Elkhart, Ind.-based TekModo LLC, a manufacturer of composite panels for the RV, commercial truck and marine industries, announced the introduction of its Fortis line of structural composite substrates.
According to a press release, the Fortis brand is a line of “design-engineered structural substrates targeted specifically for use as ruggedized, lightweight floor and composite panel skins.” The products are intended for use in applications that demand extreme durability and environmental resiliency. RV applications include: main floor and mid-deck structures; ramp doors; patio floors; roof decking; and slideout drawer trays.
TekModo said the Fortis line is superior to plywood, luan, and fiberglass composite floor/panel systems by eliminating wood, seams, rot, mold and other floor failures. The Fortis line “enables manufacturers the ability to produce significantly more durable structures with reduced unit weight and increased service longevity.”
The Fortis line is available in widths up to 9 feet and lengths up to 600 feet in coil form or as cut-to-size panels. The 9-foot width capability allows manufacturers the ability to produce large, one-piece, seamless floor and/or composite panels.
For additional information contact TekModo at 2700 Jeanwood Drive , Elkhart, Ind., 46514; (574) 970-5877; or info@TekModo.net.
After financial setbacks that caused Earthbound RV LLC to mothball operations in Middlebury, Ind., in the middle of 2009, the company and its unique ”green” towable products are getting a second chance 90 miles to the southeast in the blue-collar community of Marion, Ind.
And in the process, so, too, is high-profile entrepreneur C. David Hoefer waging another commercial comeback.
Key to the move: an infusion of $2 million in private capital, $900,000 in state tax breaks over the next five years and $100,000 in state training grants.
Earthbound expects to hire 60 people this year to build lightweight, eco-friendly Earthbound-brand travel trailers while creating a total of 300 jobs 2013.
”Financing in Elkhart County is tough, very tough right now,” Hoefer, Earthbound chairman and CEO, told RVBusiness. ”And, in Elkhart County, you are just another RV company.”
Contrary to popular belief throughout the RV industry, however, Earthbound did not go out of business, Hoefer reported. ”We didn’t actually close,” said Hoefer who has had a hand in founding a number of companies over the years, including Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. Hart Housing, Four Winds International Corp. and Pilgrim Inc. ”We kept operating. We just ceased production.”
The idea of moving to the Grant County community of Marion actually came last fall from one of Hoefer’s sons, Charles Hoefer, who works for the city park department, and was aware of the fact that Earthbound was looking for an infusion of capital.
”He said, ‘Marion is really looking for jobs. Would you consider (moving to) Marion?’ I said, I didn’t know why not. And about 45 minutes later, I got a text message that the mayor had told his people, ‘We want Earthbound.’ They put a full-court press on it.”
Within days, Hoefer said, the city had lined up five banks to meet with Earthbound representatives, and later the state was brought into the negotiations.
”I’ve never seen such an aggressive group that is more intensely focused,” Hoefer said. ”These gentlemen worked 10, 12, 14 hour days to get us down there and convince us that that’s where we belong.”
At the time of the announcement in mid-February, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels appeared in Marion and lauded the RV industry in general for its nascent recovery from the Great Recession. ”As expected, the RV industry is reinventing itself and starting to bounce back,” Daniels said. ”We couldn’t be happier to see the revolution happen here in Indiana, a state known for high-quality production and skilled workers.”
Hoefer said Marion’s manufacturing culture, which has sustained serious setback in recent years from both electronics and automotive industry closures, fits well with Earthbound. ”Their culture is like our company’s culture,” Hoefer said. ”They aren’t sitting in committees talking about things. They are action people. They are aggressive. They are looking toward the future.”
Wherever the company is located, Hoefer said that Earthbound’s basic premise has not changed since it was founded in November 2008: to build high-quality RVs out of composite materials that only recently have come into use in the RV industry.
”Being able to put automobile-type quality like you get in today’s Ford or GM product in a towable product … is our long-range goal,” he told RVBusiness. ”The entire unit is being constructed out of these (composite) materials.”
In so doing, Earthbound is taking its cues from the automobile, marine and aircraft builders, according to Hoefer.
”Everything we’re doing is not new,” he said. ”It’s been done in other industries. The application is different. To do what we need to do, you can’t do it with the same materials we’ve been using. If it weren’t for TekModo (LLC) helping me get started on this process seven or eight years ago, this could not have happened.”
The company, which also is being led by industry veterans President Ken Geljack and COO Bill Hughes, will build travel trailers in 22- to 30-foot lengths with $35,000 to $44,000 MSRPs with few options.
”It’s really starting over right now,” Hoefer said. Even though the prototyping is done and the product and material content is done, we are still working on second- and third-generation products that will be coming out in a year to two years.”
Contrary to rumors that have been circulating since the announcement of the Earthbound’s move to Marion, Hoefer maintained, the company is not for sale.
”In recent days, once they found out we had financing, others have become interested in us again,” Hoefer said. ”But it is not for sale and will not be sold. We are going to make it a nice company where people want to work and have fun and build product that we can be proud of.”
TekModo LLC , in partnership with Quadrant Plastic Composites Inc. announced Tuesday (July 21) the introduction of SymaLITE panels, an extremely lightweight, state-of-the-art, high performance alternative to luan panels used in RV construction.
SymaLITE is a reinforced thermoplastic composite material derived from polypropylene and specially oriented glass fibers whose weight, rigidity and ability to shape set new standards in flat-panel technology, according to a news release from Elkhart, Ind.-based TekModo. Additionally, SymaLITE offers significant advancements not found in competitive composite panel technology, including the availability of panel widths to 8 feet and tensile strengths greater than 10 times that of composite products.
The introduction of SymaLITE composite panels is in response to an ever-increasing RV industry demand for lightweight, high-performance, low-emission, plywood alternative materials, according to the release. “SymaLITE will significantly bolster the RV industry trend toward lighter and higher quality RVs. New materials like SymaLITE are helping the RV industry construct lighter units that are easier to tow and achieve better gas mileage. In addition, this material creates a stronger quality unit that is more moisture proof and eliminates formaldehyde concerns as well. The use of such new materials is one of the significant ways the RV industry and its suppliers are currently responding to market demand in these areas and improving the RV product for better future sales.”
According to the release, key benefits of SymaLITE panels include:
- Extremely lightweight panels.
- Formaldehyde emissions below measureable levels.
- Panel widths to 8 feet (standard and custom panel size availability).
- Panel tensile strength greater than 10 times that of competitive panels.
- Moisture, chemical and rot resistant.
- High strength-to-weight ratio.
- Compatible with hot melt PUR, liquid moisture cure, water-based and other commonly used adhesives.
- Field repairable.
- Dimensionally stable.
- Displays good sound absorption properties.
Quadrant Plastic Composites, the world’s leading manufacturer of glass mat thermoplastic (GMT) composites, and TekModo have strategically partnered to advance composite technology throughout the RV and surrounding industries.
Quadrant Plastic Composites and TekModo have design-engineered an entire portfolio of product offerings to include standard luan panel thicknesses and sizes as well as never before achieved wide-width panels. Additionally, engineering resources, design-analysis and test-validation studies have been completed to fully optimize the compatibility of SymaLITE panels with legacy manufacturing techniques, internal structural components, interior décor films and exterior surfacing materials.
TekModo is an Elkhart, Indiana-based Tier 1 technology supplier focusing on advanced composite materials, structures and manufacturing techniques. Learn more about TekModo LLC at www.tekmodo.net.
Learn more about Quadrant Plastic Composites at www.quadrantcomposites.com.