Nowadays, polyurethane foam comes in all sorts of shapes, functions, and qualities—so many that they may be difficult to keep track of. This article will help keep things nice and simple: there are three fundamental types of polyurethane foam, along with some notable subtypes covered below.
This foam type dominates the international PU market. For good reason, too. It is used primarily in mattresses, but can be found in furniture, clothing, cars, and more. Types of flexible polyurethane include:
- Common flexible foam (e.g. kitchen sponges)
- High-resilience foam (e.g. foam toy bats)
- Viscoelastic (a.k.a. memory foam; mattresses)
- Flame Retardant.
The final category is often a matter of local law. The United States’ Code of Federal Regulations, for example, have flammability requirements for mattresses manufactured and sold in the U.S. However, this does not mean any method of fire retardancy will do. There are also laws in place limiting the use of known harmful substances in manufacturing flame retardant foam.
Most commercially available rigid foam is for building insulation. Builders install foam boards to help save on future heating or cooling costs. These also come with a variety of local standards on flame retardancy, so do your research on requirements before production.
Since the primary function of rigid foam is insulation, application typically defines difference, at least in industry terms. There are rigid foam boards, spray foam, and pipe insulation foam. Mostly though, we just call it rigid foam.
Last but not least, there is rebond foam, which is made of recycled foam scraps processed down and rebonded together by adhesives. As a result, rebond foam is stiff, dense, and hardy enough to be laminated as a carpet underlay. Public seating that needs to both survive wear and be comfortable can also be made of rebond foam.
The three fundamental types of polyurethane foam are flexible, rigid, and rebond. Foam properties are an additional way of understanding differences between foam and are covered here. Last but not least, learn more about products made from different types of polyurethane foam here.
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