The Many Forms of Foam: Part One

When it comes to protection and versatility in packing materials, there’s nothing that can come close to touching foam. Foam is a pretty broad term that covers dozens of products all with varying qualities. No two foams are exactly alike, which is why we love having the wide-ranging capabilities of foams as part of our custom-packaging toolkit.

We thought we’d take a minute today to give you an introduction to some of the foams that are part of the menu of packaging materials at WIC. 


Cross-linked foam

We don’t want to get too technical in this post, but when you’re talking about cross-linked foam, it could be a product that’s either physically or chemically cross-linked. While the chemists out there might enjoy a more detailed explanation, what our customers should come away with is that cross-linked foam is very strong and offers a number of positive traits that make it suitable for a variety of applications.

Cross-linked foam can give you a dense, rigid body or you can slice it thin to create flexible packaging options. Because of its closed-cell nature, there are also water-resistant options that are extremely buoyant, making it a good choice for flotation devices. It’s not hard to see that there are dozens of options with closed-cell foam, and the myriad applications can be found anywhere from electronics to medical supplies or even agriculture.

The robust body of cross-linked foam also gives you the capacity for very precise cutting and shaping, which we love in the custom packaging business.


Reticulated Foam

Another department in the endless foam marketplace is reticulated foam. Any foam is a collection of tiny plastic cells, and in the case of reticulated foam, you get more open cells than you’d find in other types of foams. For this reason, reticulated foam often shows up in applications that require sound absorption or filtration. 

For packaging needs, reticulated foam offers a greater level of cushioning, and in some cases, flexibility compared to closed-cell foam. It’s still a great packaging material, as it lends unique properties to the packing process. 


Expandable foam

If you’ve ever opened a shipping box and wondered, “How did they do that?”, then you’ve probably encountered expandable foam. Not only is smart foam a great product, it’s something that never fails to entertain the kid in all of us.

What you have is a two-part, urethane-based mixture. When Part A is combined with Part B, you get a reaction that creates quickly expanding foam. By the time it’s done growing, expandable foam can expand to 10 times its original volume. While it’s expanding, you can guide its shape, making it a perfect choice for protecting certain pieces. 

In the past, expandable foam was just sprayed directly into containers, but today we have access to machines like the Pregis IntelliPack SmartBagger. In seconds you can customize the foam volume inside pre-cut bags that offer only what you need to protect the contents of the package. As one-off packaging solutions go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that’s quicker or more mindful of efficient materials usage.

We could literally talk about foam all day long. The types of products available seems like a never-ending list, and then you have all the options for cutting, shaping, wrapping, twisting, and any other sort of forming that you can imagine. Foam is a creative playground that engineers are expanding every day, and we love being able to find new ways to make it work for our clients.

Do you think that foam might be a possibility for one of your applications? Get in touch with WIC and let’s see what foam can do for your next project.

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