RV Industry

Replacing wood-framed structures with polystyrene-filled structures, the industry embarked on a whole new way of designing.

From travel trailer to motorhome, the Recreational Vehicle (RV) industry has revolutionized live-in travel across the American landscape for roughly three-quarters of a century. Atlas Molded Products is proud of our long-standing partnerships with many of the motorcoach industry’s leading manufacturers in the thoughtful consideration of performance and possibilities from top to bottom. Innovation is the lifeblood of success in many competitive markets, and since mass-production inception in the mid-1950s, the RV industry has steadily evolved with growth. In 2020 the U.S. RV industry employed an estimated 600,000 people while contributing $114 billion to the American economy from some $18 billion in RV sales.

Originally conceived as travel trailers, motorhome fabrication initially followed the basic tenants of residential construction, covering wood-framed structures in tin siding. As demand grew, deficiencies in this fabrication method became apparent as years of well-worn travel trailers rattled along America’s roads. In the late 1980s, RV manufacturers began considering alternative building materials. The industry’s first real departure from wood-built manufacturing began by replacing stud-framed construction with rigid polystyrene foam laminated within a two-sided interior/exterior shell as the 1990s took off.

Atlas Molded Products is well-established as one of the most innovative, forward-thinking product manufacturers in the molded polystyrene industry. Our team joins the RV industry and many other OEM product manufacturers as a reliable resource in the pursuit of exceptional products and services. Atlas’ molded polystyrene is a dynamic, lightweight, durable insulation that also provides rigid structural support. It can be engineered around a wide range of applications from motorhomes to boat and jet ski hulls to assure structural integrity and long-term performance.


Identify the specific client challenges and construction objectives.

Before working with polystyrene as an integral material, motorhome construction was problematic for several reasons. For starters, it was labor-intensive, making RVs expensive to fabricate. The finished product was also heavy and often somewhat cumbersome to operate. These RVs also were not thermally efficient because stud-built walls allow air to easily pass through in either direction. Likewise, the typically completely flat roof was not aerodynamic and detrimentally allowed rainwater and snow to collect in ponds whenever the vehicle wasn’t in motion.

When the industry shifted from wood-built to polystyrene core construction, some manufacturers were initially working with DOW Chemical’s extruded polystyrene insulation. Extruded polystyrene, or XPS, refers to one of the ways raw polystyrene is made into rigid foam insulation. Working with XPS materials was inherently difficult and offered a very limited range of sizes, configurations, or customization. XPS insulation materials are also known to off-gas over time, which results in a diminishing R-value and less thermal effectiveness as the insulation ages.

Another challenge for this and many other industries with large-scale manufacturing operations is that their facilities are strategically concentrated in several key locations. For the RV industry, this includes significant production operations in Northern Indiana, Iowa, and California.


Detail what Atlas did to solve those challenges and meet the client’s project objectives.

Once manufacturers began replacing wood-framed structures with polystyrene-filled structures, the industry embarked on a whole new way of designing and fabricating their products. Atlas Molded Products provides molded polystyrene in multiple forms to the industry. Flat rigid sheets of Atlas molded polystyrene are often used as component in the roofs and walls of recreational vehicles. Atlas’ molded polystyrene sheets can be sanded to tolerances as close as +/-.015 inch to provide a consistent, surface, enhancing the lamination process and resulting in smooth sidewalls.

Atlas also molds polystyrene into three-dimensional products custom designed for the RV industry, saving significant time and labor during assembly. Molded polystyrene can be processed into virtually any shape in support of a diverse array of applications ranging from protective packaging for electronics and breakables to insulated foam coolers for pharmaceuticals, foods, or beverages.

Top-quality products involve top-flight engineering, and the RV industry plays a demanding consumer-driven game of product improvement that seemingly never ends. Over many years of service and partnership, Atlas Molded Products has dovetailed our processes to the engineering expectations of many of the industry’s top manufacturers. We have invested in state-of-the-art manufacturing process, and industry leading quality protocols facilitating countless product innovations over two decades of technological advancement. We have committed specific teams of operations and customer service representatives to fine-tune our products to each RV brand’s many specific subtleties. Atlas’ nationwide footprint of 16 manufacturing facilities allows each of the industry’s many different concentrated production locations to enjoy the benefits of regional shipping distances and transit times for material deliveries as demand fluctuates.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, RV production was temporarily shut down and, reopened to unforeseeably increased demand. Suddenly, a thirst for outdoor living skyrocketed as consumer desire for socially distanced vacations intensified, and RV dealers across the country faced record-low inventory almost as soon as they reopened. While other suppliers had material shortages, Atlas Molded Products was able to quickly ramp up production to meet demand by leveraging multiple manufacturing locations to stay a step ahead of needs throughout the pandemic.


Summarize the overall solutions to client challenges to show why it matters to others.

Across the broad spectrum of recreational vehicles on American roads, molded polystyrene rigid foam from Atlas Molded Products is the material of choice. Lightweight, durable, high-quality insulation with structural rigidity, molded polystyrene continues to be the preferred rigid insulation of choice among major RV manufacturers across the US. Atlas Molded Products is proud to partner with the RV industry and many others to produce OEM parts for the brands that shape who we are, where we go, and how we get there.

Large RV Trailer