Flexible foam is a broad category of foam which includes foam products that are pliable or bendable. These kinds of foam products have been manufactured and utilized since the early 1900s. Latex was the first material used to create industrial foam products, and, as the usefulness of foam was recognized, many other materials were developed throughout the 20th century, including polyurethane, which is the most commonly used material for foam products today.
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Applications of Flexible Foam
Flexible foams are utilized in many different industries, including:
The pliable nature of flexible foams allows them to conform to objects around them. This makes them especially comfortable to sit or lie on. For this reason, the furniture industry uses flexible foam products extensively as cushioning. Furthermore, many products are shipped or stored in flexible foam. The foam serves as excellent padding for fragile components, keeping them from colliding with other objects and reducing the effects of bumps and vibrations. The sheer diversity of flexible foams makes them incredibly useful for all kinds of applications.
Types of Flexible Foam
There are two main categories of foam: flexible foam and rigid foam. Both types of foam are manufactured from similar raw materials: polyols, polyisocyanates, and water. However, the two are differentiated by the ways in which polymers are used and the amount of each polymer used. Additionally, rigid foams are typically made with a high density, closed cell structure, while flexible foam has an open cell structure. These important structural and compositional differences allow these foams to take on very different tasks. Rigid foam is used primarily in insulating applications, as its structure prevents the movement of gases. Flexible foam is used for more diverse applications. Though it may not exhibit the same insulating properties of rigid foam, flexible foam can be used in anything from padding to trim.