How the TOPO2 Body is Made
The TOPO2 is a premium off-road camper, built to endure. One of the things that sets it apart from other teardrop trailers is our unique approach to body construction. While there are certainly other fiberglass options on the market, none are quite like ours. We use a single-piece composite fiberglass shell with an infused structural PET core made from recycled milk cartons.
So, how exactly does our unique fiberglass construction work? Fiberglass is a durable, reinforced plastic material embedded with woven glass fibers. Before the epoxy is applied, fiberglass is a relatively soft and flexible fabric that can take on any shape. Epoxy is essentially the glue that bonds the fiberglass together when it’s being molded into its final form. When it came to choosing between the many possible construction methods, we let our design requirements lead the way: to be as light, durable, and sexy as possible.
To eliminate as much weight as possible, we had to have a structural composite body. Some fiberglass shells are mostly decorative, with a hidden (and heavy) wood frame underneath. For TOPO2, we wanted an infused core to be the primary structural component of the trailer. To achieve the highest possible quality and durability, vacuum pressure in the infusion process was the answer. Lastly, to create some real eye candy we opted for a seamless single-piece body.
To better understand the construction process we ultimately chose, let’s dive deeper into the three main types of molding for composite trailers.
Chop & Spray
While chop and spray could meet our standards for lightness and shape, it doesn’t check the durability box. In this process, you use a pneumatic gun to chop fiberglass strands and spray epoxy onto a mold surface. This is primarily used for large-format moldings such as boats, truck bonnets, and larger trailers. Because this method is extremely fast, it is a less expensive option.
That lower price does come with some downsides though! One of the limitations is that you can’t put any structural component (other than additional fiberglass) into this type of construction, which was a crucial requirement for TOPO2. Another concern is that, similar to spray paint, it’s very difficult to create a consistent level of thickness. This variability makes it very difficult to achieve a product with a reliable weight and durability.
We needed a more precise method to saturate the fiberglass with the epoxy resin, so the degree of unreliability with chop and spray just wasn’t right for the TOPO2.
The hand lay-up process is a more expensive method because it requires the most manual work, which involves applying fiberglass layers one by one. Then, the craftsmen epoxy brush or roll on epoxy, almost like a grown-up paper mache. While some teardrop trailers have opted to go this way, our unique design requires the ability to build structure right into the fiberglass, and that’s just not possible with hand lay-up composites.
We knew this wasn’t the right fit since TOPO2 needs consistent curing. The hand lay-up method simply creates a fiberglass shell with no further structural reinforcement. With this approach, it’s difficult to control the application of epoxy resin. Using a paintbrush or roller leaves too much room for uneven saturation for our taste, and the result can be over or under-saturated. Once again, the durability just wasn’t up to snuff!
We finally found our Goldilocks porridge with the infusion process. Though infusion is costlier because it requires more systems and increased precision, it's definitely the best fit for our product goals.
With infusion, the fiberglass cloth is laid onto the mold using tack adhesive. After that, a large vacuum bag goes over the entire mold to suck the air out and compress everything to be as compact as possible. (Think those plastic storage bags that flatten puffy comforters with a vacuum!) Then, technicians inject epoxy resin through a port in the bag and use another port to suck the resin to evenly distribute it throughout the fiberglass. This process creates that perfect saturation we wanted - nice and even all over.
An infusion process also allows for other materials to be put into the lay-up. This is how we integrated our unique PET core to build structure right into the fiberglass itself.
Our engineering team carefully considered all of the possible routes when deciding how to best manufacture this revolutionary trailer. With quality, consistency, weight, and strength at the forefront, they explored the available processes through Escapod’s creative lens. Ultimately, we chose to use an infusion process to construct the TOPO2 body despite the added cost and time. This process allows us to have the structure built right into the fiberglass, giving our trailer incredible strength without all the weight. Not only that, but TOPO2 has a single-piece shell and a fully mechanical gutter system built into the design, making it sleek, seamless, and leak-proof!
We refuse to sacrifice quality on our mission to build the best damn camper known to man. Our composite design is like no other, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.