Polymer Foam conference

imageThe next AMI Polymer Foam 2015 international conference features top foam producers and experts from around the world and takes place from 2-4 November in Cologne, Germany. The use of foam technology is growing rapidly across all fields of plastics processing and Professor Volker Altstaedt will review the state of the art in thermoplastic foam production to kick off the conference.  The major applications of foam include construction from wall panels to pipes and flooring; furnishing; automotive components; marine and wind blade composite structures (where the foam is provided by expert companies such as 3A Composites/Airex); and protective packaging.

Polymer foams provide beneficial properties such as heat and sound insulation: Armacell and Techno Nicol are leaders in the field of construction foams, while BASF Polyurethanes has a new high performance insulation board material.   There are other advantages of foams such as cushioning and impact resistance, weight reduction and cost reduction due to reduced material usage.  Foams can be manufactured on many different types of equipment from extruders to injection moulding machines and steam chest moulding, and techniques vary from structural foam moulding to bead processing and sheet extrusion.

In the automotive foam arena Valeo Thermal Systems has used foaming for cycle time reduction and lightweighting. Meanwhile Faurecia Interior Systems has worked on optimizing the morphology of a stiff hybrid injected foam insulator.  There has been an ongoing research project between automotive companies and Mecaplast, which has focused on foaming visible parts.

There are innovations in materials for foams, which yield better properties for improved cellular structure. In terms of polyolefins, SINOPEC in China has produced a copolymer for use in expanded PE beads and Total in Belgium has new high melt strength LDPE for performance foams.  Foam recycling is becoming established too with companies like Schmitz Holding taking on postindustrial XPE scrap.

There is a lot of interest in making packaging from bio-based and biodegradable materials.  Inde Plastik Betriebs has produced foam trays from modified cellulose acetate and Macro Engineering has carried out studies to optimise the equipment required for tandem extrusion of heat resistant PLA foam for hot-fill packaging.

In addition, there are developments in chemical blowing agents and nucleating agents, with some ideas for the replacement of azodicarbonamide including some endothermic chemical agents from Reedy Chemical Foam & Specialty Additives. At AMI’s Polymer Foam 2015 Clariant Masterbatch will review the current status of chemical blowing agents and nucleating agents in the polymer industry and Imerys will highlight a new nucleating agent.

On the polystyrene foam front, Dow has developed a low density microcellular PS foam.   PS beads are commonly made with a pentane blowing agent and now there are alternatives, with a better environmental footprint.  For example, SABIC has obtained good results in foaming PS using water. 

Control of foam structure determines the properties and quality of the resulting products. Professor Perez at the Cellular Materials Laboratory has studied how to improve performance by creating nanoscale cellular structures. The twin-screw extruder supplier Coperion has developed technology for both physical and chemical foam methods of manufacturing and Promix Solutions focuses on the overall control of the foam process.

Fr more information on the AMI Polymer Foam 2015 international conference, click HERE.