The recreational vehicle (RV) industry is in Jason Bontrager’s blood. In 1968 his grandparents founded Jayco, Inc., manufacturer of the top travel trailer in the world, the Jay Flight®. Bontrager was head of Jayco product development for many years.
When Bontrager got the itch to extend the reach and freedom of camping experiences beyond the RV, he became founder, owner, and CEO of Skinny Guy Campers. In addition to enabling fuel-efficient off-roading and garage-able storage, Skinny Guy Campers include heat, hot and cold running water, power, a cooktop, and a toilet all dropped into a standard pickup truck.
Bontrager recruited Robert Miles III, with whom he worked closely at Jayco, to become his engineering design and technical documentation lead. Bontrager had led Jayco’s transition to the Autodesk® Inventor® 3D design package, so both men were trained in Inventor. Still, Miles had previously used SOLIDWORKS® 3D design software, and he and suppliers advised Bontrager to use SOLIDWORKS to develop the unique pickup truck camper.
Leveraging Cloud-based Connection
The team accelerated development, productivity, and collaboration by connecting SOLIDWORKS design data to the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform.
“As a startup, we needed to be both agile and lean, so we could quickly and cost-effectively develop and commercialize the Skinny Guy camper concept,” Bontrager explains. “We’re looking to maximize brand value and awareness, and establish our products more as pickup truck accessories and less as RVs. Using SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform gives us the capabilities we need to achieve our product development goals without having to make a large investment in server hardware.”
Product development began at the beginning of 2020. With the flexibility of working from anywhere, the company met its final milestone of final prototyping its standard truck bed model in Spring 2021, despite the pandemic.
Automated Design Tools
The 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS advanced automated sheet metal design tools were crucial for the innovative camper-in-a-truck-bed because its simplicity facilitates creating complex flat and bent sheet metal shapes.
Miles notes, “Instead of thinking in sheet metal, I can leverage the platform’s sheet metal tools, and let the computer do the heavy lifting. Similarly, when aligning holes for the 850 to 1,000 rivets in our design, I can use the automated features in SOLIDWORKS to create, space, and align all of the holes instead of facing the tedious task of making, spacing, and aligning the holes manually.”
Enabling Future Growth
While cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS solutions gave Skinny Guy Campers the flexibility, agility, and cost controls necessary for its initial R&D, the platform also provides the product-development foundation to support future growth and expansion. “Being on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, we can purchase additional apps as we need them without having to maintain hardware and software in multiple locations. It’s sort of like our product: A Skinny Guy Camper lets you explore and camp wherever a pickup truck can go; 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS lets us design and manufacture products wherever we have web access.”