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Editor's Blog

Technical Foam Manufacturing Takes Center Stage at Inaugural Foam Expo


Taking place from February 28 to March 2, 2017, Foam Expo will unite manufacturers and buyers of technical foam materials, products and services, catering to the entire foam manufacturing industry for North America’s first free-to-attend exhibition and conference for the entire technical foam supply chain.

Foam Expo serves all types of foam and raw materials used in the manufacture of foam and foam-related products, including the comfort and technical foam markets. Featuring over 200 exhibiting companies, the exhibition will profile molded, rigid and flexible foam solutions utilizing materials ranging from urethanes to elastomeric materials such as rubber and PVC, as well as a full range of equipment and machinery manufacturers plus a wide range of foam service providers including Dow, Rogers, Honeywell, FXi, 3M, Foam Supplies Inc, Grand Rapids Foam Technologies, Lear Corp, Nitto Automotive, Huntington Foam, Zotefoams, Saint Gobain, Sekisui Voltek, UFP Technologies and Woodbridge Foam Corp. The end result will be a single marketplace for foam manufacturers to meet with their supply chain and existing and potential buyers.

In its launch year, Foam Expo will host 20 sessions, two tracks, and more than 50 speakers over three days. It will showcase the latest product applications, services, and equipment from six key sectors: automotive; aerospace; industrial/technical packaging; construction; medical; and sports and leisure.

The conference will welcome headline speakers from industry-leading organizations including Honeywell, Ford Motor Company, Huntsman, Toyota, The Dow Chemical Company, and Boeing Research & Technology.

Representatives from the sector’s major companies will cover a range of subjects, from current industry standards and emerging trends to foam applications and the adoption of sustainable materials in an increasingly environmentally conscious world. Utilizing foam for efficiency is another central discussion point, and Trelleborg’s James Guenard has spoken about the rising demand for lightweight raw materials and products that push the boundaries in weight versus performance. “Whether it is a buoyancy tape syntactic foam that goes to the bottom of the ocean or a composite material that will survive the extremes of space exploration, these foams are performing at every level in the harshest environments,” he says. “I believe that we need more collaboration between companies in the testing and R&D phase of future concepts and applications.” Guenard will expand on this topic when he speaks in the session ‘Utilizing Foam to Reduce Weight and Increase Payload and Fuel Efficiency’.

Other topics that will be addressed include eliminating hazardous materials, improving insulation and conductivity, and foam as alternative design materials. On the last point, there exist a number of opportunities for foam materials. Jim Lowry, director of new business development at Sonoco, sees the foam industry currently at a point where value is being added and cost reduced. “With our innovation work in the HVAC [heating, ventilating, and air conditioning] industry we are starting to move from a sheet metal design approach with fasteners and high assembly labor to a foam-based approach that includes snap-together components with low assembly cost,” he says. These include added features such as noise reduction, lightweighting, thermal insulation, vibration dampening, incorporated wire and hose management, for example. At Foam Expo 2017, Lowry will be speaking at and moderating the session ‘Examining the Benefits of Foam as an Alternative Design Material’.

2017 is set to be a defining moment for the foam industry, with rapid developments under way amid changing rules and regulations. One such change is the need for manufacturers of foam blowing agents to phase out hydrofluorocarbons in line with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) modified list of approved alternatives for ozone-depleting substances for use in a number of applications. Ernest Wysong, global technology leader at Chemours, will be presenting and moderating a session on this subject, exploring alternative substance options for use in applications such as commercial refrigeration and air conditioning. “In segments where there are lower GWP (global warming potential) solutions available, [the EPA has] changed the status of high-GWP alternatives to unacceptable,” says Wysong. “The regulations were developed following EPA protocol for new rules, with significant stakeholder input and a 90-day public comment period. The changes for various segments are on the EPA’s website and will be discussed at the Foam Expo session.”

Market trends will also be in the spotlight at Foam Expo 2017. Moderating the session ‘Reviewing Shock-Absorbing Properties of Foam Materials for Protective Applications’ is Steve Sopher, technical director at JSP, who has been looking at the factors and developments that are having an impact on the foam sector. “One trend is to add value by combining features such as recyclability, sustainability, and long-term performance,” he says. “Many of these take advantage of material properties that allow designers to push the boundaries and take advantage of recent advances in both material science and process technology.”

With high-calibre thought leaders and attendees from the entire foam manufacturing value chain, Foam Expo 2017 is set to be an event like no other. It is organized by Smarter Shows, a UK-based exhibition and conferences coordinator that specializes in launching manufacturing and engineering technology-focused events. Smarter Shows has an impressive track record, achieving success with Ceramics Expo, The Battery Show, and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo.

Foam Expo is organized by Smarter Shows, a UK-based exhibition and conferences organizer that specialize in launching manufacturing and engineering technology-focused events in the US. Achieving success with Ceramics Expo (Cleveland, Oh.)  The Battery Show and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo, Space Tech and Critical Power Expo. Smarter Shows is committed to supporting Michigan as a world-leading manufacturing hub.


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