Quite often softness is the communication tool used to determine what is needed in a foam application. And since foam materials come in all sorts of variants it can be a little tricky communicating what an applicant is expecting their product to “feel” like for the application. PopFoam sends out samples to start the process and then dive into determining what “feel” really means.
From Soft To Firm
The Injection Molded PopFoam process has made considerable progress since the early days of softness range. It’s not that there is necessarily more range from soft to firm, it’s simply a better range. Through advancements in chemistry, milling, and processing, soft materials feel softer and are more durable - firm materials have a better hand too and can be grippy to the touch if needed. These advancements offer more solutions to determine the feel a designer is aiming for.
PopFoam uses a dial indicator called a Durometer to measure surface hardness. Durometers come in several type’s, but we generally adhere to the Asker “C” scale. In this scale, our range of softness is 15C – 75C. PopFoam recently released our softest foam which has a 15C surface hardness, which was unthinkable a few years ago.
Flex & Thickness
The majority perception in foam feel derives from flexible PU (polyurethane) foams. They’ve been around for 60 years and can be found in almost any home today. This love affair with flexible PU has exposed most everyone to what foam feels like and that perception drives expectations in all durable goods that have a soft surface.
The foam industry has evolved and the new flex in certain foams has exposed consumers to new products, new processes and tons of “feel” options. Most everyone knows what a Nerf football is and certainly Crocs shoes come to mind - we have numerous products with soft flexible surfaces. With Injection Molded PopFoam which is like the materials Crocs are made with – there’s a direct relation to flex (perceived softness) and how thick the material is. Thinner wall sections are more flexible than thicker walls. This play on wall thickness can benefit an application where cushion and flexibility are needed.
Softness & Durability
It’s typical for durability to diminish as a material gets softer, this is true with all sorts of materials. Applicants are looking for a balance of performance characteristics that include strength, softness, cleanability, etc. so it’s a good exercise to weigh the needs of the application and prioritize the wishlist. There will be give and take in any selection, but priorities will help guide and success will be greater by thinking this step through.
PopFoam – More Pop For Your Foam Parts
Finished parts need to be great and deliver some “WOW” factor when the end-user puts them to use. PopFoam’s tough molded foam coupled with its unique finish details can deliver long-lasting solutions for soft flexible parts.
Randy Millwood is the National Key Account Manager at PopFoam and has been servicing the closed-cell foam industry for over 20 years.