PVC foam as structural element

Komplast’s production covers two fronts: on the one hand, PVC foam structural elements for sandwich panels which are revolutionizing the way campers are built, and on the other more complex systems such as shutters and functional dividers for various parts of vehicle habitats.

Though a very young company by many standards, drawing advantage from the nearness of all Italian businesses in the RV sector Komplast has been able to make inroads into some especially promising areas, where there has been and will partly continue to be a change in how recreational vehicles are conceived.

Bearing witness to this are the new products launched at the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, which provide an overview of Komplast’s core field of expertise, as well as of its versatility and capacity to span from building materials to semi-finished products designed for camper interiors.

Komplast specializes in plastics, which comprise a whole universe of materials and production processes, including both extrusion techniques and injection moulding.

“Luca and I were sales managers for companies specializing in the processing of plastics and supplying parts for the furniture and furnishing industry,” explains Francesco Lucaroni, co owner of Komplast together with Luca Rossi. “It was our work in this sector that led us to start out on our own in 2008. But immediately after, we expanded our business to the segment of recreational vehicles, which at that time was experiencing a solid growth phase.”

Komplast was capable of transferring to campers a locking and concealment system already in use in home furnishings – namely sliding shutters – making it a highly distinctive element of the passenger compartment on modern recreational vehicles. Today, we can see sliding shutters everywhere in campers and caravans: smaller shutters are used to close cabinets (a typical example is a TV cabinet door), whereas longer shutters are employed to divide the living area from the sleeping area, or to conceal and provide access to the washroom, as well as to separate the shower compartment when it is used.

Komplast’s goal is to manufacture shutters with an excellent aesthetic impact, and their new product leans in this direction indeed.

In fact, its shutters are perfectly finished on both sides – and it’s no surprise the model was baptized  "Giano”, just like the Roman god Janus depicted with two opposite faces. The property of having an equivalent look on both sides is a feature that is increasingly appreciated by designers, both for the traditional washroom area and in the ever more popular solution of a passing bath acting as a partition between the living area and sleeping area. However, merely varnishing the outer and inner sides is not enough. The new Komplast shutters can satisfy even the most demanding tastes: the plastic slats are perfectly joined together, virtually without visible slits. This was made possible by changing the geometry of the slats and exploiting an innovative design for the sliding runners.

As Francesco Lucaroni explains, “Our slats are not centered with traditional external elements, such as screws or plastic buttons, which are systems that are not always pleasing to the eye, and are laborious in terms of assembly. We’ve designed an assembly system that starts with a punching immediately after the extrusion, and consists of a runner with six elements joined by small hinges, which allow the slats to flex in curved areas. I think the aesthetic result is excellent, and there’s even a band that covers the fittings, so that nothing is visible.” Indeed, over the years Komplast has continued to refine its shutter systems, enhancing both its expertise and production flexibility. Ad hoc profiles for the slideways can be created to meet the customers’ needs for both the upper guide and the lower section, with many design solutions for the cover with flexible slats.

Komplast’s other area of expertise lies in structural elements for camper bodies. Komplast lent its support to the design concepts of various manufacturers, increasingly intent on replacing the old wooden frames with long lasting elements that are unaffected by water. As we all know, the traditional building system makes use of a lattice wooden fir strips set both peripherally and inside the sandwich panel, in turn built up of polystyrene or Styrofoam and fiberglass panels. However, it’s also evident that a possible, and not all too rare, infiltration of water in the sandwich panel can in the long run cause the wood to rot, leading to a loss of resistance for the entire structure, not to mention smelly and unhealthy mould and mildew. Replacing the wooden strips with plastic slats seems an excellent solution for some camper builders: the PVC foam profiles weigh only slightly more than wooden slats (400-520 Kg/sq m, versus about 450 Kg/sq m for wood), but have the advantage of aging very slowly – providing hassle-free operation in terms of thermal insulation – and above all do not deteriorate when they come into contact with water. “After being successfully used in wall elements,” says Francesco Lucaroni, “PVC profiles have now evolved also to be a part of the sandwich constituting the camper’s floor, once again as a replacement of wood paneling. The most used ones are 50x50 mm full square sectioned profiles.” For the walls, instead, variable sectioned profiles are employed, rectangular or square, for instance measuring 60x30 mm. Customers can freely choose among many options: the manufacturer can customize both the length and the section of the profiles; and even heat-moulded curved slats can be produced. Generally smooth, profiles are brushed on one or more sides, to enhance their adhesive properties. For the fastening of furnishings, such as wall cabinets, two solutions are possible. To fasten cabinets onto a rather long linear section, a PVC foam is inserted in the sandwich panel, such as those used for the structure. For joining pieces of furniture that are not too long, or to provide a point of reinforcement, a reinforced nylon fiber plate can be used instead, embedded in the insulating material.

Of course, boring process cannot be the same used for wood: holes can’t be bored too quickly, since the PVC would melt, causing the hole to widen more than required and compromising its sealant properties, which is otherwise much sturdier than wood.