After spending several years in the habitation department at NASA, developing living spaces for the International Space Station as well as multiple off earth exploration vehicles, designer Garrett Finney left in 2009 to launch his dream recreational vehicle, the Cricket trailer. At the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Finney introduced a prototype of the FireFly, an even more compact and utilitarian next-gen trailer, designed to fit in the back of a pickup truck or be towed by a small car.
The FireFly's interior is minimal, lined with folding bench tops for the sleeping/living surface with room for storage underneath. Although he initially hopes to attract the eco-campers who require the robustness of a trailer and the serious off-roader, Finney also envisions industrial or disaster-relief applications, such as deploying temporary base camps in remote and disaster stricken areas. Working with the small team of Evan Twyford (recruited from NASA in 2012) and Cricket Lead Designer Brian Black, the FireFly was designed in a three-week blitz after several months of sketching, mockups and CAD modelling.
"We worked with one of our local metal vendors to cut and fabricate the majority of the exo-skeleton," Black says of the development process. "Most of these skeletal components were laser cut and bent sheet aluminum which, when fastened together, create rigid structures."
Combined with the welded square tube sections, this created a rugged yet light weight architecture. We borrowed many construction methods and materials from our NASA/aerospace design experience as well as our experience designing and manufacturing with the Cricket such as the use of light weight yet highly insulative composite panels. These panels are high R-value, inch thick architectural siding with .04inch aluminum skin and an eps foam core. This use of aluminum and composites allowed us to create the rugged volume seen with this prototype while keeping it weight at just over 600lbs.
Evan Twyford sketching
Vehicle profile iterations balance ergonomic sizing and human factors concerns, such as bunk width and ceiling height, with technical sizing constraints such as truck bed dimensions and under-bench stowage.
Early concept sketching depicts multi-mode use on trailers, in a truck bed, and on a notional lander-leg package. Sketches also outline separate habitation module and frame/decking components with modular stowage/water tank compartments.
Firefly with deployable lander leg package. Concept sketch by Evan Twyford.
Early Firefly concepts depict the living module with anodized aluminum exterior 'exo-frame' members that tie into extruded aluminum shipping pallets. The pallets allow units to be stacked and shipped easily. This idea was later traded for increased interior stowage volume. Concept sketch by Evan Twyford.
Solidworks CAD assembly.
A low-fidelity mockup created on the Shopbot verifies dimensions of bunks, stowage, window placement, truck bed fit, etc.
Evan Twyford grinds sheet metal weldments for the door assembly to ensure a watertight seal.
Vehicle assembly in TAXA's Houston manufacturing facility. Clockwise from top left: Lander leg components fresh from powder coating, 'exo-rib' weldments get rivet-nut inserts, sunshade prototype fitting, door assembly.,/small
Detail of exterior frame construction.
TAXA founder and designer Garrett Finney installs exterior water tanks.
The Firefly gets its first truck bed installation.
A view inside the finished vehicle prototype. Door assemblies on both ends of the module allow the space to be opened up completely to the outdoors.
TAXA designer Brian Black gives the prototype a test drive.
Telescoping lander leg assemblies install with steel spring pins and allow the module to be removed from a trailer or a truck bed quickly.
A second generation prototype of the FireFly is scheduled to launch early next year, you can learn more about the project at TAXAFireFly.com.
A (Photoshopped) image of the near future...?