Polyurethane foam, sometimes abbreviated as PU foam, is a variety of closed cell foam that is highly flexible, resilient, and is capable of bio-degrading in direct and indirect sunlight. It can be used as an alternative to polyethylene foam, and is made by combining catalysts, polyols, and a blowing agent to help give the material a certain level of porosity.
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Types of Polyurethane Foam
Flexible Polyurethane Foam
Or FPF, is a polyurethane foam that molds itself to the shape of the object it is applied to. Therefore, FPF is commonly used to provide support and comfort in chairs, beds, and couches. Flexible polyurethane foam can be fabricated by way of two processes:
- Slab Stock
- Where the foam is produced in large continuous rolls, or buns, which can be shipped to be cut or cast into the shape of the finished product.
- Where the foam is inserted into a mold and left to cure and set into the shape of the final product. This process is frequently used for products such as sports equipment and car seat cushions.
Design of Polyurethane Foam
Unlike polyethylene foam, polyurethane foam cannot be reheated to be manipulated into various configurations. Therefore, polyurethane foam is the material of choice when using the molding process to fabricate products. However, polyurethane foam can be just as easily cut into different sizes and shapes as any other foam material such as polyethylene, closed cell, and open cell foam. Polyurethane foam can be joined together with adhesives to achieve a certain shape, and can undergo the process of foam cutting, which can be carried out using hot wire, water jets, or blades.
Applications for Polyurethane Foam
Polyurethane foam, in addition to many other types of foam, can be used for applications such as packaging, automotive seat foam cushion padding, furniture upholstery padding, and carpet padding.
Numerous industries utilize polyurethane foam to some extent. It has been and continues to be used for countless applications such as padding foam, soundproofing, acoustics, carpet cushioning, insulation foam, x-ray positioning pads, and surgical scrubbers.
- Polyurethane foam is typically flexible; however, it can come in a much more rigid closed cell form. In its closed cell form, polyurethane form is highly durable, and is resistant to changes in temperature, weather elements, or general wear and tear. Therefore, closed cell polyurethane foam is recommended for applications such as insulating freezers and refrigerators, and floatation elements in water vessels such as surfboards and boat decks.
- Polyurethane foam can also be used in exterior and interior decorative items such as window headers, columns, and door frames. Since foam is light in weight, it is useful for applications that require a high strength-to-weight ratio. It can also be cleaned and sterilized after trapping unwanted particles, making it ideal for applications such as filter foam. Polyurethane foam can be filled with air pockets to create roughly 15 to 20 pores per inch, enabling the foam to easily pick up dirt, dust, and other contaminants.
- In addition to these many uses, polyurethane foam can also come in liquid form, and can be used for sealing gaps and preventing leakage of air and water. Spray foam insulation has been utilized for the past several years, and is used to provide homes and commercial buildings with insulation that is both inexpensive and effective. Spray foam starts as a liquid, and hardens and expands once it dries. Recently, this same technology has been used for foundations.
- Foam Injection
- Numerous structural issues can arise from unlevel foundation, such as cracks in the walls, stuck doors, and roof cave-ins. A building’s foundation can shift or even crack over time. When this happens, tearing down the entire building is usually the only solution. Fortunately, foam companies have discovered a way to use spray foam to alleviate these issues by way of a process known as foam jacking. Foam Jacking is defined as the application of spray foam to a structure’s foundation. In this process, the company will seal the cracks, prepare the building to prevent seepage of foam, and inject the trouble spots with foam. In some instances, the interior flooring may be removed to better expose the spots. Sometimes, a set of holes with a drill hammer can assist in applying the foam to the trouble spots. After the foam is injected, all signs of damage are eliminated, and the foam helps lift the building and restore its stability.
- Although this use of polyurethane foam is relatively new, numerous foam companies have been capitalizing on the use of spray foam and offering it as an additional service that benefits customers and the company alike.