As you may remember from our last newsletter, we were given the challenge to convert a regular box truck into a vehicle to transport animals to and from various appointments in a research setting.

Our team of design engineers carefully went over the requests and parameters that our client required. The team then looked the van over and submitted a design proposal to our client. Once they received approval from all involved parties, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

We were fortunate that we did not have to remove any of the van’s components to begin the project.

We had 7 challenges (remember Shape-Master loves challenges) to conquer to make this transport van a success.

1) Animals must be confined in a safe and humane way to prevent injury while in transport.

We took into consideration the size of the van and the types of animals that would be transported and determined that this van would be best suited to carry no more than 2 passengers at any given time. Our welding shop went straight to work constructing 2 pens from aluminum with a divide and gates to ensure safety. The sidewalls are covered in ABS and floor of the van is covered with soft and heavy duty rubber mats. These features ensure the riders have enough room to stretch out, sit, or sleep-and not slip around. Challenge number 1 is met!


2) Provide a way to load animals into the van.

There are two ways animals may enter the van. The first way is under their own power by the use of the extendable ramp that came installed with the van. Notice how the aluminum welded gating that we fabricated helps direct the path of the oncoming passenger.


The second way is for sedated or special needs passengers. We modified a lift cart with 80/20 extrusion and hardware. It can raise high enough to receive a patient from an examining table. It has side gates to secure the patient and then the cart may be lowered for transport through the halls to the van. The second challenge met!


3) Create an easy way for the handlers to lift the animals.

Since pigs can’t fly, we need to have a way to lift the patient to and from the cart to the pen.  Once again through the use of 80/20 (ShapeMaster is a distributor, give us a call), we were able to design, fabricate, and install an electric hoist to lift the animal safely between the floor and the cart. Number Three, Check!


4) Regulate the temperature for summer conditions.

As you can imagine once the van has a passenger and is buttoned up for travel, it’s going to get hot and funky in the compartment. There are no windows to roll down, nor can you drive with the back door open. Our solution was to install 2 RV ventilation fans. The fans provide enough circulation to cool the compartment and provide some light so the ride does not seem as spooky. Number 4 Check!


5) Make the interior of the van easy to clean and make it wash down capable.

The side walls are plastic and the floor mats are rubber and the mats are removable. Remember the picture of the worker from the previous email using a pressure washer? It’s that easy. Number 5 Check!

6) Install auxiliary lighting for the handlers.

As mentioned, there is some light provided by the ventilation fans but more is needed for the workers to accomplish their tasks. We installed LED lighting over each pen. The switch housing was custom made by us and the nameplates were 3d printed and painted by us as well. Interested in 3d printing, give us a call. We do a lot of 3d printing. Number 6 Check!


7)  Make the van easy to convert back to a standard box van.

When the time comes to convert the van back to a box style van for hauling goods and equipment or just retire the van from service and send the van to recycling we would want to repurpose the equipment inside for other uses. Everything in this compartment may be easily removed by removing a few nuts, bolt, screws. As mentioned the mats are removable. Number 7 Check!


The workers love this van and there have been no complaints from any of the passengers. I heard that a few of the passengers did end up falling asleep during their ride. That sounds like a thumbs up…er…hooves up? Bottom line, it was a success! All 7 points achieved! This was a fun project, and we all really enjoyed putting it all together.
What will we do next? Whatever it is, it will be fun!
Until then, challenge us with your next project. Big or small, we do it all!