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Old 08-17-2020, 01:45 PM   #1
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Why no aluminum framing?

Just a general question...and perhaps it can't be answered by anyone here except ETI, but I was curious as to why ETI hasn't gone to aluminum framing under the dinette and bed areas. Seems to me that would be a lot stronger and lighter than wood, not to mention no warping. My initial guess is that it has to do with the cost of welding it, but that's only a guess.


Anyone else?


James
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:09 PM   #2
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My bets would be:
  • There's no shortcoming in the wood framing - it's demonstrated over time to not suffer from lack of adequate structural strength or 'warping' issues; the weight difference would approach insignificant, if in fact tip to benefit at all.
  • The current techniques lend more efficiently to accommodating the slight tolerance differences encountered between each shell and trailer during production
  • Introduction of a material not used anywhere else in the trailer, and particularly the associated fabricating crafts/skills, would likely have a huge and undesirable impact on production efficiency; if outsourced for pre-fabrication (like chassis are currently) that aggravates the fitment-tolerance issue and introduces another inventory hassle.
Bottom line - IMO it's a 'solution looking for a problem'
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:09 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Escape Plan View Post
Just a general question...and perhaps it can't be answered by anyone here except ETI, but I was curious as to why ETI hasn't gone to aluminum framing under the dinette and bed areas. Seems to me that would be a lot stronger and lighter than wood, not to mention no warping. My initial guess is that it has to do with the cost of welding it, but that's only a guess.


Anyone else?


James
Granted the way Escape does their woodwork - screws and staples, a welded aluminum frame "may" be stronger but....

I reworked my framework using biscuits and wood glue on all the joints and an aluminum frame would not get close to the rigidity of that frame besides being heavier.

It's not the materials - it's the labor involved that's the problem. Escape's situation is that they build to a certain price point that requires them to minimize the labor costs to build the trailer.

I'm retired and can afford to spend the time to do stuff the best way I know how. Escape would price themselves out of the market if they built trailers the way I want my trailer to be.

Oh, the last pic is what it looked like when I received the trailer.
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:20 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Centex View Post
My bets would be:
  • There's no shortcoming in the wood framing - it's demonstrated over time to not suffer from lack of adequate structural strength or 'warping' issues; the weight difference would approach insignificant, if in fact tip to benefit at all.
  • The current techniques lend more efficiently to accommodating the slight tolerance differences encountered between each shell and trailer during production
  • Introduction of a material not used anywhere else in the trailer, and particularly the associated fabricating crafts/skills, would likely have a huge and undesirable impact on production efficiency; if outsourced for pre-fabrication (like chassis are currently) that aggravates the fitment-tolerance issue and introduces another inventory hassle.
Bottom line - IMO it's a 'solution looking for a problem'
Nicely answered, that about sums it up.

Ron
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Old 08-17-2020, 02:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Centex View Post
My bets would be:
  • There's no shortcoming in the wood framing - it's demonstrated over time to not suffer from lack of adequate structural strength or 'warping' issues; the weight difference would approach insignificant, if in fact tip to benefit at all.
  • The current techniques lend more efficiently to accommodating the slight tolerance differences encountered between each shell and trailer during production
  • Introduction of a material not used anywhere else in the trailer, and particularly the associated fabricating crafts/skills, would likely have a huge and undesirable impact on production efficiency; if outsourced for pre-fabrication (like chassis are currently) that aggravates the fitment-tolerance issue and introduces another inventory hassle.
Bottom line - IMO it's a 'solution looking for a problem'
I have to disagree. From day one, the bed plywood in my 21 began to crack along the driver side wall due to the way the framing was done. (granted - I could lose some weight and it would help ) Look at the last pic in my previous post and then tell me that the framing was done correctly. That big gap where no support was installed under the plywood shouldn't be there.

I've heard over and over complaints about the creaking noises from the bed on the forum. The framing in the rest of the trailer is fine - under the bed, not so much.
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:09 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by tdf-texas View Post
I have to disagree. From day one, the bed plywood in my 21 began to crack along the driver side wall due to the way the framing was done. (granted - I could lose some weight and it would help ) Look at the last pic in my previous post and then tell me that the framing was done correctly. That big gap where no support was installed under the plywood shouldn't be there.

I've heard over and over complaints about the creaking noises from the bed on the forum. The framing in the rest of the trailer is fine - under the bed, not so much.

That's my biggest concern with wood framing is the potential for cracking, especially when these trailers are taken into different environments with varying temperatures and humidity. But, I guess I can understand the financial decisions around why they don't use aluminum framing, too. Nevertheless, manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their products and I just see this as another potential way to improve it.
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:15 PM   #7
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I pine away for an aluminum undercarriage a la Oliver Trailer as I look at the rust building on the steel frame of our 17B used in the winter.
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:27 PM   #8
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:31 PM   #9
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I pine away for an aluminum undercarriage a la Oliver Trailer as I look at the rust building on the steel frame of our 17B used in the winter.

It's exactly those kinds of improvements I'm talking about. It must be common knowledge that the steel they're using under these trailers is rusting out over time (and maybe not that much time, either), especially when road salt is used in the winter months. So, why not build an under carriage frame out of aluminum? Seems simple enough of a replacement to me, but I'm no mechanical engineer, either.
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by yardsale View Post
I pine away for an aluminum undercarriage a la Oliver Trailer as I look at the rust building on the steel frame of our 17B used in the winter.
So buy one.

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Originally Posted by Escape Plan View Post
So, why not build an under carriage frame out of aluminum? Seems simple enough of a replacement to me, but I'm no mechanical engineer, either.
Or a strong background in accounting either. It's not a matter for a mechanical engineer.

Ron
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:47 PM   #11
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That's my biggest concern with wood framing is the potential for cracking, especially when these trailers are taken into different environments with varying temperatures and humidity.
Metals contract & expand more than wood with temperature changes, also causing problems.

Wood has some very desirable advantages for a travel trailer:

1) Wood's weight to strength ratio is equal to that of aluminum in many respects. An aluminum sub-frame may be unnecessarily heavy for the job.
2) Wood retains its strength when subjected to repeated flexing. It is often said that a travel trailer is experiencing the equivalent of 3.0 earthquake when being towed down the road. Wood stands up to this well. (The joints may be a different story if not done properly.)
3) Wood is an easy medium for the average owner to work with in making repairs & modifications. Think of all the modifications that we've seen in this forum that may have not be done if the framing was aluminum. It's just more difficult to work.
4) Wood doesn't suffer from electrolysis or corrosion. (Rot, yes.)
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Old 08-17-2020, 03:55 PM   #12
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I'm a welder machinist mechanic.

With Escapes current approach of wood cabinets requires low overhead, equipment and skills. For the best part, you can take someone off the streets and pay them $18 and train them to put together these cabinets. For equipment, you need a dust collection system and some basic hand and power tools.

For a fabricated aluminum frame. You'll need a extensive smoke and fume extraction system that the ministry of the environment will regularly check on, a dozen $12k welding machines and you'll have to constantly look for skilled welders to do the work. If you can find anyone under $28 hour, chances are their looking for more money. Aluminum welding is one job I have no interest in, it's a pretty unhealthy occupation.

Escape does an excellent job with the product they are currently producing.
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Old 08-17-2020, 04:10 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Escape Plan View Post
Just a general question...and perhaps it can't be answered by anyone here except ETI, but I was curious as to why ETI hasn't gone to aluminum framing under the dinette and bed areas. Seems to me that would be a lot stronger and lighter than wood, not to mention no warping. My initial guess is that it has to do with the cost of welding it, but that's only a guess.


Anyone else?


James
Using aluminum would be much harder for ETI to offer the level of customization that they do.
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Old 08-17-2020, 04:17 PM   #14
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If it ain't broke don't fix it. Been on this forum since before we got our trailer and have seen very few complaints on interior construction. Especially when compared to SOB trailers. There are several people on the forum who have made the Alaskan trip or into Mexico, both extremely rugged journeys and I hear no horror stories on their trailers falling apart.
Now would I pay extra for an aluminum frame under the trailer? Maybe.
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Old 08-17-2020, 04:34 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Doug2000 View Post
I'm a welder machinist mechanic.

With Escapes current approach of wood cabinets requires low overhead, equipment and skills. For the best part, you can take someone off the streets and pay them $18 and train them to put together these cabinets. For equipment, you need a dust collection system and some basic hand and power tools.

For a fabricated aluminum frame. You'll need a extensive smoke and fume extraction system that the ministry of the environment will regularly check on, a dozen $12k welding machines and you'll have to constantly look for skilled welders to do the work. If you can find anyone under $28 hour, chances are their looking for more money. Aluminum welding is one job I have no interest in, it's a pretty unhealthy occupation.

Escape does an excellent job with the product they are currently producing.

Nice answer! Easy to understand, insightful and complete. I love answers like this. I don't think I would like the job of an aluminum welder either. I would work with wood.
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Old 08-17-2020, 04:44 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Escape Plan View Post
It's exactly those kinds of improvements I'm talking about. It must be common knowledge that the steel they're using under these trailers is rusting out over time (and maybe not that much time, either), especially when road salt is used in the winter months. So, why not build an under carriage frame out of aluminum? Seems simple enough of a replacement to me, but I'm no mechanical engineer, either.
I have an almost 20 year old Snow Bear utility trailer. It rusted, I used rust reformer and repainted it about 10 years ago. It needs, it again, but, it's far from 'rusting out'. It is made of much thinner materials than the Escape frames.

So, Escape frames are not 'rusting out', they are becoming in need of cosmetic attention and what should be considered periodic maintenance.

I personally wouldn't want to be forced to pay the premium an aluminum frame would entail, given that the current frame will likely last the rest of my life, with a little routine maintenance.

But, then again, I went with framed windows, which don't have the cool factor of frameless windows, or an aluminum undercarriage would.
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Old 08-17-2020, 04:52 PM   #17
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Now would I pay extra for an aluminum frame under the trailer? Maybe.

Perhaps this is where the real value would be as an improvement. If the interior wood framing is doing the job and not breaking over time or rotting out, then that's great. But, an aluminum under carriage might prove to be more valuable and durable over the long-term.
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Old 08-17-2020, 05:28 PM   #18
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Again, that's where cost accounting comes into play.

Why should anyone even question ETI's business model. It's their model and it's been very successful. An aluminum frame would add a large amount to the retail price. Obviously they don't see the need, nor do most other manufacturers see the need to use an aluminum frame and charge substantially more which would change their target price point.

Don't get me wrong, I love aluminum and use a lot of it. But in this case suggesting that a successful company should be changing their business model substantially when you don't have any chips on the table is kind of unnecessary.

Ron
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Old 08-17-2020, 06:23 PM   #19
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It must be common knowledge that the steel they're using under these trailers is rusting out over time (and maybe not that much time, either), especially when road salt is used in the winter months. So, why not build an under carriage frame out of aluminum? Seems simple enough of a replacement to me...
There are lots of potential issues with an aluminum frame (including corrosion), and the cost would be much higher. Another simple solution, if corrosion of the current product is an issue, would be better coating (paint) on the current steel frame.
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Old 08-17-2020, 06:51 PM   #20
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Again, that's where cost accounting comes into play.

Why should anyone even question ETI's business model. It's their model and it's been very successful.

Ron
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