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Foam and the Automotive Industry
It's no secret that foam is commonly used within the automotive industry. From car seating to carpet underlay, it plays an important role in both the safety and overall comfort of passengers. However, many may not be aware that its use extends beyond the most obvious range of applications.
In fact, the use of polyurethane foam in the automotive sector comes in the form of trimming, seats, headrests, acoustic insulation and air conditioning filters. A range of different foam types are used within the industry for a number of purposes. This is largely since foam is one the most universal materials, bringing a wide range of qualities including vibration blocking, sound absorption, and insulation. As such, the most popular types of foam used within modern cars include open and closed cell foam that eFoam can cut to size, foam adhesives and melamine foam, with closed cell foam being the most frequently used.
In modern cars, specialised polyurethane foam provides vehicles with more 'mileage' than once previously achieved. This is because polyurethane foams in general are both durable and incredibly light weight, reducing the overall weight of a car and, in turn, making for greater fuel efficiency and a minimised environmental impact. Recent figures show that suppliers of polyurethane foam now predict that up to 11.5 kilograms of the material will be substituted into the modern car in order to replace components carrying excess weight.
So, how do car manufacturers decide on the correct foam for each component? For seating, factories tend to gravitate towards polyurethane foam as it is easily assembled and can be recycled at the end of a car's lifecycle. Polyurethane is also a foam material that strongly retains its original shape and firmness, making its resilient qualities most appropriate for heavy everyday usage. This also goes for any component of the car that is likely to be used during each journey, such as an arm or head rest for example. Overall, polyurethane is the most used type of foam within the modern car as it provides the highest performance specification without the additional weight.
But how does foam affect the performance of a car? A specialist type of foam known as Reaction Injection-Moulded Polyurethane (RIM) is used to improve the shock absoption of various car parts, including bumpers and fenders. RIM is now commonly used to create exterior components - replacing conventional metal alloys - as it is more versatile and resistant to dents, scrapes and chips. However, it is also found inside cars in the form of steering wheels, floor mats and air vents.
Lastly, foam is utilised by car manufacturers in the form of polyurethane coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE). As a protective material, this variant of foam is transformed into a coating, giving a car its glossy shine as well as its scratch and rust resistance. When used in sealant or adhesive form, polyurethane also regularly makes its way into the manufacture of headlights and bumpers. Polyurethane - in relation to CASE - is praised for its bond strength, heat resistance, waterproof nature, versatility and ultraviolet resistance, confirming it to be one of the leading materials in car manufacture.
For more information on how eFoam supports the automotive industries, please contact us.