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Northwood's Aerospace Interference Grid Technology Chassis Testing

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  • Northwood's Aerospace Interference Grid Technology Chassis Testing

    I’m posting this for anyone who wants to know what Northwood means when it says its chassis are subjected to “aerospace interference grid technology” testing. This is the long version. LOL. If you want a shorter read skip to the section below between the double dashed lines.

    I recently completed an 18 month trip around much of the USA living full-time in a Class C, my first-ever RV. I’m selling that rig now as was the original plan: buy a rig, travel for a while, sell the rig. During my trip I began to give thought to the possibility of giving up my sticks-and-bricks home in favor of full-time RV living. I’ve also given thought to keeping my current residence while taking RV trips from time to time. I’ve made no final decisions but as I give thought to the many considerations I’ve also been investigating 5th wheels and to a lesser extent tow vehicles. I became a member of this forum recently as part of my exploration of fifth wheels with an eye toward the possibility of buying one. As a potential full-timer I have been interested in quality rigs. That interest has led me to Northwood and ORV products, and where better to learn about the user experience of Northwood products than right here?

    While looking at Arctic Fox promotional videos they mentioned “aerospace interference grid technology” in reference to the building of the chassis for their 5th wheels. Aerospace what, huh? Those terms were new to me. I wanted to know what Northwood hoped the consumer would learn or know about their product as a result of the use of that terminology, and I thought it would be fair and reasonable to ask. I mean, they tossed the terminology out there in their advertising. They should be willing to explain their meaning. Right?

    Before contacting Northwood for an answer I visited the web site of Pacific West Associates, Inc., the company that does the testing for Northwood. I wasn’t able to make much sense of the information presented there or how it might apply to the Arctic Fox product. So I emailed Northwood and although I heard back from them in a timely manner I did not receive an answer that I thought really addressed the question and I told them so.

    My question was then escalated, and in short order I got a call from Chuck Ballard, the president of Pacific West Associates, Inc. the company that does the interference grid technology testing for Northwood and ORV. Chuck and I spoke for about 50 minutes! I was very impressed with his generosity by giving me that much time. He was very kind, and I told him so.

    During that conversation I got a good idea of what it means to test an RV chassis using “aerospace interference grid technology”, and I learned other things too. It was both a very pleasant and informative conversation. I wish I could share more of it here. That which appears between the double dashed lines below is my explanation of what I learned as a result of speaking with Chuck Ballard in regard to the chassis testing they do for Northwood. I submitted a draft to Chuck for corrections or comments he thought should be made before I post the information online. He wrote to me “Post looks good. I concur with the content.”

    ========================

    Now, as to “aerospace interference grid technology”, this is what I came away with: first, this is a software analysis of the chassis performed on a computer. It’s very involved and it is costly. Essentially, specifics of the chassis including the metal beams, spring stiffness, tire size, expected load, etc., are programmed into a computer. A number of “nodes” or software listening devices are attached to the chassis within the simulation, hundreds or thousands of them. Then the software model is subjected to horizontal and vertical forces such as those they expect a fiver would be subjected during use. This includes acceleration, deceleration and bumps. The software nodes listen to sounds created by the chassis. They can hear the chassis members “sing”. That information is then used to analyze the chassis for weak points. Again, this is all simulated on a computer. Based on the sounds produced by the chassis and recorded by the software nodes it can be determined where a chassis may need to be altered in order to strengthen it. Essentially, that’s the idea: using a computer to test the strength of the chassis in simulations. When I asked Chuck to express in simple, lay terms what the chassis analysis they perform means to a lay person he said “All this translates to is that the chassis has some engineering behind it that looks to identify weak points in order to correct them.”

    Pacific West also visits the Northwood plant something like every 90 days for on-site inspections that involve visual inspections of the chassis assembly and checking for proper calibration of Northwood’s test equipment. These inspections go beyond the chassis and include things such as plumbing and electrical, although only the chassis analysis falls under the terms of exclusivity I described above.

    Currently, with regard to chassis evaluation, Pacific West has an exclusive two-year agreement with Northwood to test only their products. [Note: it may be the case that ORV also uses this testing but I’m uncertain.] According to Chuck there are only three companies in the US that provide interference grid technology analysis.

    ========================

    This sort of testing is, according to Chuck Ballard, used to test landing gear in the aerospace industry. I think Northwood could have simply used the phrase “interference grid technology” without "aerospace" but that it sounds better when aerospace is tossed in.

    I think it’s probably safe to conclude that the testing performed by Pacific West for Northwood represents a real positive in terms of Northwood seeking to build a quality product.
    For travel reports, great photography and photo tips, campground and boondocking reports, interviews and more subscribe to my free blog at RussOnTheRoad.wordpress.com

    Checking out the Arctic Fox 29-5t.

  • #2
    Great write up. I definitely learned something today. Thank you.
    2012 Dodge Laramie, 2500 CTD, crew cab, Reese 16K Slider hitch

    2019 Arctic Fox 27-5L, 320w solar system, Trimetric SC-2030 Solar Charge Controller, Trimetric 2030 Battery Monitor, Magnum 400 inverter, TST 507 tire monitor
    2015 Arctic Fox 25-Y sold

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    • #3
      One of the leading factors in my decision to purchase a Northwood product was the reputation of their frames. I have never heard of a frame issue on this forum.
      Tony
      2016 Ram 3500 4X4 Crew Cab LB DRW 6.7 Cummins/Aisin 4.10,
      Curt Q24, 2015 Kawasaki Teryx 4 LE,
      2013 Artic Fox 29-5T Silver Fox,
      Four Cats and yes they travel with us.

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      • #4
        Very interesting. Good info and nice report. I have a friend that works at Boeing in the airframe structural testing area. He has mentioned something like this type of testing he does on the 787 fuselage.
        2014 Silverado 2500HD CCSB 6.0L, 4.10, 4x4, Rancho 9000XL's & RS 5000 Steering Stabilizer, Rigid LED's, PML Deep Trans Pan, K&N Air Filter
        2015 Snow River 288BHS, Maxxis LRE, Fantastic Fan, Reese Dual Cam 1200# Trunnion

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        • #5
          This is a big reason I bought an Arctic Fox. It doesn't matter how good the "house" is if the foundation sits on top of sand. A quality trailer starts with a solid frame.
          2015 Ford F350 Diesel Platinum Dually 4X4 Long Bed
          2016 27-5L, 50 amp, 5500 Gen, 4 pt leveling, 10 CF refrigerator, 15k AC,
          Central Vac, Dual-panes, Rear Camera
          MorRyde Pin, B&W Companion hitch

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          • #6
            The frame of a Northwood product is most definitely superior to most if not all other brands. If a trailer frame is weak or "flexible" sidewall cracks result, slide-outs bind and leak, and bad things happen.

            I've seen large and expensive fifth wheels that developed large cracks at the 90° juncture between main body and front overhang. A weak structure can be patched, basically bandaids applied, but they are never as good as a trailer built with a strong frame to begin with.
            Harvey Barlow
            USN Retired
            Glade Springs, WV
            2008 Dodge Ram Quad Cab & Chassis, Cummins ISB6.7 Aisin CM Flatbed BrakeSmart Transfer Flow 223k miles
            2011 Arctic Fox 26X LT245/75R16LRE tires (SOLD)
            2012 Unnamed 10' Slide-In Truck Camper

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            • #7
              Sounds a lot like "finite element analysis" a fancy computer program to analyze complex mechanical structures in software and math
              Sly Old Fox
              2005 AF 22H
              2007 Chevy 2500HD 4x4 Ext Cab.
              Avatar - camping at Wolf Creek County Park, Wolf Creek OR

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              • #8
                I appreciate your information. I had no idea what the terminology meant before.
                Buzz & Debbie
                2016 Arctic Fox 25W
                2016 Chevrolet 2500HD w Duramax Plus

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