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Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Henkel Adhesive Technologies

On the road to recreational vehicle innovation

New formulations are bringing sustainability and cost-savings to vehicle assembly.
5 min.
This is an image of a motorhome on the grass

Think motorized and towable RVs have reached the summit when it comes to design advances? That everything that can be streamlined, weight-reduced, cost-optimized, and beautified has been done? Think again. Over the last decade, significant progress has been achieved in composite materials, frame structures, interior design components, and fuel-efficiency developments. RV designs have seen major transformation with more seamless and water-resistant exterior walls, lighter and more durable frames, novel composites, and abundant interior component finish options. You can thank adhesives for much of that progress. But they’re only getting started.

Composite materials: sustainability driver

Composite materials used in RV sidewall lamination and floor construction are as varied as vehicle designs. Wood paneling, fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene, carbon fiber, strength-enhancing high-density foam cores, and fused thermoplastics are just a few of the composites employed in today’s modern motorized and towable RVs. The transition to and use of even newer composites is underway as part of continuous improvement initiatives that promise to enhance appearance, enable more sophisticated and aerodynamic designs, reduce weight, and improve fuel efficiency. Emission economics aren’t all that composites deliver, however. The materials are water- and corrosion-resistant, UV-resilient, help prevent mold and mildew growth, and some are even recyclable. Certain composites are also stronger than wood, adding to structural longevity and minimizing deforestation.  These factors underscore how composite use can help deliver on consumer and manufacturer aesthetic, lifetime, and sustainability objectives.

However, integrating next-generation composites can be challenging and complex. Composite constructions depend on high-performance adhesives for durable, long-lasting structural joining. Importantly, adhesives offer reliable bonding of dissimilar surfaces (such as fiberglass and aluminum, for example), speed assembly versus manual approaches, and enable inventory simplification for lower cost-of-ownership. Likewise, adhesive suppliers play an integral role in design for manufacture. As new composites become available, thorough evaluation of adhesives to ensure compatibility with all components is imperative. Material suppliers with accredited labs for ASTM testing to validate the best-performing combination of adhesive formulations, structural components, and substrates is highly recommended.

Enhanced adhesion to aluminum

Other materials, like aluminum, also factor large in new RV designs. By some estimates, aluminum accounts for nearly 30% of an RV wall and is often used in critical areas that may be subjected to high stress. Except for classic ‘stick and tin’ retro designs, aluminum is the predominant frame construction material. This is in addition to its use as a siding and roofing substrate. Therefore, improving aluminum’s cost-effectiveness and integration will further support economical RV assembly protocols. To this end, a single-component, solvent-free, liquid polyurethane adhesive has been developed that provides strong adhesion to aluminum substrates with minimal requirement for pre-treatment. The ability to significantly reduce the pre-treatment step before RV construction improves process time and lowers overall cost. 

LOCTITE® LPUR 8540 series adhesives are being used by leading OEMs. Among many attributes, the liquid polyurethane platform can provide: 

  • Superior adhesion to aluminum and increased adhesion to other substrates, including FRP, wood, EPS foam, steel, and composite
  • Added perimeter cure strength to offer better overall sealing and water intrusion over time 
  • Assurance of strong bonds at critical adhesion points such as hitch/gooseneck tubes and slide-out header tubes
  • Improved seam bonds for décor panels
  • Reduced cosmetic maintenance and rework
  • More consistent sealing for work-in-progress (WIP)
This image shows a floor slide-out on a recreational vehicle.

Lighter on the road, the environment, and the wallet

Advances in RV design, construction methodologies, sustainability, and affordability have helped grow the adventure community and driven new cachet for the pastime, with #vanlife, #glamping, and #RVlife now attracting enthusiasts of all ages. As more cost-, design-, and environmentally-conscious consumers join this multi-million-member group, new vehicle concepts – all enhanced with next-generation adhesives -- will drive continued appreciation for this nomadic and freedom-embracing pursuit.

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