Plymouth Foam is expanding its material offerings and market opportunities with a new category of engineered particle foams for products outside its traditional automotive and packaging uses.
Commonly referred to as bead foam, the Plymouth, Wis.-based company has added expanded polypropylene (EPP) and expanded polyethylene (EPE) to the materials it molds, and in the next 18-24 months will offer expanded thermoplastic urethane (ETPU), which was introduced in 2013 by BASF SE.
Other materials will follow, CEO and President David Bolland said in a telephone interview.
“We know many other particle foams are in development and in R&D rooms right now,” he said. “As they come into play, they will be right behind these first three that are our focus right now.”
Engineered particle foams have some attractive qualities in general. They can be recycled. They resist solvents and chemicals. And, they have a good strength-to-weight ratio.
EPP, in particular, is lightweight, withstands multiple impacts without damage, and provides thermal insulation for temperature-sensitive products like food and medicine. It is used in medical devices, too, and its buoyancy appeal to the marine industry.
EPE has a soft texture ideal for packaging electronic goods with polished surfaces which also cushions fragile items against shock while the market for ETPU, which is light, springy and stretches like rubber, is largely untapped except for the soles of high-end Adidas running shoes called Energy Boost.
The goal is to take these and future engineered particle foams to new levels by exploiting current markets and exploring new ones, according to Bolland.
“We feel it's a natural part of our growth and evolution, and that Plymouth Foam is uniquely qualified to pull that off because we're such a diverse partner to so many industries in our current platform,” he said. “We have the relationship and the trust. We're being invited to discussions that allow us to bring EPP and other engineered particle foams to the table and look at new ways to apply them and solve problems.”