Foam grades & types
Blog article: Packaging foam
Packaging foam is a polyether polyurethane foam which offers optimum protection in packaging applications such as to line boxes, flight cases, briefcases etc. with thinner types of foam being suitable for wrapping objects.
Why not just use bubble wrap?
Bubble wrap is what people usually think of when thinking of packaging fragile items, and indeed the large air bubbles in the bubble wrap are a great way to protect some fragile items, e.g. if you are moving house and packing up all your cups, glasses, etc. Foam however is more suitable for fragile items that would benefit from being packed more securely and tightly, e.g. electronics, screens, and cameras. Packaging foam has the added advantage of being thermal insulating and anti-static (depending on type).
Another typical packing application are those annoying little foam pieces known as peanuts due to their shape. As most people know, these have a tendency to spill everywhere making a mess and are especially not great to have around if you have curious pets or young children.
Packaging foam offers a much tidier solution and can be found in a variety of useful formats:
Rolls - example
You can get rolls of thin closed cell foam (closed cell foam is foam where the air bubbles or cells are intact so the gas cannot escape) for a variety of packaging applications. This type of foam can be wrapped around a variety of objects and will conform well to all sorts of shapes. It also has the advantage of being water resistant. It can be used multiple times and then recycled and comes in various thicknesses from 1mm to 4mm.
Sheets - example
An array of foam types are available in sheets of various sizes, foam can be flat or convoluted (the "egg crate" style that looks like acoustic foam) and can be open cell or closed cell.
Open cell / closed cell
With open cell foam, the tiny air bubbles (cells) are broken, which allows air to flow freely in and out of the cells. This type of foam tends to feel softer more flexible. With closed cell foam, the cells are not broken, so air trapped inside them cannot escape. This type of foam feels more rigid and has a higher resistance (R) rating. An advantage of this type of foam is that it can be water and vapour resistant.
Pick 'n' pluck - example
Pick 'n' Pluck foam is ideal for packaging equipment securely into carry cases. The foam is pre-cut into a grid pattern, so the user can easily remove plugs according the size of item that needs to be packaged. This makes it easier to pack items that are irregularly shaped as well as fragile (e.g. cameras and similar equipment).
Here is a video showing how to use pick n pluck foam in a case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kW20t41s824
If you don't have pins around, you can also use chalk to mark out your shapes.
If you have static sensitive objects to pack (such as circuit boards, computer chips and other components), this type of foam will provide protection from electro static discharge as well as providing the advantages of regular foam.