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Polyurethane Foam; a miracle of an invention explained

Updated: Apr 15



Summary


  • German Chemist by the name Otto Byer and his co-workers at the IG Farben labs in Germany who first made polyurethane or PU in 1937. The invention was soon found to be of many uses and was far superior form the existing hardened plastics of that time.

  • The first availability of the polyurethane foam commercially was in 1954. A special chemical by the name Poyisocyanates became commercially available and was used to produce flexible polyurethane foams

  • In 1956 Dupont created a new polymer called polyether polyols and started selling it in 1957. This chemical was a lot cheaper, thus reducing the overall cost of production. This chemical was much easier to handle and on top of that, this chemical is more resistant to water.

  • Memory foam mainly consists of polyurethane, PU with some additional chemicals increasing its viscoelasticity and density significantly than the other regular foam. Hence it's also called Viscoelastic foam

  • A memory foam mattress is usually denser than other foam mattresses, making it both more supportive and heavier. Memory foam mattresses are often sold for higher prices than traditional mattresses and the property of firmness (hard to soft) of memory foam is used in determining comfort.

  • Rebonded foams are made from a combination of multiple densities of foam which are broken down and re-bonded under mechanical pressure into new blocks of consistent High-Density Rebonded Material, which are then cut into desired lengths and widths.

  • The biggest user of this chemical Pu is used in the mattress industry, with this industry alone there are a lot of different varieties of the PU foam

  • Other uses consist of a variety of industries such as furnishing industry, construction industry, Boats, Including the likes of inflatable boats, surfboards, rigid-hulled boats, boat decks and outdoor marine surfaces and many more




Birth of the chemical: - It was German Chemist by the name Otto Byer and his co-workers at the IG Farben labs in Germany who first made polyurethane or PU in 1937. The invention was soon found to be of many uses and was far superior form the existing hardened plastics of that time. The invention has not yet been patented by any other company so IG Labs focused on the production of the early flexible PU foams that were initially used to coat aircraft during world war 2. During the initial years of 1937, the company focused on perfecting the polyurethane fibres and flexible foams.


From here on polyurethane will be described as PU.


History of the chemical: - The first availability of the polyurethane foam commercially was in the year 1954. A special chemical by the name Poyisocyanates became commercially available and was used to produce flexible polyurethane foams. The same chemical has been used to produce rigid foams, which in other terms means that they have a higher density and can withstand pressure and weight. Other materials such as gum rubber and elastomers used in tires etc were made.


In 1956 Dupont created a new polymer called polyether polyols and started selling it in 1957. This chemical was a lot cheaper, thus reducing the overall cost of production. This chemical was much easier to handle and on top of that, this chemical is more resistant to water. All the above factors made this chemical more popular among all the manufacturers. By the end of 1960 more than 45,000 metric tons of flexible PU, foams were produced, during this time the automotive industry took notice and started incorporating this technology into automobiles in places such as safety components, door panels for better soundproofing etc.



Types of PU Foam used in the mattress industry


Memory Foam: - Memory foam mainly consists of polyurethane, PU with some additional chemicals increasing its viscoelasticity and density significantly than the other regular foam. Hence it's also called Viscoelastic foam. Memory foam was first developed by NASA in 1966 under the contract from the Ames Research Center to improve the safety of the aircraft cushions. Later after its inception at NASA, it was released into the public domain. At first, the memory foam was restricted use in medical equipment such as x-ray table pads etc. In the early 1980’s NASA released memory foam for the wider general public to be used in whatever items it was fit to serve. A Swedish company by the name Fagerdala World Foams was one of the few companies that took the initiative to produce this foam, which at that time was considered difficult and unreliable. Eventually, in 1991 they released their first memory foam mattress under the name “Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattress”. A memory foam mattress is usually denser than other foam mattresses, making it both more supportive and heavier. Memory foam mattresses are often sold for higher prices than traditional mattresses and the property of firmness (hard to soft) of memory foam is used in determining comfort. Second and third-generation memory foams have an open-cell structure that reacts to body heat and weight by moulding to the sleeper's body. Manufacturers claim that this may help relieve pressure points to relieve pain and promote more restful sleep.

2.

Rebonded Foam:- Rebonded foams are made from a combination of multiple densities of foam which are broken down and re-bonded under mechanical pressure into new blocks of consistent High-Density Rebonded Material, which are then cut into desired length and width. The rebonding recycle process is carried out in the presence of special adhesives that makes it durable, strong and versatile. Rebonded foam possesses high sound and shock absorption properties. Use of a scientific foam to adhesive ratio gives our Rebonded Foam high tensile strength, % elongation and tear resistance. The major application of this kind of foam is in the mattress industry. However, there are plenty of other applications where this form can be used. They can be used as vibration and sound damping solutions, floor and carpet underlying, sports mats, cushioning and packaging.


Apart from the above foam, which has their unique build and has a unique structure, there is the standard PU foam that comes in a variety of patterns which are characterized by their Density, weight, properties etc. Commonly used forms include that of

50 Density Foam

40 Density Foam on top of the rebonded foam


  1. 32, 28 &23 Density Foam

  2. Supersoft Foam

Density is also sometimes referred to as weight, which is a more literal translation of the character given the testing process. But because of this, it’s always important to specify whether you want to know a product’s overall weight or its density weightt


Other commodities and industries it is used in the following

  1. Mattress & Bedding Industries: - The biggest user of this chemical Pu is used in the mattress industry, with this industry alone there are a lot of different varieties of the PU foam, of which was discussed briefly in the section above. You can also have a llok at our Foam and Memory foam mattress here at our online store!

  2. Furniture Industry: - Majority of the furnishing industry heavily rely on PU foam and rubber foam. Both the formal and informal sector of furnishing uses PU foam in their craft. The foam is then cut to the desired shape and size for use in a variety of furniture and furnishings applications. Applications for flexible polyurethane foam includeupholstered furnishings cushions, automotive seat cushions and interior trim,carpet cushions, andmattress padding and solid-core mattress cores, of which we discussed in the part above.

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Construction Industry: - This industry too has an extensive list of PU foam usage which includes houses for sculpture and decorations. The walls and ceilings of the very famous Xanadu House in Florida were built of Pu Foam. Apart from that Pu Foam is used as an excellent thermal insulator, insulating from the cold in the colder regions of the world. This insulation also provides excellent soundproofing. PU foam is also used to fill cavities in the house if any. The PU foam now with advanced fire-retardant features is widely accepted into homes and also some governments make it mandatory to have fire-resistant PU foam in homes.



Other uses of Pu Foam include: -

  • Discussed in the above segment, Pu foam is used as construction sealants which sometimes serves a dual purpose of sealing all the gaps and also fire sealing. These gap seals prevent air, water and to an extent fire leakage.

Boats! Including the likes of inflatable boats, surfboards, rigid-hulled boats, boat decks and outdoor marine surfaces. PU here is used in a variety of forms not just in Foam but as a resin which is sprayed on with the combination of fibreglass and wood. Some bots use it in its high rigidity/ density form that provides strength, buoyancy and sound deadening.



  • Water tanks, overhead water tanks use PU foam to regulate and maintain the temperature inside the tank even when it's blistering hot outside. This property of PU foam helped NASA protect and insulate the external fuel tanks of the spacecraft. A specially developed 1” foam layer kept 395,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen at a very cool -423 F degrees.

  • Pu has been used as flexible plastics which are in turn used in the grips of multiple sports equipment and gear. These Flexi plastics are also used in the wrist watches as the band that we use to fasten our watch.


  • Pu used in textiles, a more familiar example is Spandex. Spandex is a PU fibre that has elastic properties, PU in spandex form can stretch up to 600% and still return to their original shape. Spandex is spun with other fabrics such as cotton, nylon and polyester to create “stretchable” clothing. Other products that use spandex are diapers, shower curtains, swimsuits etc.

  • PU materials are also used as varnishes for finishing coats to protect and give a shine to wooden flooring. Varnish made from PU is much harder and strong than its relative oil-based varnishes. Most of the time PU varnishes are used in tandem with the oil varnish to produce an even and smooth surface.


  • Polyurethane is also used in making solid tires and wheels. Industrial applications include forklift drive and load wheels, grocery and industrial carts and roller coaster wheels. Modern rollerblading and skateboarding became economical only with the introduction of tough, abrasion-resistant polyurethane parts, helping to usher in the popularity of what had once been an obscure 1960s craze. The durability of polyurethane wheels allowed the range of tricks and stunts performed on skateboards to expand considerably.

  • Polyurethane (PU) is popularized in the manufacturing of some of the highest quality aerodynamic components /body kits (body kits) for varying automobiles (car, truck, and SUV) on the market. These components include bumpers, side skirts, roll pans, and wiper cowls. Polyurethane is highly flexible therefore more resistant to damage. Including durability, these body kits when produced by a reputable manufacturer exhibits fewer imperfections, are easy to install and maintain, and are affordable

  • Polyurethane can be used as an adhesive, especially as a wood pasting glue. Its main advantage over more traditional wood glues is its water resistance. It was introduced to the general North American market in the 1990s as Gorilla Glue and Excel but had been available in Europe much earlier. Polyurethane is the basis for some construction adhesives in a tube format.


A word about our website


We at SAFIRA Mattress believe that the consumer is king, therefore you should never cheat on them. Built on this philosophy, we make custom mattresses in the heart of Hyderabad, India. Our custom mattress service allows the customer to pick and choose their desired materials which go into making their future mattresses.


To know more please head on to our website by clicking down below!

www.safirabeds.com


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