Everyone is familiar with how comfortable that foam cover on your chair at work can be. In fact, many people know this all too well when their boss starts yelling at them for sleeping on the job. Though many people enjoy their comfort, very few actually know what goes into the process of producing the molded foam that makes up these objects. This is a short, but detailed look at how some of the things we use every day are made. |
The process starts with the creation of a mold. This object can also be referred to as a template, matrix, or most commonly, a die. This seemingly simple process is actually quite arduous. The creation of a die requires a technician to first develop a digital 3D model of the desired final object. A worker is then tasked with creating an exact replica, typically out of wood or another substance that is easy to manipulate. The object is then placed in a box, and covered with the material that the die itself will be made out of, in liquid form. After it has hardened, the die is cut in half, and the original object is removed. This creates the desired die.
This hollowed out block will eventually be filled with the liquid foam. It is the exact opposite shape of the cast, or final product being made. If the cast were a seat, the die would look like an empty box that the seat fits perfectly into. They can be made out of a variety of substances, but are usually polyurethane. These polyurethane pieces are used in a process known as bi-valve molding, which simply means the die has been cut in half.
The creation of the object itself is known as casting. During the casting process, a liquid substance is poured into the hollowed out polyurethane die and molded. Foam manufacturers use a mixture of liquid foam to create their desired object. The bottom half of the die is not filled completely, as this liquid will expand when it begins to harden. The top half is then placed over the bottom half, and the liquid is left to cool and harden for a specified amount of time. When the object has finally taken on the shape of the die, the cast is removed. This can be done by either destroying the die around it, or more often, by using a release agent that assists in the removal of the cast. Once this process is complete, the cast is then marked, and processed into the final product.
A lot of work goes into making a shape that is perfectly molded. Foam manufacturers must be careful not to overfill their mold or not fill it up enough, since the expanding nature of the liquid can sometimes make it hard to create the desired shape. More often than not though, the mold is overfilled, and the liquid is allowed to expand past its limits. Since foam is such an easily manageable material, the excess is simply cut off when the product is finished.
When looking for a molded foam manufacturer, visit Grand Rapids Foam Technologies. Learn more at http://grft.com/?page_id=36.
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