Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame
The Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame was established to honor the leaders and innovators of the industry. The Hall of Fame serves as an information source for future industry members and researchers regarding the contribution of individuals and companies who have significantly contributed to the growth and betterment of the flexible polyurethane foam industry in North America.
Richard Tucker, Sr. led Wm. T. Burnett Company’s venture from garneted cotton batting into early polyurethane foam products. While he ardently shares credit with all Wm. T. Burnett employees, Richard Tucker is a true pioneer and was a leader in the development of commercially viable polyurethane foam products.
While still in his early 20’s, Tucker saw the development of the first continuous pouring machine, built in 1954 for Burnett in the Bayer laboratories in Germany. The massive equipment had a reciprocating pour head and laid the prepolymer mixture into waxed pans that traveled beneath the pouring head on a conveyor.
While in Germany, Tucker observed flexible polyurethane foam being used in many different types of consumer and industrial applications. Richard Tucker saw big potential for polyurethane foam in the United States. He came back from Germany and approached major U.S. upholstered furniture companies with the idea of using flexible polyurethane foam as a cushioning material.
Furniture manufacturers did not see the potential. The problem was that early polyester-based prepolymer flexible foam products weren’t very flexible. Compared to today’s flexible polyurethane foam products, Tucker’s early samples were boardy and stiff. So, Tucker redirected his market development efforts toward the U.S. mattress industry, where a relatively stiff, boardy cushioning material might be better received. Tucker’s success grew and Wm. T. Burnett grew to become one of the leading suppliers of “new” flexible polyurethane foam cushioning materials.
In the days before Plastomer Corporation was founded, Walter Baughman invented and patented a variable ratio proportioning mixer which he called the “Blendometer.”
In 1953, Sun Plastics and Mobay, approached Walter about the Blendometer. They were interested to see if the device could mix various chemicals to make a new type of material named “Polyurethane Foam”.
With some machine modifications, Walter was successful. The Blendometer made the first American flexible foam that Baughman described as a plastic elastomer.
Plastomer’s first office was slightly larger than a two car garage. Chemical evaluations and mixing were conducted both there and at Walter’s home in Detroit.
Walter’s brother George, who had planned on pursuing a different career, was convinced to join this new business venture which led to the manufacturing and marketing of polyurethane foam.
Eventually in 1955 and 1956, Walter and George Baughman were able to develop reliable prepolymer foam formulations and they began marketing their “new” material nationally.
The original prepolymer foam machine, with the Blendometer mixer, poured foam into large trays that Walter and George shifted back and forth until enough foam was produced.
Using this primitive technology, the Baughman brothers pioneered many of the original applications for polyurethane foam such as, replacing natural sea sponges, air conditioner insulation, floor wax applicators, dish scrubbers, coat hanger covers, acoustical sound absorbers and automotive gasket and seal applications.
Plastomer’s first automotive part was a defroster nozzle gasket for a Ford Thunderbird. Once the automotive design engineers became comfortable with using “foam”, they began to develop heater and air conditioner gaskets out of flexible polyurethane foam to replace felt and rubber products.
Mobay Chemical Company
Mobay Chemical Company was a leader in commercializing flexible polyurethane foam within the United States. Mobay’s leadership team, including David Eynon, Heinz Wollthan, Edgar Hardy and Jim Saunders, formed the senior management team in 1954 that spearheaded support for Wm. T Burnett, Plastomer Corporation and other companies working on the development of polyurethane foam.
It was Mobay’s spirit of total collaboration, open sharing of ideas, and a willingness to build customer production equipment and to travel senior research personnel across the Atlantic for customer support that contributed to the launching the U.S. flexible polyurethane foam business.
The prepolymer polyester experience honed U.S. formulation and production skills. When polyethers became available, U.S. FPF manufacturers were able to quickly capitalize on the opportunity.
Louis H. Peters
A true leader and driving force in the flexible polyurethane foam industry, Lou Peters made considerable impact on the growth and development of not only the Polyurethane Foam Association but also the industry as a whole. Peters, who retired as Executive Director of the Polyurethane Foam Association December 31, 2004, is credited with building the PFA from a loose association of manufacturers and suppliers into a strong and credible voice for the industry.
Peters began his role as the PFA Executive Director in 1986. During his 18-year tenure, Peters and the PFA became the principal sources for information on flexible polyurethane foam for manufacturers of products containing FPF, raw material suppliers, legislators, regulators, the press and consumers. Under Peters’ leadership, the PFA developed a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise surrounding the manufacture and sale of flexible polyurethane foam making the association an uncommonly valuable resource to its membership.
Prior to taking the helm at the PFA, Peters had a long and distinguished career at Union Carbide Corporation. He began his career at Carbide in 1955 after receiving his Chemical Engineering degree from Lehigh University. Peters spent the next 30 years at Union Carbide, serving in a variety of Research and Development, Sales and Marketing roles. He was also very active in the Polyurethane Foam Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry.
While at Union Carbide, Peters received numerous patents. He is best known and respected for his patent associated with the yellow highway crash barrels seen on highways throughout the country. It was Peters’ team that developed and patented this technology that “has saved countless thousands of lives” according to Peters.
Peters was one of the founding members of the PFA in 1980. After his retirement from Union Carbide, Peters was hired as PFA Executive Director in 1986. Under his leadership, PFA produced scores of reference materials, award winning publications, technical programs, Internet resources and other products and services that help make the PFA the strong and healthy association it is today.
While serving as the PFA Executive Director, Peters championed the cause of fire safety and environmental responsibility. He served as chairman of the Residential Fire Safety Institute, an organization largely funded by the United States Fire Administration and a number of private organizations. He was also President and Chairman of the Board of the Fire Prevention Alliance. Peters has spoken widely in the U.S. and abroad on the importance of fire safety and environmental responsibility.
Peters’ election into the Polyurethane Foam Association Hall of Fame is testament to his impact, not only on the PFA, but the flexible polyurethane foam industry as a whole.
Dr. Harris W. Bradley
Dr. Harris W. “Ace” Bradley was inducted into the Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame in recognition of his contribution to the “One-Shot” method for producing flexible polyurethane foam (FPF). “One-Shot” technology is now the standard method in the United States for producing FPF products. It allows a continuous production process of simultaneous polymer formation and expansion to form the foam. The original prepolymer process utilized a polymer formation step in a reactor vessel with later expansion of the formed polymer into the foam product.
Ace originally worked in DuPont’s plastics development area. During World War II, Ace was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project and left DuPont. Even to close friends, Ace never revealed his role in Project and kept whatever contributions he made to himself.
After the end of the war, Ace returned to DuPont where he worked on developing the “One-Shot” process. He was convinced that the concept held great commercial potential and was technically feasible. Ace left DuPont and joined E.R. Carpenter Company. It was at Carpenter where the “One-Shot” process began to take shape. In 1960, Carpenter management chose to pursue the prepolymer method. Ace was convinced that the “One-Shot” method was the superior way to go, so Ace left Carpenter to join Essex Wire Corporation in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.
In 1964 Essex decided they would exit the foam business. But, Ace was confident of the viability of FPF business, and the “One-Shot” method as the best production process, and he was determined to stick with it.
Ace assembled a group of people and teamed with Barnhardt Manufacturing Company to establish North Carolina Foam Industries (NCFI), in 1964.
Finally in 1964, at NCFI, Ace perfected the “One-Shot” production method, which today has become the United States FPF manufacturing industry standard.
Ace served as NCFI’s first president from 1964 until 1982. With a thorough understanding of “One-Shot” technology, NCFI quickly became a technology leader in the flexible polyurethane foam industry.
Dr. Bradley passed away in 2003.
Robert A. Volz
Bob Volz was a passionate contributor to the growth and technical development of the flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) industry. He is credited as the originator of the reticulated foam manufacturing process.
Volz began his career with Scott Paper Company in 1954 after graduating from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (now the University of of the Sciences in Philadelphia).
Scott Paper was exploring polyurethane foam manufacturing. Bob was assigned to develop an understanding of the structure of polyurethane foam. He became curious whether the foam structure itself could be modified to yield flexible skeletal foam without membranes. Volz believed that such a modification would offer several unique advantages applicable to a variety of industries.
Bob’s work in this area was instrumental to the development of the foam reticulation process in 1956. The same “open pore” manufacturing techniques, as Volz envisioned, are still used today to produce a flexible skeletal structure without membranes.
Shortly after the reticulation process was developed, Scott established its Foam Division and Volz became its first Director of Development.
Volz consulted with customers and fine-tuned reticulated foam technology for automotive, medical and military applications. He also developed innovative technologies for use in fuel cells.
Robert A. Volz passed away in 1996.
Union Carbide Corporation
Union Carbide Corporation was inducted into the Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame to recognize the company’s contribution to the development of the overall industry. Union Carbide’s contributions began in the early 1960’s and included the development of polyether polyols; the first general purpose silicone surfactant; the first fire retardant surfactant, the first High Resilience (HR) silicone surfactant – still used today to manufacture viscoelastic FPF products, and specialty modifiers that helped to eliminate dependence on CFCs in FPF manufacturing. Union Carbide’s invention of the A-1 amine catalyst, that allowed the separate control of the gel vs. the blow reactions, proved to be vital to the production of high quality slabstock FPF.
Three events had much to do with the evolution of FPF production:
|1950||Tin catalysts were developed (not by Union Carbide)|
|mid-1950s||Polyether polyols were developed (Union Carbide Chemicals)|
|1957||Silicone Surfactant L-520 was developed (Linde Division of Union Carbide)|
These events provided the technology that made continuous “One-Shot” production a reality. The technologies paved the way for volume production of foams well suited for cushioning applications with their unique combination of comfort, support and durability at affordable prices.
The timeline for Union Carbide innovations spanned the period from the early 1950s through 1993 when the last vestiges of the business were sold. An abbreviated version of that timeline shows the powerful role played by the company in the FPF business.
|1950||Tin catalysts eventually used in the “one-shot” process developed (not UCC)|
|mid-1950s||Polyether urethane technology derived from propylene oxide, LG -56|
|1957||Niax® silicone L-520 developed for one-shot foam process|
|1957||Tin catalysts and Niax silicone L-520 enables commercialization of one-shot process|
|1960||Niax amine catalyst A-1 is introduced for flexible foam|
|1963||Development of non-hydrolyzable flexible surfactant (L-540)|
|1963||Development of L-532 enabled round block polyester production|
|1963||First HR silicone surfactant (L-5303) developed for high resilience molded foam|
|1969||First FR silicone (L-5710) introduced for fire-retardant treated foams|
|1969||Introduction of Niax polymer polyols|
|1969||Introduction of L-5614 for froth FPF, used today to make viscoelastic products|
|1973||General Motors converts to HR FPF seating for all vehicles using UCC technology|
|1975||HR slabstock is developed based on polymer polyols|
|1981||Specialty flat-top slabstock surfactants are introduced|
|1987||Ultracel® foam system introduced providing HR technology for all slabstock producers|
|1988||Geolite® modifier provides a chemistry-based solution to reducing use of CFCs|
|1989||Introduction of Niax® L-620 high potency, wide latitude, “universal” silicone for FPF|
|1989||Sale of Niax Polyol business to ARCO Chemical, in turn sold to Bayer|
|1993||Sale of Silicones and Catalyst business to DLJ investment bankers, then to Witco/Crompton and then to General Electric|
|This ended direct Union Carbide contributions to the polyurethane foam industry.|
The legacy of Union Carbide lives on in the businesses that were started by Union Carbide and now are embodied at DOW, Bayer and GE.
Dow Chemical accepted the award on behalf of Union Carbide Corporation and the former Union Carbide employees who attended the award ceremony. Union Carbide is now a division of Dow Chemical.
Harry Kushnarov was a true pioneer in the flexible polyurethane foam business. While working for General Tire and Rubber, one of the early manufacturers of both slabstock and molded flexible polyurethane foam, he played a major role in the early adoption of the “one shot” method for slabstock foam production. Kushnarov also was a leader in the technical development and commercialization of High Resilience (HR) foam. The availability of HR foam supported the manufacturing and marketing of premium quality FPF cushion products for bedding, upholstered furniture, and automotive seating applications.
Kushnarov was largely responsible for the definition of HR foam based on density, firmness range, support factor and resilience. Once the definition was recognized, Kushnarov worked with officials from the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers (now known as ISPA) and with the Association of Bedding Law Officials (ABFLO) to achieve recognition for High Resilience (HR) foam products on mattress law labels.
In addition to his contributions to the development of the “one shot” technology and the commercialization of HR foam, Kushnarov had several inventions including an early patient for a foam cushioned automotive bucket seat.
Harry Kushnarov passed away in 1983.
Robert Schiffler was a partner in Fecken-Kirfel, the family-owned German-based machine manufacturing company that developed and introduced much of the early foam cutting equipment which helped elevate value-added benefits for the United States FPF industry.
In the 1950s, the first polyester foams were stiff and firm with few cushioning characteristics. Through Fecken-Kirfel’s introduction of the convoluter, this changed. By producing undulating profiles which effectively reduced surface area, the feel of the foam was softened.
In the 1960’s foam was typically cut out of a bun into sheets and panels using a horizontal stacking saw. But, this method proved to be inefficient as the saw blade could not cut on the return stroke. With Robert Schiffler’s guidance, Fecken-Kirfel developed and patented the carousel cutter. The circular cutting motion not only eliminated the wasted return stroke, but also increased productivity by the extra loading capacity of the machine.
Until the 1970s, contour parts were either molded or cut manually, which was a tedious and wasteful process. To add additional capability and efficiency to manual contour cutting, Fecken-Kirfel built the first automated contour cutting machine. The machine featured a patented continuous bandknife that was able to twist and turn with few restrictions, allowing many types of shapes that would have typically been molded, to be cut. Over the years, this machine evolved into the CAD-CNC machines so prevalent today. Had Schiffler not championed the introduction of contour cutting, the importance of slabstock versus molded foam may have been greatly diminished.
Robert Schiffler was an engineering innovator. He and his technical staff at Fecken-Kirfel, through their combined efforts, with creativity, ingenuity and vision contributed tremendously to the acceptance of new slabstock products, and thereby, the rapid growth of the flexible polyurethane foam industry.
Robert Schiffler passed away in 2000.
Robert J. Hay
Robert Hay began his career in the early 1950’s as a chemist with Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. His early work concentrated on applied research and development related to latex foam. In 1955, Hay was assigned to a task group that developed vinyl covered polyester-based polyurethane foam dashboard pads for Ford and General Motors. This was one of the first large volume applications of prepolymer polyurethane foam in the U.S.
After switching to the one-shot foam manufacturing process, rapid growth occurred. By the late 1960’s Firestone had become one of the largest producers of flexible polyurethane foam. And, Hay was assigned leadership of Firestone’s polyurethane foam operation.
By the end of the 1970’s, Robert Hay was appointed president of Firestone’s Foam Products Division, generating about $20 million in annual sales. Soon after, the Firestone Foam Products Division was acquired and combined with General Felt Industries and Scott Foam. The new company was named Foamex with Hay at the helm as president and CEO. By 1993, under Robert Hay’s guidance, Foamex had developed into a $600 million company.
Robert Hay, with Dennis Peterson of Future Foam, James Hollars of Lear Siegler, Michael Blair of General Foam and Donald Bellew of Scott Foam, founded the Polyurethane Foam Association in April, 1980. Within PFA, Hay was instrumental in developing early proactive industry positions on flammability and various environmental safety matters. Robert Hay is an example of a true entrepreneur who began with a technical assignment, entered management and developed one of the world’s largest flexible polyurethane foam enterprises. Hay has been a driving force for Foamex International and for the entire U.S. flexible polyurethane industry.
Dr. Herman Stone
Herman Stone enjoyed a brilliant career spanning the early years of flexible polyurethane foam development to his present-day consulting practice. He is a renowned researcher, inventor, expert in combustion performance, and a leading contributor to the FPF industry.
Born in Munich, Germany in 1924, at 14 years old, Herman Stone escaped Nazi Germany with his family to emigrate to the United States. Stone became a U.S. citizen in 1945 while serving in the United States Army.
Stone graduated from Bethany College and was awarded a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry by Ohio State University in 1950. Stone began working in polyurethane foam development in the mid 1950s, initially for Allied Chemical (now Honeywell) and then, in 1974 for Tenneco Chemicals Foam (later to become General Foam). He left his mark on almost every aspect of the FPF industry, from lab research, process development, applications research and technological forecasting through regulatory compliance, patents and trademarks, and waste minimization and disposal. He pioneered much of the FPF industry’s flammability research and has been a leader and an officer in the PFA and in other industry and national associations.
In 1968, Stone patented the technology for producing super-soft foams to support the commercialization of soft, low resiliency cushioning-grade foams for use in home furnishings and automotive applications. He holds 24 patents and is the author of 70 publications and presentations. Recently, Dr. Stone authored the section on polyurethanes in the International Plastics Flammability Handbook of 2003.
In addition to remaining active in various religious and community groups, Herman Stone works to educate today’s young people on the importance of remembering the Holocaust. His own personal story appears in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.
Donald E. Bellew
Donald E. Bellew is a pioneer in the development and commercialization of specialty and technical FPF products, and has contributed to the FPF industry in countless ways. He was a founding member and third president of PFA. Bellew commands an extraordinary knowledge of the FPF industry, and his depth of experience makes him a tremendous resource for the industry.
Don Bellew began his career in the FPF industry as a lab technician in the Foam Group of the Scott Paper Company’s Chemical Research division and soon transferred to a pilot plant making reticulated foams. Bellew was instrumental in commercializing ScottFelt, a compressed reticulated foam, the product that holds the ink in every ink jet cartridge. He also worked with Firestone Coated Fabrics to develop foams for race car fuel tank explosion suppressants. This technology was then applied to fuel tanks for military aircraft. Demonstrating his innovative thinking, from technology to commercialization, Bellew became Manufacturing Manager, then Vice President & General Manager of Scott’s Foam Division, and then President of Scottfoam Corp.
Bellew served as President of L& P Foam (a partnership between Leggett & Platt and Pacific Dunlop of Australia) before acquiring Crest-Foam Corp., which he consolidated as Crest Foam Industries in Moonachie, New Jersey. Bellew’s innovative company focused on quality and great customer service, serving the industrial specialty foam business.
Hennecke GmbH Polyurethane Technology
Hennecke was an early industry innovator as a manufacturer of machinery and equipment for FPF production. Hennecke was the first company in the world to develop and market continuous processing machinery supporting one-shot technology. The availability of one-shot production equipment was the catalyst for the FPF industry’s rapid growth and commercial success.
Founded in 1945 by Karl Hennecke and based in Germany, Hennecke’s long-time goal, driven by customer demand, was to find a way to produce a machine that could continuously pour chemicals, in a more efficient, stable, repeatable way. That process became increasingly complicated with the introduction of HR , viscoelastic and a range of new foams. In 1951 Hennecke registered the first patent for the high-pressure impingement mixhead—the first company in the world to manufacture high-pressure polyurethane machines. Hennecke also developed a flattop system to increase yields.
Hennecke engineered entire plants for the production of both polyester and polyether foams. In recent years, they supported the shift toward liquid CO2 processing with their NovaFlex manufacturing system.
Today, Hennecke continues to produce high-pressure metering machines for slabstock production lines, in addition to a range of essential products for other industries. In 1968 Hennecke (USA) was founded. That same year, Bayer AG acquired a majority holding, and in 1975 Hennecke became a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer. In 2002, Hennecke was integrated into the Bayer Material Science Division of Bayer Polymers, a company of Bayer AG.
Jay Allen Bernal
J. Allen Bernel, innovative engineer and entrepreneur, invented the polyether version of low perm foam used in gasketing for heating and cooling devices for the automotive industry. His perfectionism, extraordinary engineering ability and penchant for business helped establish the US flexible polyurethane foam industry in its early days.
Bernel started out in Akron, Ohio, going to work at Goodyear, where he injected foam into the fuselage of airplanes to help stop explosions from gun fire hitting the gas tanks. Later on, during the war years, Bernel joined BF Goodrich as an engineer in Goodyear’s latex division.
In 1949, Bernel was recruited by E.R. Carpenter and served as their executive vice president in Richmond, Virginia. Five years later, Bernel had the opportunity to take over a latex foam distributorship in Buffalo from Goodyear Tire and Foam.
Sometime in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s Goodyear constructed a foam line in Akron Ohio. When Goodyear decided to concentrate on rubber, Bernel bought, dismantled and shipped the polyurethane pouring equipment to Buffalo, NY where he established himself as a foam manufacturer and fabricator. He obtained a Dow Ethafoam distributorship and became designated as a Class A fabricator for Scott packaging foams. Bernel pursued foam sales in the furniture industry, but eventually wound up with 80% of his business in automotive.
Earlier in his career, Bernel worked with Harrison Radiator in Rockport, a supplier of air conditioning and heating units for General Motors. That background proved valuable and contributed to his invention of low permeability gasketing foam in the late ‘60s – to replace low density rubber firewalls in cars. He also made armrests and die-cut foam for dashboards.
By 1979, Bernel Foam Products had 5 plants – and 450 employees. Bernel was known as a good employer and it was not uncommon for employees in Buffalo to have careers spanning 30 or more years.
In 1978, Bernel Foam Products expanded again with the purchase of American Rubber and Foam in LaPorte, Indiana. American Foam became part of Bernel Foam Products and American Rubber retained its name. In 1980, Bernel Foam Products was purchased by the Belgian company, Recticel, later to become part of Foamex International.
J. Allen Bernel passed away in 1985.
Rick Triolo was inducted for his numerous contributions to the flexible polyurethane foam industry as preeminent chemist, innovator, and industry leader. As a premier polyurethane chemist, he combined his research and production skills with a rare ability to find practical applications for that chemistry. Triolo contributed to the discovery of many innovative foam applications and holds numerous US and foreign patents, mostly for technical products.
Some of Triolo’s innovations were applied to military aircraft as fillings for rubberized fuel cells, as well as many other applications for reticulated foam including its use in ink jet cartridges for computer printers. Triolo also helped develop and commercialize shock absorption foams, and a number of innovative products specifically for bedding and automotive applications. He has also been credited with much of the technical development related to prime polyurethane foam carpet cushion. Triolo was the leader of the technical team for ComfortWear, a flagship product for Foamex International.
Triolo was born and raised in South Philadelphia. He received his BS in chemistry from St. Joseph College and his PhD in organic synthesis from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958. During two summers of graduate school at Penn, he worked at the Philadelphia Naval Base in the High Polymer Lab.
In 1958, he became a polyurethane chemist for the Scott Paper Company, later working on products for the Technical Products Group of the Foam Division with the late Robert Volz – also a PFA Hall of Fame Member – and the inventor of reticulated polyurethane foams.
In 1970, he was promoted to Director of Research for the Foam Division of Scott Paper Company; in 1975, Triolo helped launch new product development programs for the automotive, bedding, technical products and carpet cushion industries.
In 1983, Scott Paper Company sold the Foam Division to GFI and Scott Foam was formed with Triolo as Vice President of R&D. In1986, GFI bought Foamex, which had been a division of Firestone. A year later GFI merged the two companies, which became Foamex International and Triolo was made VP of Technology. The company expanded tremendously, and the Technology Department greatly helped this expansion. In 1997, Triolo retired from Foamex, but continued to serve as a consultant until 2001.
Karl G. Lens
Karl G. Lens founded the innovative company that designed, developed and operated the first commercial vinyl foam production plant in the United States, in 1955.
Early in his career, Karl Lens moved from vinyl to the polyurethane foam business. In 1959, Karl and his partner, Irving Rifkin, founded Crest Foam Industries, Inc., in Flushing, New York, which produced and peeled thin gauge polyester foam primarily for flame lamination to fabric for the garment industry. Crest Foam, now a division of British Vita, was the second U.S. producer of thermally reticulated foam, and was a dominant regional supplier and one of the most diversified and technologically advanced foam companies in the United States.
Under Lens’ ownership, Crest Foam stood out for its rare and impressive technological diversity and range of product offerings. The company was a leader in polyester foams, conventional polyether foams, graft polyol products, bonded foam, high resilience (HR) foam and reticulated foams for everything from apparel to textiles, packaging to carpet cushion, and filter media to outdoor furniture.
Lens earned his degree in chemical engineering at City College of New York.
Karl G. Lens passed away in 2004.
Warren Neil Pollock
Warren Neill Pollock was responsible for the design and setup of one of the first commercial flexible polyurethane foam manufacturing operations in the United States, at Curtis Wright Corporation, in the 1950s. After he joined General Foam Fabricators, Inc., Pollock led the development of the round, or cylindrical, foam block processing that greatly expanded the capabilities of the FPF industry. The capacity to peel continuous thin sheets of foam for laminated fabrics made tremendous savings possible in raw materials and product.
Pollock was a leader in flame lamination for applications in automotive seating and textile fabrics. He was considered an astute engineer with a unique ability to apply mechanical engineering solutions to problems in the plant.
A graduate in chemical engineering at Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana, and the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program, Pollock is a former president of the Polyurethane Foam Association and a former president of the Carpet Cushion Council.
Beamech Group Limited
Beamech Group Limited is based in Manchester, England and designs, manufactures and installs flexible polyurethane foam slabstock equipment. The directors started designing and manufacturing in the 1950s and founded Beamech in 1974. Leon Manufacturing and Equipment, Inc., Delanco, NJ was acquired in 1987 and is now operated by Brian Blackwell and his sons, Bill Blackwell and John Blackwell.
Beamech has been involved in many major innovations including early equipment designs to support the continuous processing of flexible polyurethane foam products.
Today, the company supplies conventional, Maxfoam, Vertifoam and Ultima foam processing equipment, flat topping systems, bulk tank farm equipment and liquid carbon dioxide systems, as well as rigid foam laminators and rigid slabstock machinery. Beamech was awarded several patents for its processes and equipment, including the continuous variable pressure foaming process and equipment (VPF) and CO2 vertical round block equipment.
Jerry Pool’s career in the foam industry took him around the U.S. – and around the world – where he solved production challenges and addressed air quality and environmental issues with innovations and improved process technologies. In the United States, Pool worked at NOPCO Chemical Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Diamond Shamrock in New Jersey and Chattanooga; Flexible Foam Products in Ohio; Clark Crain Foam in Chicago; Leggett & Platt Urethane Foam Division in North Carolina and Mississippi, and Future Foam in High Point, North Carolina. In 1993, Pool established a consulting business which focused on environmental and OSHA compliance, polyurethane process and machinery technology.
Beyond his successes as a plant manager and technical director, Pool’s influence and achievements extend to the entire flexible polyurethane foam industry. In the late 1980s when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was working to eliminate CFCs as anauxiliary blowing agent, Pool assisted the flexible polyurethane foam industry and the Polyurethane Foam Association in taking immediate action. Pool was instrumental in developing a good industry relationship with EPA to assist in efforts to regulate the removal of CFCs from the U.S. flexible polyurethane foam industry. The resulting rules, issued in 1991, met EPA and industry objectives and were the first EPA regulations developed collaboratively with an industry – and which did not result in a lawsuit.
This historic contribution to the environment led Pool to a contract with the United Nations Development Program and World Bank organizations and foreign governments to reduce or eliminate CFCs in the manufacture of flexible polyurethane foam in many parts of the world. Pool traveled to the Middle East, Africa, China, and Southeast Asia identifying projects where replacement technology could be substituted for CFCs as blowing agents in Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Jordan, Turkey, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Pool also is credited with the redesign of vapor exhaust hoods on the foam line to capture emissions through carbon absorption beds, which continues to be utilized today.
Jerry Pool passed away in 2016.
James A. Hollars
James A. Hollars was known in the foam industry for his business talents and entrepreneurial skills as well as early leadership of the Polyurethane Foam Association. Hollars participated in the April 1980 formation of the Polyurethane Foam Association, and served two terms as the association’s second president, from 1981 to 1983.
Hollars played a major role setting PFA direction and establishing objectives. He championed the flexible polyurethane foam industry and helped develop PFA strategies to improve the industry image and create a resource for media, regulators and downstream customers to get accurate information to counter erroneous beliefs and statements. Hollars visited media outlets, elected officials and regulatory agencies, providing interviews and making the case for flexible polyurethane foam. He initiated the name change of the organization from the Flexible Polyurethane Manufacturers Association to the Polyurethane Foam Association. Hollars’ contributions to the foam industry left lasting results.
Hollars’ career in the foam industry focused on molded and fabricated automotive products. He served as Vice-President of Manufacturing with the Metal Products Division of Lear Siegler, Inc., No-Sag Spring Division. He was later elected President of Lear Foam Products Division, which supplied the automotive industry with molded foam for seating, as well as fabricated foam for the RV seating, furniture, bedding, and packaging industries.
Hollars was a part of a small group of key managers who led a management buyout of Lear Seating Division in 1988. After the buyout, business in Europe grew rapidly, leading Hollars to move to Germany in 1990. The company, renamed Lear Seating Corporation, became a leader in supplying complete seat sets applying just-in-time practices for the European automotive industry, with such customers as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, Volvo, Fiat and Opel. When Hollars left Lear Seating Corporation in 1998, the company had become the one of largest automotive seating manufacturers, and users of molded polyurethane foam, in the world.
E. Rhodes Carpenter
E. Rhodes Carpenter, founder of Carpenter Co., built his company from a distributor of Goodyear latex foam rubber into one of the world’s leading producers of comfort cushioning products.
After his graduation from Hampden-Sydney College in 1929, Carpenter began working at Crawford Manufacturing Company, a Richmond manufacturer of textiles that his father had founded with two partners.
By the time WWII ended, Carpenter had decided to go into business for himself. He formed Southern Foam Rubber Co. when the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. allotted him the distribution territory of Virginia and North Carolina. In addition, he formed E.R. Carpenter Co. to manufacture various latex foam-containing products. In the early years, distributing foam rubber was quite profitable, but soon, competition began to erode profits.
At that time, polyurethane foam technology was rapidly developing and Rhodes decided to pour polyurethane foam to supplement the latex foam rubber market. The company’s first polyurethane foam pour line began in 1962 in Richmond, VA. It wasn’t too long before the latex foam market dropped under pressure from less expensive polyurethane foams. Soon, Southern Foam Rubber Co. fell by the wayside and E. R. Carpenter Co. led the way.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Carpenter’s company continued to grow – introducing flexible foam carpet cushioning and foam for automotive applications and establishing a chemical company to produce polyol. Carpenter built manufacturing facilities in Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Canada, Mississippi, Florida, Pennsylvania, and California. Eventually the company expanded its operations throughout Western Europe. Carpenter Co. now has 19 foam production plants, 4,700 employees and 56 global locations. Carpenter Co. was ranked by Forbes as the 247th largest privately-held U.S. company and one of only 305 to pass the $1 billion sales mark.
Carpenter semi-retired in 1965 and died in 1980. His legacy lives on through the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, which was founded in 1975.
Bob Bush, Sr.
Bob Bush, Sr. was one of the founding fathers of the Polyurethane Foam Association and has been described by many as a pioneer and a legendary figure in the flexible polyurethane foam industry. Bush spent his entire 50-year career at Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company, where his energy, ambition, drive and innovative ideas contributed not only to the success of the company, but also to the growth and success of the polyurethane foam industry as a whole.
When Bush’s career began in 1953, latex foam rubber was king, and Hickory Springs was buying molded slabs of latex cushioning material from producers in northern states and reselling fabricated products to customers. Bush suspected that a plastic foam could compete with latex, so he sought support for experiments that could result in the development an acceptable plastic substitute for foam rubber. By the time Bush retired in 2002 as executive vice president of sales, Hickory Springs had grown to become one of the largest flexible polyurethane foam producers in the country. The company ranks among North Carolina’s largest private employers and has more than 50 manufacturing plants in 16 states and China.
Those who worked with Bush describe him as one of the chief architects of Hickory Spring’s success. One innovation that Bush championed was positioning Hickory Springs’ facilities where they could provide a strategic advantage to customers who were unable to maintain large raw material inventories. In the 1960s, he established an effective “just in time” delivery program.
Bush also played an important role in the development of the flexible polyurethane foam and furniture industries through his service as a founding member of the PFA, through his involvement with the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), and as president of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association’s Suppliers Council. He received the Exceptional Service Award and the Robert MacMorran Award from ISPA, and was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 2006.
Bush died in January 2010 in Hickory, North Carolina, at age 78. His legacy lives on through his sons Bobby and Jimmy.
Charles D. Moeller
Charles D. Moeller was one of the flexible polyurethane foam industry’s best known entrepreneurs. Raised as a farmer in Ohio, Moeller worked in a sheet metal company after serving in the Navy. Once he had worked his way to foreman, the only way to advance was to buy the sheet metal company, but when the price tag proved too high, he started his own, establishing Ohio Decorative Products in 1950 at the age of 23. At the time, Moeller was also selling wheat, corn, beans and livestock and had established an agricultural research laboratory. In 1971, he traded the agricultural laboratory for a polyurethane pouring facility in a business exchange with the Diamond Shamrock Company. Seeing potential in polyurethane, two years later, he established Flexible Foam Products, Inc., in Spencerville, Ohio and proceeded to grow the company into one of the largest flexible polyurethane foam producers in the world. Flexible Foam Products remains a privately held family business with 13 foam production facilities, nearly 1,000 employees and serves the bedding, furniture, carpet cushion, specialty, packaging, and automotive markets.
Charles D. Moeller passed away in 2013.
Albrecht Bäumer Company
The Albrecht Bäumer Company is recognized for its role in advancing the flexible polyurethane foam industry with the development of the loop slitting machine and other innovative foam cutting technologies. The Bäumer Company was started in 1919 by Albrecht Bäumer as a small mechanical workshop in Wuppertal, Germany and later relocated to Freudenberg. It transitioned into manufacturing at the encouragement of Bäumer’s daughter Ursula, and her husband Hans Gunther Schuster. The company evolved to manufacture felt cutting machines and then horizontal and vertical foam cutting equipment. Foam cutting machines were first shipped to the United States in 1954. Bäumer’s early loop slitter was the first machine that was able to produce continuous rolled foam sheet goods. This was accomplished by gluing polyurethane foam blocks end to end and loading the foam onto a Ferris wheel type of machine for peeling using a horizontal blade. The company’s loop slitter invention helped the flexible polyurethane foam industry later develop markets for carpet cushion, quilting foam, and other goods requiring sheet foam on a long roll. Still family-run, Bäumer continues to focus on specialty machines for cutting, processing, and transporting polyurethane foams and similar materials.
Graham Walmsley was recognized for his role tackling foam production problems with patented inventions and innovations that improved flexible foam processing technology and foam products.
Walmsley began his career in his home town of Glossop, England, as a lab chemist at Volcrepe, a rubber products company that had acquired a polyurethane foam machine from Germany. Walmsley was drawn to foam production and soon moved to Long & Hambly in 1955 before joining Aeropreen, a foam manufacturing company, where he worked as chief chemist. In 1966, he was recruited by Kay Metzeler, Ltd. where he became technical director.
As the foam industry rapidly grew, Walmsley became known for his firm grasp of the fine points of polyether and polyester slabstock production as well as his understanding of molding machinery. In 1970, Walmsley moved to North Carolina to become vice president and technical director at Reeves Brothers.
He designed slabstock polyester machinery and also ran some of the first trials involving trough configurations that later became part of the Maxfoam technology. In 1978, Walmsley founded his own company, Periphlex USA Ltd., where he developed, built, commissioned and licensed the use of Varimax slabstock production equipment.
His work with Varimax equipment led to employment at Hickory Springs Manufacturing in 1983 where he served as technical director, installing Varimax machinery at company pouring locations across the United States. At Hickory Springs Manufacturing, Walmsley introduced poly-isocyanate poly-addition (PIPA) technology to the United States, which opened the door for lower density, high resilience foam production.
He also invented and obtained a worldwide patent for the use of melamine as a flame retardant – a development that had an enormous impact on fire safety both in the United States and United Kingdom, and provided the foundation for some of today’s flammability standards. Walmsley also was granted a patent for the use of acetone, an exempt VOC, as an auxiliary blowing agent. This method supported slabstock foam production without ozone-depleting chemicals.
Walmsley often said that in his career, he had the advantage of having one foot in the laboratory and the other on the shop floor. He was admired and respected by all his colleagues, but especially by the people on the technical teams with whom he worked. To say you once worked with Graham Walmsley is still a badge of honor in the industry.
Graham Walmsley passed away in 1998.
Charles Morgan was recognized for his role as an innovator, inventor of foam formulations and processes, and particularly for being among the first to develop a national distribution network to serve customers on a local basis. Morgan has had a lifelong fascination with polymer chemistry.
During his first job as a chemist at Coast ProSeal in Compton, California, he developed polyurethane components for molding compounds and liquid polymers for sealing aircraft gas tanks. He then joined National Oil Products Company (Nopco) as chief chemist and helped build a low pressure foam machine that manufactured polyester-based foams. When Nopco moved east, Morgan joined Relaxer Mattress in San Francisco, where he managed the polyurethane foam division.
In 1966, Morgan and Leonard Graff co-founded United Foam in Gardena, California. Foam products are bulky and require a specialized shipping and inventory management strategy. At United Foam, Morgan developed a foam distribution model that located the company’s fabricating centers and warehouses near local customers. Over the next decade, he contributed to the company’s rapid growth and expansion to 24 plants, from New Jersey to Hawaii.
In 1977, Morgan was elected United Foam’s president and chief operating officer. Not all of United Foam’s customers were in the bedding, furniture, and cushioning industries. In 1977, in response to an unusual request from Paramount Pictures, United Foam supplied 80,000 pounds of polyurethane foam for construction of a giant mechanical ape used in the remake of the movie “King Kong.”
While at United Foam, Morgan also created waves in the bedding industry with the eponymous Morgan waveless waterbed mattress. In 1990, Morgan founded Southwest Carpet Pad, where he patented four new processing technologies for flexible polyurethane foam. After selling Southwest Carpet to Leggett and Platt, Morgan remained a consultant with the company for nine years.
Charles A. Yost
Charles A. Yost was recognized for his work in developing viscoelastic foam, commonly known as memory foam. During the mid-1960’s, Yost was instrumental in formulating and developing a unique open-cell, polymeric memory foam for a NASA application in airplane seats to improve the odds of crash survival.
Yost called his early development “temper foam” now, technically known as viscoelastic polyurethane foam. Yost’s foam formulation provided extremely pliable pressure contouring capabilities with high energy absorption potential. In 1967, Yost, a former NASA contractor, founded Dynamic Systems, Inc. to commercialize and market temper foam technology and to expand its application into military, automotive, and medical fields. Early products became integral components for ejection seats; found use in transportation and body protection and were molded as wheelchair seats and for use in prosthetics.
As Yost’s business expanded, additional formulations were added resulting in SunMate®, Pudgee™ and Liquid SunMate® FIPS (Foam-in-Place Seating) products primarily for healthcare applications. Over time, Yost’s innovative development provided life-changing benefits for many end-users.
Yost was inducted into NASA’s Space Technology Hall of Fame in 1998, complementing his lifelong passion for astronomy, rocketry, and space travel. In addition to foam-related interests, Yost was the founder and publisher of Electric Spacecraft, a worldwide scientific journal devoted to encouraging development of electric propulsion technologies. Widely regarded by colleagues as a generous and caring humanitarian,
Charles A. Yost passed away in 2005.
Thomas Hugh Talley
The flexible polyurethane foam industry has been blessed with many colorful, larger-than-life people who were dynamic, visionary, and left an indelible mark. Among the most memorable was Thomas Hugh Talley.
Hugh Talley began his career in the flexible foam industry with North Carolina Foam Industries, now NCFI Polyurethanes, and later with Reeves Brothers Foam. He was hired as a chemist by Schnadig Corporation and became immersed in foam, fabric, and frame performance, and he worked with industry stakeholders to establish component performance criteria. After tenures at Schnadig and Berkline Corporation in Morristown, TN,
Talley became an independent consultant and continued to make important contributions to the upholstered furniture industry. He became a technical consultant for the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC) and provided pioneering research on smolder ignition testing that ultimately lead to UFAC’s industry-wide voluntary standard for upholstered furniture flammability. The resulting UFAC standard transformed how the furniture industry addressed fire safety. As the UFAC standard became accepted, Talley’s work helped to significantly reduce the number of furniture fire deaths.
The UFAC standard continues to save lives.
Talley also assisted PFA and the American Home Furnishings Alliance to create The Joint Industry Foam Standards and Guidelines, published in 1994 and still in use today. Talley was an effective advocate for the furniture and flexible polyurethane foam industries, and was known for his love for the business and the people in it.
Thomas Hugh Talley died in 2016.
Robert J. Luedeka
Bob Luedeka began his career in 1972 as an associate buyer for Associated Drygoods Company, Inc., a holding company comprised of U.S. department store chains, and then spent 28 years as a principal and director of J.P. Hogan & Company, a marketing communications firm specializing in home furnishings, foam manufacturing, chemical raw materials, floor coverings and trade associations related to those industries.
In 2003, Bob Luedeka was appointed Associate Director of the Polyurethane Foam Association, and in 2005, elected Executive Director of the Polyurethane Foam Association representing manufacturers of flexible polyurethane foam and their suppliers of raw materials, equipment and services.
For more than 40 years, Luedeka has been involved in market research, product development and improvement consultation, product testing and performance standards development.
Professional papers and key presentations include:
- Mechanical Recycling of Foams and Plastics Mixed with Flame Retardants (National Science Foundation, pending publication)Flexible Polyurethane Foam Waste Management & Recycling, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, November 30, 2011 (Updated August, 2016)Furniture Strategies and Considerations, Proceedings of the UL Furniture Flammability & Health Summit, May 22, 2014
- Overview on the Combustibility and Testing of Filling Materials and Fabrics for Upholstered Furniture, proceedings of Changing Severity of Home Fires, United States Fire Administration, December 11, 2012
- Smolder Testing Evaluation of Selected Cigarettes, proceedings of the Polyurethane Foam Association Technical Program, November 8, 2012
- Testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Regarding Unfair Trade Practices Affecting the U.S. Flexible Polyurethane Foam Industry, July 17, 2008
- Recommendations to the U.S. Conusmer Product Safety Commission Regarding Development of a Furniture Flammability Standard, July 11; July 28, 2005 CPSC Official Log https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/89620/upholsteredJul28.pdf
Bob also was a founder of the Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam, Inc., the governing body for CertiPUR-US a voluntary environmental, health and safety evaluation and certification program for polyurethane foam products, and Luedeka served on the board of directors of the Fire Prevention Alliance, which provides fire prevention education information for rural communities. Previously, he was a member of the Residential Fire Safety Institute steering committee, advocating code revisions to encourage installation of residential sprinkler systems. Luedeka is a member of ASTM International E5 Committee on flammability testing and is secretary of the ASTM International E05.15 subcommittee on furniture and interior contents.
Bob Luedeka received a Bachelor of Science degree from by the University of Denver. Luedeka died in 2019.
Jacob C. "Jake" Barnhardt, Jr.
Jacob C. “Jake” Barnhardt, Jr. former President of NCFI Polyurethanes, was a legend in in the flexible polyurethane foam business, known for his stories, his slow southern accent, and his amazing intellect and business sense.
After graduating from Georgia Tech University with a degree in engineering and completing service in the navy, Barnhardt joined the family business, Barnhardt Manufacturing in 1960. In 1964, he was asked to move from Charlotte to Mount Airy, NC to take on a new venture for Barnhardt—the acquisition of the foam division of Essex Wire, which was renamed North Carolina Foam Industries.
Barnhardt became part of a management team with another member of the Flexible Polyurethane Foam Hall of Fame, Dr. Harris “Ace” Bradley. Their collaborations would lead their company and the polyurethane foam industry forward in many areas. Initially, NCFI manufactured flexible polyurethane foam, perfecting the “one shot” manufacturing process that is the industry standard today. The company quickly grew its presence in the furniture and bedding industries.
But that was just a start. The company began developing urethane systems, not just for flexible foam but also for rigid applications. One early product, named “367” because it was rolled out in March 1967, was used as an insulated roof for chicken coops on North Carolina farms to keep temperatures down.
These early technologies would evolve into systems for such applications as the New Orleans Superdome roof, and insulation for the exterior tanks in the space shuttle.
Today, NCFI Polyurethanes works internationally, and much of that is due to the business skill and vision of Jake Barnhardt.
Barnhardt was also part of the creation of the Polyurethane Foam Association, attending the meeting in Chicago that led to the formation of the association. And he was a strong supporter of PFA throughout his career, providing funds, people, and resources to further PFA research and missions.
Barnhardt passed in 2018.