Q. What is flexible polyurethane foam?

A. Flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) is a chemically complex polymeric product having a broad range of load bearing capability and resiliency, offering comfort as cushioning material for furniture, bedding, carpet underlay, and automotive interiors. FPF also offers protective shock absorption performance for use in packaging and automotive applications.

Q. Are there materials that can substitute for flexible polyurethane foam?

A. In furniture and bedding applications, short staple polyester fiber is often used instead of FPF, as is cotton, but both alternative materials have poor height recovery characteristics after compression. Steel springs also recover well but must be insulated from the user with some type of cushioning material. Comparing FPF to alternative materials in the areas of economics, comfort potential, ease of use, and durability, there is not an acceptable substitute for FPF.

Q. Where can I find information about the size of the flexible polyurethane foam market?

A. Information is available for a fee from the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) and from private research firms. For International information, you may wish to contact our European counterpart, EUROPUR, through their Web site.

Q. Does cured FPF offgas VOCs in finished products?

A. Good question! Basically, all household materials offgas (including lumber, concrete, paint, plastics, metals, electronic and heat-generating devices, natural and synthetic textile fabrics, synthetic and natural fibers, polyurethane foam, latex foam rubber, etc.). Most offgas components are the result of natural aging and are not of concern. Relatively few offgas components would be considered as problematic VOCs that, at some concentrations, could represent potential environmental or health concerns.

The EPA discusses VOCs at /www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html. Note that flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) and items containing FPF are not included as a potential VOC sources. Nor are FPF products associated with the VOCs that typically are considered to be especially problematic. The EPA master list of VOCs is available at www.epa.gov/iaq/base/voc_master_list.html.

The EPA VOC list focuses on carbon-based products that can contribute to ground level and atmospheric pollution. Organizations such as the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association International (BIFMA) go beyond the EPA list and some of their members look for "semi-VOCs" (references available). Semi-VOCs include compounds such as fire retardants, formaldehyde, and pthalates.

The European and United States FPF industries worked together to develop CertiPUR-US®, an international foam testing program that includes voluntary standards for product emissions. CertiPUR-US product tests confirm that FPF can be manufactured to have low total emissions. This voluntary testing has not detected the types of VOCs considered problematic by EPA or BIFMA.

Bottom-line, flexible polyurethane foam does not typically emit significant amounts of either EPA-listed VOCs or "semi-VOCs." (With the understanding that with today's extremely sensitive testing capabilities - there may be no such thing as a true "zero.")

Q. Can you tell me if there is an FPF product that expands in size rapidly when immersed in water?

A. Reticulated foams have the capability of expanding in size as a result of aggressively absorbing and retaining moisture and fluids.

Q. Where can I find information about polyurethane used for roofing?

A. Roofing applications require a closed-cell product with a durable “skin”. This is not an FPF application. Information may be available from the Spray Foam Association through their Web site at www.sprayfoam.org.

Q. Can you provide information on polyurethane foam for insulating a wall or door?

A. Those are both rigid polyurethane foam applications. PFA members do not produce rigid foams, and we do not have information on rigid foam products.

Q. How can I get a list of PFA members?

A. The Polyurethane Foam Association includes FPF manufacturers representing about 70% of total United States FPF production, however, to avoid unwanted solicitation, the membership roster is not available to nonmembers.

Q. Can you help me locate a mix head and vertical cutter for my plant in Saudi Arabia?

A. Unfortunately, PFA is not always able to help companies locate equipment and rarely is able to assist companies find resources or support outside the US. Whenever possible, we refer such inquiries to supplier companies on an equal basis.

Q. What are the requirements for PFA membership?

A. There are two categories of PFA membership. PFA manufacturing members must produce FPF bun stock and / or mold FPF parts from chemical raw materials. Regular manufacturing members have FPF production facilities within the US. Federated manufacturing members are exclusively non-US. PFA associate supplier members must provide goods or services to FPF producers.

Q. Can you help me find flexible polyurethane foam for manufacturing a hospital mattress?

A. If FPF is needed in large quantities within the US, it is likely we can help you find suppliers. It is helpful if you provide a geographic preference, an idea of the quantities involved (PFA members are first-tier producers and prefer to ship in truckloads), and a good description of how the flexible foam product will be used. If referrals are provided, they are made on an equal basis so that all PFA members can benefit.

Q. Wow! I don't need a truckload. Can you help me find enough FPF to reupholster my sofa?

A. Unfortunately, our resources do not extend beyond basic product production. We are unable to make referrals to fabricators or foam retailers and often suggest using Thomas Register (www.thomasnet.com).

Q. Can you help me find sources for polyurethane filled aerosol type containers such as those used for home insulation projects (windows, doors, etc.).

A. Those aerosol containers are filled with a 2-part delivery system used to produce rigid polyurethane foam as would be used for thermal insulation. That type of polyurethane foam is not part of the FPF industry. We are unable to supply names of manufacturers. You might want to check in Thomas Register as noted above.

Q. I am looking for a supplier for 10 gallon quantities (5 "A" and 5 "B") of 2-part polyurethane foam for a motorcycle seat application.

A. 2-Part application systems are not part of the FPF industry. PFA members manufacture flexible polyurethane foam primarily using slabstock and high-volume molding processes. PFA associate/supplier members provide raw materials, chemical ingredients, equipment and services to the US flexible polyurethane industry. We have no information on 2-part systems.

Q. Please tell me all about polyurethane foam. I am new to the industry.

A. That's a tough order to fill. PFA developed this Web site to provide much of the end-use information needed by people new to the industry. Here you will find a slide show that explains flexible polyurethane foam processing, a glossary of terminology, and technical bulletins (INTOUCH) that address physical properties and applications.

You will find that most of the PFA site information relates to FPF cushioning applications. We concentrate on that application because it is the predominant end-use for the great majority of our members' products. To develop a better understanding of our industry and end-product performance possibilities, please read our collection of INTOUCH bulletins located in the Literature section of this site.

We have purposely not addressed the technical aspects of producing FPF products. Discussion of production methods and chemistry involves proprietary products and technologies. There are many mechanical, chemical and atmospheric variables that cannot be anticipated without intimate knowledge of production objectives and influential conditions. Also, it is not appropriate for a trade association to discuss proprietary matters or the merits of specific products, manufacturing technologies or equipment. PFA provides only public information of a general nature. For information on technologies, equipment and chemical products, please contact suppliers directly. To find the names of resources, you can use our search engine to check the collection of technical paper abstracts available on the PFA site. You may find an article that matches your interests with contacts for further information.