All About Azdel

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Azdel is a synthetic fiber-based material formed into thin, structurally stable flat sheets for use in Gulf Stream Coach laminated travel trailer and motor home walls.  It replaces a layer of plywood in the “sandwich” that makes up our laminated walls.  The sandwich includes these layers:

  • The exterior fiberglass skin, a thin, resilient layer of smooth fiberglass glued to a thin substrate
  • A layer of Azdel directly under the exterior fiberglass
  • The structural skeleton frame of welded
  • square-tube aluminum, encasing a layer of rigid polystyrene insulation
  • Wood, steel, and aluminum blocks and backers attached to several points of the frame, to provide attachment points for screws, brackets, window frames, and other items
  • An interior layer of plywood (typically lauan) wrapped with sheets of vinyl wallcovering

The advantages of Azdel are significant, when its characteristics are compared with plywood, the most commonly used material directly under the exterior fiberglass.  Here are the highlights:

Weight Savings

Azdel weighs roughly half as much as the wood it replaces.  Saving weight in the base weight of an RV means that the frame, axles, and tires of that RV can carry more cargo.  Saving weight can also contribute to better fuel economy, better handling, and less wear and tear on the engine and drive train pulling the travel trailer or powering the motor home.

Insulation

While the layer of Azdel is thin, it is a remarkably good insulator, resulting in an R-value for the wall system that surpasses that would be reached with traditional plywood sheathing under  the exterior fiberglass.  This enhanced insulation reduces the load on furnaces and air conditioners, extending their useful lives, and saving on limited supplies of gas and electricity.

Resistance to Water and Moisture

Azdel uses recycled polymers as a raw material.  These polymers are unable to absorb moisture making Azdel panels inherently impervious to water and moisture.  This also means that mold and mildew simply can’t grow in Azdel sheets, making them the ideal barrier between the outside world and the interior environment.

Sound Deadening

The fibrous structure of Azdel makes it an effective barrier to unwanted noise.  This makes it a key component of the sound barrier that separates the interior space from unavoidable distractions like nearby pets, generators, music, and other intrusions.

Structural Resilience

All RVs combine strength, rigidity, and resilience to provide a stable, functional home-away-from home.  The ability of Azdel to absorb minor shocks, bumps, and other common on-the-road events enhance the overall resilience of the wall system.  

Laminated Walls - The Rest of the Story

It’s useful to remember that Azdel is just one element of the full system that constitutes Gulf Stream Coach laminated walls.  

The fabrication process is also an essential part of the story. 

Laminated walls are assembled entirely by Gulf Stream Coach technicians using processes perfected through decades of experience, in a specialized Gulf Stream Coach facility.

Frames are cut an and welded according to detailed blueprints that take into account the structural requirements of each floor plan, making allowances for windows, storage compartments, utilities, exterior connections, etc.  Frames are laid flat on a large work table, and insulated with large continuous blocks of rigid polyethylene foam, cut to fit all voids in the frame.  The frame is also sprayed with adhesive.  Additional structural elements of wood, aluminum, and steel are added at this point too, providing attachment points for screws, brackets, windows, etc.

The prepared frame is readied for the addition of exterior and interior wall elements.  These elements are laid out horizontally on a large roller-table with the exterior fiberglass layer at the bottom.  Heat-resistant adhesive is robotically applied to this and all subsequent layers.  

With adhesive in place, large flat sheets of Azdel are set on top of the fiberglass layer.  The aluminum frame, already stuffed with insulation and covered with adhesive, is added on top of the Azdel, and finally, the interior vinyl wrapped interior wall panels are added to the sandwich.  

The entire system of layers and adhesives, is enclosed in a huge air-tight plastic bag, and rolled into a large flat vacuum chamber, where air is removed from the plastic bag.  The vacuum pressure draws air out from voids between the layers and adhesives, to turn the many components into a single structural laminated component.  

The vacuum, temperature, and cure-time of the lamination process are all carefully monitored and controlled to maximize the strength, resilience, and durability of the finished product.  

Once the laminated wall exits the vacuum chamber, it is inspected, trimmed, and shipped from the lamination facility to the appropriate Gulf Stream Coach assembly plant.
 

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