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29/05/2015

Innovation in packaging and construction: trends in polymeric foams

We can find foams in several sectors. The main application market of these materials is the construction sector. Thanks to its low thermal conductivity, the water-tightness, the vibration isolation and the reflection of the sound we can find it in parquet floor waterproofing sheet, insulation boards for walls, insulations for air ducts, floating floors, joints…

Foams are also widely present in the packaging industry. The reasons are: their low weight, surface protection, thermal insulation, etc. We find them in trays, sheets and protective bands and protecting packaging and household items.

In sports and leisure we find them in body pads, camping mats, safety belts, floats, pads, helmets, soles… It has also a significant presence in the automotive sector (joints, dashboards, door panels) and in medicine (bandages, patches, insoles and orthopaedic products).

Products foamed by extrusion are mainly expanded polystyrene boards, polystyrene sheets, polyethylene sheets and polypropylene sheets.

The three main trends that we can find in R&D in plastic foams are: biodegradable plastics foaming, weight reduction in rigid products and foams with improved properties.

Biodegradable plastics foaming

It is currently sought to find new uses of biodegradable materials in foaming applications (mainly packaging) and the drastic reduction of the biodegradable polymers’ density that increases its competitiveness against conventional plastics. Some examples of application are: foamed thermoplastic starch for children’s crafts and foamed PLA trays, glasses and protective packaging.

Weight reduction in rigid products

Through coextrusion, for rigid products with a determined weight and wall thickness (big bottles, cans, pipes, etc.).

Foams with improved properties

For instance, low thermal conductivity foams through the combination of microcellular structure with the addition of inorganic and carbon nanoparticles.