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Flexible polyurethane foam is one of the most versatile materials ever created. We are literally surrounded by it in our lives. Itís in our cars and under our carpet. Itís used as packaging material to protect delicate instruments. And itís the cushioning material of choice in almost all furniture and bedding. In all, over 1.7 billion pounds of foam are produced and used every year in the U.S.

Foam has become such a widely used material because it provides a unique combination of form and function. Itís light, quiet, resists mildew, and wonít aggravate common allergies. Foam can be easily cut or molded to almost any shape. At the same time, foam can be made to provide very supple or very firm cushioning for any given application. This remarkable versatility allows foam to provide the support needed or long-term medical confinement, or the comfort of pillowy furniture cushioning.

Flexible polyurethane foam appears to be a simple product, but it is actually very complex. It can be produced to have an almost infinite variety of properties. Even though two foams may look exactly alike, they may feel and perform entirely differently.

However, the properties of foam can be identified and specified very precisely. The foam industry utilizes a number of measurements and tests to accomplish this. And by using these measurements, itís possible to pinpoint the right foam for the right application.


Flexible polyurethane foam and foam dust are extremely flammable and burn easily.

Flexible polyurethane foam and foam dust will ignite at 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

When ignited flexible polyurethane foam and foam dust can produce toxic gases, flames, smoke and heat.

Although a number of different measurements and tests may be used to choose a foam to use in a given product, almost any selection task has any or all of the following three elements as its final goal:

Support: The foam has to be able to support the proper amount of weight to properly cushion an object or person.

Comfort: Foam cushioning has to feel good for the user and provide not just cushioning but also comfortable use.

Durability: The foam has to hold up through use without losing its original properties.

These are the basic benefits that foam cushioning provides, and if the needs in each of these three areas are evaluated first, selecting the proper foam for a given purpose becomes fairly simple. A sofa seat cushion has to have good support, comfort, and durability, while the arm and back cushions for the same sofa need to last and be comfortable, but wonít necessarily be required to support much weight. The foam used to line the case for a video camera needs to support the weight of the camera and hold up through use, but the camera cares nothing about comfort.
To better understand why foam properties can vary so much, itís a good idea to know something about how foam is made.

Flexible polyurethane foam is produced from a reaction of two key chemicals, a polyol and an isocyanate with water. These are mixed together vigorously in high intensity mixers in specific amounts with other ingredients, and the foam reaction begins almost immediately. Bubbles are formed, and the mixture expands. Itís been compared to bread rising. In a matter of minutes the reaction is complete.

Slabstock foam process: To manufacture foam for cushioning, two basic procedures are used. In one, the chemical mix is poured onto a moving conveyor, where it is allowed to react and expand. Sides on the conveyor allow the foam to rise in a ďbunĒ or slab anywhere from two to four feet high.

The continuous slab is then cut, stored, and allowed to cure for up to 24 hours. This manufacturing procedure is the slabstock production process. The cured foam is subsequently fabricated into useful shapes. Most foams for use in furniture and bedding are produced this way.

Molded foam process: A second method, foam molding, is a process where individual items are produced by pouring foam chemicals into specially shaped molds and allowing the foam reaction to take place. The process is used primarily for automotive cushioning, although some contract furniture utilizes molded cushions.

Chemical Effects: The foam production process can be controlled through changes in the foam chemical mix. In addition to the polyol, isocyanate and water used to produce foam, a variety of other chemicals and additives are included to change the final properties of the foam. These include:

*Auxiliary blowing agents, which augment the primary blowing agent (carbon dioxide), and can be used to make foam softer or lighter.

*Catalysts, which speed up the reaction to improve productivity or change foam properties.

*Surfactants, which aid in the formation of foam cells.

*Flame Retardant additives, used to improve a foamís resistance to ignition or burning. (Unfortunately, these tend to have a negative influence on the comfort, support, and durability of the foam.)

*Fillers, which increase the weight of the foam, but can possibly have a negative influence on the physical properties of the foam.

By adjusting the chemical ďmixĒ of the foam, foam producers can manufacture literally hundreds of different types of foam, each with its own performance properties.
There are a number of physical properties of flexible polyurethane foam that can be used when selecting foam cushioning for different applications.

Following is a brief description of the major physical properties of foam, and the importance of each. Physical properties of foam are measured under closely controlled conditions of humidity and temperature. Care must be taken to reproduce those conditions when testing samples of foam for physical properties.

Density: Density is a measurement of the mass per unit volume. Measured and expressed in pounds per cubic foot (pcf) or kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m3), density is one of the most important of all properties. Density is a function of the chemistry used to produce the foam and additives included with the foam chemistry. For specification purposes, it is advisable to use the polymer density of foam, or the density of the material made up strictly by the foam chemistry without fillers or reinforcements included.

Density affects foam durability and support. Typically, the higher the polymer density, the better the foam will retain its original properties and provide the support and comfort it was originally designed to produce.

IFD: Indentation Force Deflection (IFD) is a measurement of foam firmness. Firmness is independent of foam density, although it is often thought that higher density foams are firmer. It is possible to have high density foams that are soft Ė or low density foams that are firm, depending on the IFD specification. IFD specification relates to comfort. It is a measurement of the surface feel of the foam.

IFD is measured by indenting (compressing) a foam sample 25 percent of its original height. The amount of force (in pounds) required to indent the foam is its 25 percent IFD measurement. The more force required, the firmer the foam. Flexible foam IFD measurements range from 10 pounds (supersoft) to about 80 pounds (very firm).

MEMORY FOAM Technically called Visco elastic foam, this foam is an open-celled, body-heat and body-weight sensitive material originally developed for NASA to alleviate the G-Force stresses and pressure placed on astronauts during space flight. Its properties allow it to automatically sense your body's temperature and weight - responding by molding to your body's exact shape and position. It then returns to it's original shape and 're-molds' every time you change positions. Because of it's unique open-celled structure, it's self-ventilating - so it actually dissipates heat away from your body - preventing perspiration and heat build-up.
The following tables detail the specifications of the foam being supplied as indicated by a four-digit number. The first two digits represent the density and the second two digits represent the IFD.

Example: The foam type is 1835. The 18 means a cubic foot of this foam weighs 1.8 pounds. The heavier a piece of foam, the longer it will maintain its shape. The 35 means it takes 35 pounds of pressure to compress a piece of this foam to 25% of its original height. The higher this number means the firmer the piece of foam.

The foam provided to meet the firmness specifications of soft, medium and firm are based on our experience and industry classifications. Just as people have differing opinions about the taste of food, review of a movie and physical beauty, the way a piece of foam will feel will differ from person to person. In general, a soft feel means foam will moderately compress when used, a medium feel will slightly compress and a firm feel will barely compress. The technical specifications of the foam being provided are listed in the tables below. We make no representations as to personal feel.

Premium foam will last longer than standard foam, all things being equal.

These tables are based on foam usage by an average person weighing approximately 150 to 200 pounds. Adjustments to the foam supplied will be made for weights outside these parameters.


Standard Premium
Soft 1010 1518
Medium 1021 1535
Firm 1030 1545
CUSHIONS Standard Premium
Soft 1821 2627
Medium 1835 2635
Firm 1845 2645
PILLOW Standard Memory
Soft 1010 4010
Medium 1021 X
Firm 1030 X

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