These days, product design and development is as much about the feel of a product as is the look and functionality. For designers who haven’t traditionally had to focus on texture as a key component, this creates an interesting challenge. To craft the kinds of products that today’s consumers demand, the design and development of products have to consider not only new materials and methods, but also new ways to combine materials cohesively. Whether it's thermoplastics, non-toxic EVA, or recycled foam, materials must complement each other in order to make a quality product.
Why EVA-Based Foam Is Becoming the Material of Choice
In the realm of product design and development, one of the first things product designers learn is how imperative materials are to a product's design and function. They must develop a careful understanding of a particular material’s strengths and weaknesses. Often, this requires a careful balancing act — but not when foam is the material in question. Most people, industrial designers included, understand that it is lightweight and inexpensive, but they also assume that it is low-strength and difficult to work with.
What is EVA material? In practice, injection molded EVA-based foam is one of the most functional materials currently available to designers. For one, it literally expands out of the mold, meaning when the mold is opened, the part pops out. That makes it easy to utilize a wide variety of internal undercuts. The flexible nature of EVA-based foam is also an asset. Molded EVA parts can be used in conjunction with affordable fixtures that ensure a perfectly accurate fit.
There is also a wide range of durometers available (from softer to harder) that allow for some really interesting design applications. Because the material can be molded into sections with varying levels of thickness, it opens up product design and development solutions that are not possible with other materials. And in sections where the material is thick, the product’s weight increases only negligibly.
It’s not just structural features that make EVA-based foam such an appealing material, though. EVA-based foam can be customized to give each product a unique look. There are many options for surface finish and decoration, including patterns and images. These can be molded into the material or applied to the surface of the EVA-based foam as a dip or printed process. This allows for a wide range of color choices and contrasting surface textures.
The end result is that injection molded EVA-based foam can produce difficult shapes that would leave other manufacturers scratching their heads. Better still, that utility is relatively easy and inexpensive to introduce, yet it leads directly to products with a high-quality fit and finish.
A Match Made in Product Design Heaven
One of the most exciting design options now available combines the soft feel of EVA-based foam with the structural support of thermoplastics.
Designers have found innovative ways to marry these product design materials and accentuate the most appealing features of both. EVA-based foam provides a smooth, soft, and tactile feel that is ideal for all kinds of touchpoints, while plastic delivers strength and durability to extend product longevity. Together, they create countless color and design options that delight creators and consumers alike.
For example, we incorporated EVA foam and thermoplastics into our recent BackShield back-support design, and by all accounts, it was a success, both functionally and aesthetically. High-gloss red plastic is combined with soft black EVA foam to create a product that looks stunning and is truly comfortable to use. Individually, foam or thermoplastics would have been the wrong product choice for BackShield. Through extensive product design and development, we found that they proved to be ideal when incorporated together.
We encourage all designers to learn more about EVA-based foam. It incorporates well with thermoplastics and opens up opportunities for new product design and developments. Together, the two are able to resolve many design challenges while producing products that feel industrial and organic in equal measure.