Oftentimes, finding the right material for your new innovative product can feel like half the battle. It’s difficult to know ahead of time how a specific material will perform in certain applications, especially if you’ve never worked with it before. To make things even more difficult, most designers are working within constraints created by a number of factors. As a designer yourself, you're probably all too familiar with these questions:
• What's the cost of the material for my application? This is often one of our biggest concerns when contemplating a new material for our custom design applications. After all, creating innovative products requires design and manufacturing be within a certain cost window in order to turn a profit. I'm not saying you should pick the cheapest material — not at all — but I am saying that you need to do a thorough cost analysis before making a final decision.
• Can this material bring my vision to life? As designers, we begin a program with a vision of a problem we hope to solve. Choosing the right materials requires a lot of upfront research, especially if the design concept is highly unique. Reading specifications and consulting experts will help, but it's hard to match the value of actually touching and experimenting with samples.
• If my design is completely novel, how will my material choice perform? This might be the most difficult question to answer. In the end, a series of mockups followed by actual prototypes is the most accurate way to assess a potential material’s performance. Don’t underestimate the value of establishing a strategic alliance. Find a manufacturing partner that understands the importance of this process — your finished product will be better for it.
New Innovative Products: The Future of Foam
For designers looking for new materials to create innovative products, EVA-based injection molded foam has a lot of valuable attributes.
The ability to mold a highly durable, flexible, and soft material into a variety of shapes and sizes gives designers the flexibility they need to bring their vision to life. From choosing colors and textures to selecting the right durometer for specific design challenges, PopFoam frees designers from the constraints they're familiar with.
With PopFoam, wall thicknesses can generally reach up to .7 inches, and the walls can be varied for design flexibility. The material also allows for substantial undercuts without the need for slides or slide actions, which is quite liberating for those of us who are used to the requirements of injection-molded plastic parts.
I know all this from experience. When I first started designing the BackShield product, I ran into obstacles where materials were concerned.
Our goal was to create a durable, lightweight back support, but many pliable materials were too heavy, and wrapping them around our plastic substrate would have come with substantial tooling costs. Ultimately, we couldn't have achieved the same level of performance and aesthetics — and at the same cost — with any material other than PopFoam's EVA-based injection molded foam.
PopFoam's guidance during the manufacturing of BackShield was also second to none. As designers, we know the combination of performance, appeal, and emotional connection we’re looking for between our users and products. It can be a long road to achieving this result, but working with a manufacturer that caters to this kind of design makes using its material much more appealing.
When designers are knowledgeable about the materials available to them and their particular strengths, it allows for the creation of new innovative products that solve unique needs. In many cases, the durability and flexibility of foam combined with its versatility will allow it to excel in an enormous array of applications.