What is foam, and how is it made? Despite the thousands of ways in which foam is used in our everyday lives, many people don’t know very much about how it’s made.
What is foam?
Mention the word “foam” and some of the more common applications may come to mind: upholstery in couches or chairs, mattresses, cushions, safety pads, carpet underlay or pillows. In fact, foam is used in a seemingly infinite number of ways – as packaging, integral components in machinery, for medical products, protective material for fragile technology, and more.
In a nutshell, open-cell foam is a cushioning product that is used in a multitude of ways, for purposes as specific as the various industries and individuals who require it.
There are two key components to consider when purchasing foam:
- Density: the density of a foam product will affect the level of support it provides, the longevity of the product itself and the feel of the foam;
- Compression: the compression of a foam product describes the hardness or firmness of the foam. The higher the compression, the firmer/harder the foam is. As this can be a very personal preference, we recommend obtaining foam samples to determine the required compression level.
How is foam made?
Polyurethane foam is a combination of the two key products: polyol, which provides the resilience, bounce and support to the product (and can be either petrochemical or vegetable-based); or TDI (toluene dioscyanate), a major petroleum-based product that helps the foam to “foam up” in the manufacturing process.
A number of additives and specialty polyols can supplement the primary blowing agents (water or CO2), to adjust the foam’s softness and texture. When mixed together with other specific ingredients, these products and additives produce a reaction that causes flexible polyurethane foam to form.
There are two main “pouring” methods for foam: open trough conveyer and variable pressuring foaming.
In the conveyer method, the additives and byproducts travel down a conveyer belt into an open trough where atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature changes affect the bubble formation. Just like yeast in bread will allow the dough to rise, the additives help expand the foam, until the trough has filled into a finished “bun” form.
The variable pressure method, known as VPF, uses the same machinery as the conveyer method, but the entire system is enclosed in a series of sealed, pressure-controlled chambers, which allow for the production of a high-quality foam product that is better for the environment. The VPF method doesn’t require solvents or any potentially harmful blowing agents, and uses fewer chemicals. Instead, mechanical controls aid in the variation of the foam characteristics as required during production. As a result, VPF has a zero emissions rating, which earned it a California EPA award. This patented process of creating high-performance foam products is known as Chamber Technology.
No matter what method is used to make the foam, all of BFF’s foam products are free of both CFC’s and PBDE’s, which is better for you and better for our planet!