Polyethylene foam, sometimes abbreviated as PE, is a product of the polymerization of ethylene. Polyethylene foam is typically fabricated by way of an extrusion process. It is a closed cell, resilient, durable, and highly rigid. It is flexible, light in weight, is resistant to mold, rot, mildew, and bacterial growth. As opposed to polyurethane foam, polyethylene foam can be reheated for the purpose of changing its configuration. All of these characteristics make polyethylene foam a popular choice for manufacturing a wide variety of products.
Quick links to Polyethylene Foam Information
Advantages of Polyethylene Foam
Environmentalists have been concerned with foam products for years in regards to how easy it is to recycle foam. Like any plastic product, foam can take years to decompose. Fortunately, the recycling of foam is possible. The foam made for padding can be recycled and reused for products such as carpet padding. Recycled foam can be used for countless other applications, including novelty products, and packaging material. Polyethylene foam, in addition to other types of foam, is CFC-free, odorless, and recyclable. Therefore, this foam is a “green” solution in a time where environmentally friendly regulations and selections are becoming more and more important, especially for large scale processes.
Polyurethane foam is among the most inexpensive artificially fabricated materials. It is an excellent material for shock and vibration absorption and dampening, insulation, and cushioning. This foam can also be used in certain applications to provide a wave absorbing material to reduce static. Since polyethylene foam is highly useful and versatile, the energy required to process the foam is worth the initial cost. Foam can be used to make sporting goods, gymnastic mats, packaging materials, and pool noodles.
In addition to these applications, polyethylene foam can be found in industries such as flotation, packaging, aerospace, and appliances. One course of action that companies can take is to set up a recycling center within their facility, and they can charge a recycling fee for those who wish to drop off unwanted foam products. This recycling fee can save the company money by greatly reducing recycling costs.
Design of Polyethylene Foam
Polyethylene foam is a closed cell foam, meaning that its structure does not feature pores or cells that are joined together. The foam’s cells are rather more compact, resulting in a material that is more dense and resistant to pressure. The more dense the cells, the harder the material will be. The fabrication of foam is fairly simple.
- One part of the fabrication process is cutting. Cutting processes involve utilizing water jets, foam cutting blades, heat, and abrasion to cut the foam into a desired configuration. One process in particular is foam die cutting. The foam is placed into a die cutting machine, and once the foam material is in place, the die cuts the material by pushing through it. The material is released from the machine, and the die cut piece and leftover scraps are removed. Die cutting equipment can be purchased to enable businesses to die cut their materials in-house. Otherwise, companies can outsource these processes to a die cutting service.
- Regardless of which foam material is cut and the method of cutting, there are some configurations that have to be formed by joining different pieces and binding them together with the help of adhesives. In joining together two foam components, both parts are co-sprayed, which causes immediate coagulation. This ensures that the coated surfaces can immediately bond, and that the porous surfaces will not be excessively penetrated by the adhesives. Water based contact bond adhesive is one type of adhesive that is used extensively in the automotive industry.
- The basic structure of polyethylene foam is a group of ethylene chains that can be created with varying material properties and densities. These chains are connected by weak cell bonds, enabling the foam to be broken apart without much effort. The properties of the foam can be changed during the polymerization process with the use of different catalysts. The alteration of the foam’s properties make it better suited for certain applications. Since polyethylene foam is a non-abrasive material, it is widely used for the packaging and protection of goods during transportation, shipping, and storage.
- In addition to these uses, polyethylene foam can be used for cushions for chairs and furniture. Due to its lightweight and buoyant properties, polyethylene foam can also be used for sports equipment, nautical equipment, and flotation devices. The foam is also highly resistant to moisture, and thus mildew, rot, and bacterial growth. Because polyethylene foam is highly resistant, the lifespan and reliability of a product can be expanded, and thus the costs of replacement, maintenance, and repair will be reduced.