Polyuwhat? (Karrie N)

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Flexible Polyurethane Foam (FPF) is EVERYWHERE–inside cushions, mattresses, furniture, under our carpets, in packaging; you get the picture. The U.S. alone produces nearly 2 billion tons of polyurethane foam each year, according to the Polyurethane Foam Association publication InTouch. FPF is incredibly versatile and can be produced to have a mind-boggling variety of different properties. And, to top it off, FPF has become one of the most successful recycling industries, and its production has become increasingly sustainable over the past 20 years—FPF is now one of the most environmentally neutral industries. Wow, for once, an industry actually complying and going beyond EPA emission and toxicity reduction standards (2011 InTouch)!

Wait. Isn’t VertaBend designing a practical neck support device?

Yes…but remember, we’re moving away from the traditional neck brace. In fact, our team is seriously considering scrapping the “brace” part and going for “sleep support”–although there are already neck support pillows that address alignment, there’s always room for innovation, OR we may be creating a support-while-sleeping device that could be used with any pillow- COMFORTABLY.

So where does polyurethane foam fit in? Well, as an engineering student, I’ve been focusing on materials research this week. Not surprisingly, FPF is found in most neck support pillows and soft cervical collars… to prove it, I’ve taken some pictures of one of my neck rolls I use for some of my twice daily neck and back exercises.

Roll, Cover, and Label (Original Photo)
Roll, Cover, and Label (Original Photo)
Foam Roll--it's much softer than it looks(Original Photo)
Foam Roll–it’s much softer than it looks(Original Photo)
Label (Original Photo)
Label (Original Photo)

Anyways, I learned quite a bit about FPF from the PFA. It’s most important qualities are it’s density, IFD, and support factor, since these all affect COMFORT, DURABILITY, and SUPPORT.

Density affects durability and support (amount of mass in lbs. per cubic foot of foam); generally, foam with higher density has better performance in retaining its original form.

Indentation Force Deflection (IFD) affects comfort and is measured by how much weight it takes  push the foam to 25% lower than original height. IFD is INDEPENDENT of density, but the higher the density, the better the support factor (ability to provide “deep down support”) which is measured by indenting to 65% below orig height. The higher the difference between IFD and support facto, the better the foam is for supporting weight.

Something that I found curious is the “Federal Requirement Cover” on the cover of my foam roll–why must the foam be covered? (If that’s what that means.) This is something I’ll continue to research. Is it simply to keep the foam clean and free of things that would interfere with performance, or are there… toxic substances we should be aware of within the foam?

After learning about FPF, I think it will be a good material match for VertaBend’s purpose, as it can be produced and formed in so many ways with support, comfort, and durability in mind, which are definitely important things to consider with a neck support device.



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