time.

I'll start at the beginning to share how most DIY'ers can do this too.
More posts to come as I get time:)
 
#6
House info here; http://aidomes.com/

The original plan was to build a box without the cab-over to minimize weight and cost. An exterior storage rack would have taken its place.
The final decision resulted in the "point" / "snout". Or non aerodynamically challenged :) This space serves as sleeping or storage. There is enough room
for two adults to sleep east/west or if your head faces south and curl your body, plenty of space for north/south position. Great for kids too.
After owning a couple cab over campers, my wife and I decided to forego climbing a ladder into bed. Instead, the dinette will be our bed.


The first step in this build was to determine if I could fabricate a substantial panel. The test using 3/4" foam board and single weave frp confirmed that I could.
I would later use 1/2" foam board for the interior framing.

After I located my source for the frp, I decided to go with a stronger double weave high gloss material. The cost for this was $1.61 per square foot. Since the manufacturer was within
driving distance, I saved on shipping.
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#7
I think one of the most crucial components in my construction is the epoxy. John Soller at Soller composites was very helpful. Their brand Adtech surpasses the more popular
West systems. They even have a carbon nanotube mix that increases strength and rigidity by 25%. I used this in the cab-over floor, rear and roof. The strength of this epoxy
is impressive. There is no sag in the cab over floor with my full weight. When drilling the back wall for window install, the drill heated as if it were metal.
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#8
Next was to locate the Dow blue foam. My research and reading said to use high density foam. This is not readily available at the local Lowe's or Home depot.
Finally found a local store that pulled some strings to get it for me. It was 2" thick and rated at 60 psi. Cost was close to $1,000.00 for my specs. Hind sight and now knowing
how strong the epoxy is, I probably could have bought the pink stuff from Home Depot at $20 a sheet.

Once I had the foam, I pre made the exterior shell first then covered with FRP. This ended up being a good idea since the panels require two people to manage the bulk. It also allowed me
to get the angles needed prior to lamination.

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The floor is made out of plywood with foam sandwiched between. I did this to ensure a strong foundation, run some plumbing through, and have a surface to screw components to.
 
#13
More pics of panel lamination
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Lamination is fairly easy. First step is to lightly but thoroughly sand both foam and frp skin. Accurately mix epoxy and resin. I used a paint brush and applied to frp skin, then laid on foam. The skin is fairly rigid
so it lays flat, however weight still needs to be applied evenly on the entire panel. It also needs to be level.
I used a slow cure epoxy for maximum strength. It takes about 12 hours before you can handle the panel. Full cure is about 7 days. Temp also needs to be above 80. I covered with tarp to create a "blanket" and used a space heater. Also need to be sure and not allow over run to come in contact with surfaces other than plastic. Epoxy will not bond to plastic.
 
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#14
Next step is bonding the panels using 4" structural aluminum L channel. This is needed on all seams inside and outside. I went with a smaller guage inside.
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I used sika flex 252 for the bond. "incredible stuff!" https://www.emisupply.com/catalog/a...=sikaflex+252&search=&search_in_description=1

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Sika flex 252 does not bond well directly to the foam, so I epoxied all exposed foam to seal and create better bond with the Sika.
 
#15
The following are panel assembly pics, I won't go into much detail but feel free to ask questions.
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Notice the rounded corner and the rounded panel-
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