Open Range RV believes it has found a solution to a big part of the industry-wide problem that RVers have been complaining about for years: leaks. Last fall, the manufacturer of fifth-wheels and travel trailers became the first RV manufacturer to adopt a semi-robotic sealing system for its exterior windows.
Until now, this kind of automation involving a major structural component of RVs has been unheard of. But the Seal Design affiliate of RV supplier Dicor Corporation introduced Seal-Tite, a semi-robotic system that has made the placement of window sealants more precise and error-free, eliminating the hand application of such sealants that often resulted in inconsistent quality.
When a window is prepared for installation on a typical assembly line, a butyl tape or foam sealant is applied to the window where it attaches to the wall. However, installers frequently have trouble keeping the tape or foam from stretching around the corners where it can create small gaps at those points, or elsewhere where it may also be unevenly stretched. Accordingly, a caulk or cap sealant is often applied around the window once it is in place to provide an additional barrier to water intrusion. However, such caulking can eventually break down or be unevenly applied as well, leading to window leaks that can damage the RV and make for an expensive repair job.
The system involves a quick-set, hot melt sealant that can be precisely and optimally sized for a particular window type and applied in a consistent bead by a hand-assisted robotic arm in a matter of seconds. In addition, the need for a cap sealant is virtually eliminated. “There’s nothing else like it in the industry,” said Seal Design General Manager Greg Kelly. “Open Range has really taken the lead on this as a real solution to window leaks, and we intend to alert RV buyers to this with a special sticker to certify that a particular RV has been built using this process.”
Open Range’s leak testing showed consistent, near perfect test results over the course of hundreds of windows a day. The company expects to initiate a similar process for sealing entrance doors and exterior hatches.
“At Open Range we are continually trying to improve on everything that we do,” said Director of Product Development Jason Martin. “If there’s something new out there, we take time to look at it and see if it works for us.”
“Not everything works for us,” he continued. “But this is something we spent a lot of time studying and working into our production process. We believed it was a ‘no-brainer’ from the start, and the great results we’ve been getting have proven that assessment to be true. We’ve had great communication and buy-in from every part of the company on this. Everyone understands people pay good money for our product and we want to give them the best RV we can.”
“As the only RV company with this kind of technology for eliminating window leaks, it adds another distinguishing feature to our towable products,” added Open Range Marketing Coordinator Josh Streich. “More room and less weight are features that distinguish us in the marketplace, and now we can add leak reduction as well.”
For many RVers, that’s a benefit that’s been a long time in coming.