To fully understand the manufacturing process of foam, or EPE (expanded polyethylene) foam, it’s important to first understand what we mean by EPE foam.
EPE foam is a closed-cell foam, which means its structure consists of bubble-like, gas-filled cells that remain intact, even under high pressure or constant impact.
This closed-cell structure makes EPE foam perfect for a variety of uses, including packaging, sports shoe components, cosmetics and beauty products, floatation devices, medical equipment, and many other products that require a lightweight, semi-rigid, water-resistant, and resilient foam material.
Foam or EPE foam is manufactured in three key stages, which include:
EPE begins life as Polyethylene (PE), one of the most commonly used plastics today. To get slightly scientific, Polyethylene is a mixture of similar polymers (a substance or material consisting of large molecules and repeating subunits) of ethylene ( a flammable, hydrocarbon gas).
The polyethylene in its raw state is first heated until ‘foaming’, in a contained unit, to produce a molten material. This molten material is then taken through another process, where it is cooled with the addition of water, with the resultant material then being cut into beads or pellets.
The extrusion process in the manufacture of EPE foam, is done by heating the beads or pellets which resulted from the raw material stage, then using high pressure to force the heated beads into the specific moulds, in preparation for forming, the final stage in the manufacturing process.
Forming EPE foam is carried out using various techniques (depending on the product being produced), which may include: