December 2008 - Camping isn't necessarily for lightweights, but both novice and veteran outdoor enthusiasts now have more opportunity to lightweight their camping gear, thanks to a partnership between SylvanSport, Cedar Mountain, N.C., and the Extrusion Americas unit of Hydro Aluminum, Linthicum Heights, Md.
The result of that collaboration is the GO, a trailer, or "mobile adventure gear," that weighs as much as it can carry: 800 pounds. It can be used as a trailer; it can haul myriad outdoor equipment, including bikes, kayaks and all-terrain vehicles; and it can transform into a camper that sleeps four.
An integral feature of the GO is its collapsible, all-aluminum frame, for which Extrusion Americas played a key role in the development and production. Lynn Brown, senior vice president of sales and marketing, says the first full-production trailers rolled off the line in March or April and that the company got involved in the project in February 2007.
"At that point, [SylvanSport] had concluded that an aluminum extrusion was going to be one of the key materials for durability and light weight and corrosion resistance," he says. "They approached us, basically looking for somebody to do extrusions for them. That led to a dialogue between some of the engineering folks at our Sydney, Ohio, facility, and Sylvan. There were a lot of iterations to the design, a lot of creative back and forth, and it ended up with the product you see today."
Brown says that in addition to practical purposes, such as strength, the aluminum lends itself to the trailer's visual appeal and contributes a great deal to its design. Additionally, aluminum benefited the bottom line.
"We ended up fabricating extruded profiles in a lot of different ways to give it its aesthetics and also its functionality," says Brown. "And to do that at a relatively reasonable cost--we're not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in complex tooling because aluminum extrusion dies are relatively inexpensive."
Some specific features include tubing with telescopes inside several extruded shapes, which Brown says is essential to elevating the GO's canopy to the desired height, as well as a compound 3-D bend on the front that supports a storage box.
"That's a pretty tricky thing to do, but it works from an aesthetics standpoint and also a structural standpoint, so you've got good support there without adding a lot of additional parts," says Brown. "On the sides, you've got a bent tube that comes down from the canopy, and one that comes up from the bottom. Those are welded together in the center, and that helps strengthen the overall trailer. Also, those fold out to provide some of the bed for when the camper is fully opened."
The aluminum used in the GO is made of 75 percent recycled metal, which Brown says appeals to the product's targeted customer base. It also capitalizes on an area of expertise for Hydro Aluminum.
"Over a number of years, Hydro has developed a technology for being able to re-melt and recycle aluminum to achieve, what we call, primary-grade quality with a high recycle content," says Brown. "One of the beauties of aluminum is that it's recyclable without any loss of properties. This is different from many other materials, which could be recycled but end up being downgraded to a lesser performance in the subsequent life. We've really developed our network so that it uses a lot of recycled content."
The GO trailer is manufactured at Extrusion Americas' Sydney, Ohio, facility. This wasn't the original intention, though, according to Brown--that particular plant traditionally produces complex components for the transportation industry, particularly heavy trucks. But in the course of the project, having Extrusion Americas produce the GO became an increasingly attractive option.
"As the relationship developed, at some point, the guys from Sylvan said, 'You're doing all this work here, and you're right at the intersection of a major north-south interstate and a major east-west interstate. Why would we ship all the parts down to North Carolina, assemble them and then probably truck most of them as finished goods right past here? Would you guys think about making the whole thing?'" says Brown. "We said, 'Sure, we'll do that.' It seemed to be a cost-effective answer for them that was a win-win." MM