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IS FOAM EXPANDING?

The foam markets worldwide are expanding as a solution to reducing material use, costs and weight in plastics and elastomer processing: the art is in maintaining the ideal properties of products at the same time. The foam industry provides light weighting in a wide range of applications and has potential for use in all plastics processing and products. The key areas of current use are in packaging, insulation foam, furnishing, automotive and sports. Foam can be manufactured to improve a wide variety of properties whilst minimising the material use — for example in wall insulation for thermal and acoustic barrier, in packaging it can provide a thermal barrier and impact protection, which is also valued in footwear and in flooring. In addition structural foam supports the interior of high performance composites. There are ongoing developments that could open the door for more ventures in foaming new materials and adding new characteristics.

Unilever has focused on the density challenges to downgauging and the research division is among the experts in microcellular polymers meeting at AMI"s Polymer Foam 2014 conference, which is scheduled for 4-6 November 2014 in Cologne, Germany. There are big issues facing the industry in the near future as the prospect of a phasing out of azodicarbonamide in the EU, a blowing agent that is widely used in the PVC foam industry, comes closer. Tramaco has been involved in the debate with the legislators on this matter. The polystyrene foam sector has been affected by changes to regulations affecting flame retardants and Dow has a new class of brominated polymeric additives for this application.

Sustainability is a key theme this year with BASF leading the conversation, LG Hausys of South Korea describing the research on extrusion foaming of PLA for packaging applications and EPS will be represented by the Czech association. From the technology side, the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) will speak on foaming cellulose-based polymers.

There are many advances in foam processing such as the breathable low density PEBA foams from Zotefoams, the new extruded resin from Dow for closed-cell polystyrene foam, the physical foam injection moulding of TPU by Lubrizol Advanced Materials and the polypropylene nanocomposite foams from Professor Chul Park at the University of Toronto. High performance plastics have been foamed with PPSU structural foam from Solvay Specialty Polymers for advanced transportation applications, PMI particle foam from Evonik for high temperatures and the use of cellular polymers in cables by Siebe Engineering.

From the equipment side of the business, Wittmann Battenfeld has developed machinery for physical foaming and Trexel has technology for quality and microcellular process control. In Spain Cellmat Technologies has used extensional rheology to predict the foaming behaviour of polymers.

Research and development in automotive is focused on lightweight vehicles and hence the current interest in foaming parts. Professor Volker Altstaedt of the University of Bayreuth is working on particle foams for automotive interior applications. In Monaco Mecaplast has obtained a visible automotive part through chemical foam processing and Trocellen in Germany has made air ducts from polyolefin foam.

Technical professionals from across the world are working together to improve and enhance polymer processing in the physical and chemical foaming industry. Cellular plastics provide a cost-effective way to expand production and cut costs. AMI"s Polymer Foam 2014 conference provides a forum to continue the debate.

The foam markets worldwide are expanding as a solution to reducing material use, costs and weight in plastics and elastomer processing: the art is in maintaining the ideal properties of products at the same time. The foam industry provides light weighting in a wide range of applications and has potential for use in all plastics processing and products. The key areas of current use are in packaging, insulation foam, furnishing, automotive and sports. Foam can be manufactured to improve a wide variety of properties whilst minimising the material use — for example in wall insulation for thermal and acoustic barrier, in packaging it can provide a thermal barrier and impact protection, which is also valued in footwear and in flooring. In addition structural foam supports the interior of high performance composites. There are ongoing developments that could open the door for more ventures in foaming new materials and adding new characteristics.

Unilever has focused on the density challenges to downgauging and the research division is among the experts in microcellular polymers meeting at AMI"s Polymer Foam 2014 conference, which is scheduled for 4-6 November 2014 in Cologne, Germany. There are big issues facing the industry in the near future as the prospect of a phasing out of azodicarbonamide in the EU, a blowing agent that is widely used in the PVC foam industry, comes closer. Tramaco has been involved in the debate with the legislators on this matter. The polystyrene foam sector has been affected by changes to regulations affecting flame retardants and Dow has a new class of brominated polymeric additives for this application.

Sustainability is a key theme this year with BASF leading the conversation, LG Hausys of South Korea describing the research on extrusion foaming of PLA for packaging applications and EPS will be represented by the Czech association. From the technology side, the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) will speak on foaming cellulose-based polymers.

There are many advances in foam processing such as the breathable low density PEBA foams from Zotefoams, the new extruded resin from Dow for closed-cell polystyrene foam, the physical foam injection moulding of TPU by Lubrizol Advanced Materials and the polypropylene nanocomposite foams from Professor Chul Park at the University of Toronto. High performance plastics have been foamed with PPSU structural foam from Solvay Specialty Polymers for advanced transportation applications, PMI particle foam from Evonik for high temperatures and the use of cellular polymers in cables by Siebe Engineering.

From the equipment side of the business, Wittmann Battenfeld has developed machinery for physical foaming and Trexel has technology for quality and microcellular process control. In Spain Cellmat Technologies has used extensional rheology to predict the foaming behaviour of polymers.

Research and development in automotive is focused on lightweight vehicles and hence the current interest in foaming parts. Professor Volker Altstaedt of the University of Bayreuth is working on particle foams for automotive interior applications. In Monaco Mecaplast has obtained a visible automotive part through chemical foam processing and Trocellen in Germany has made air ducts from polyolefin foam.

Technical professionals from across the world are working together to improve and enhance polymer processing in the physical and chemical foaming industry. Cellular plastics provide a cost-effective way to expand production and cut costs. AMI"s Polymer Foam 2014 conference provides a forum to continue the debate.

Polymer Foam 2014
4-6 November 2014, Maritim Hotel, Cologne, Germany
Web site: https://www.amiplastics.com/events/event?Code=C593  

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Author and contact for further information:
Dr Sally Humphreys
Business Development Manager
Applied Market Information Ltd, 6 Pritchard Street, Bristol, BS2 8RH, UK
Conference Hotline: +44 117 314 8111
Email: sh@amiplastics.com  
Web site: www.amiplastics.com