Skiving is a manufacturing technique you don't see very often. Google it and you'll learn about thinning leather or shaping metal gears. What you won't see much of is how it's used for precision foam sheeting.
Skiving foam entails using a sharp knife to cut thin layers from a large block. That's the skiving process. It's different than sawing because that removes material whereas skiving splits it into two parts. It's an excellent way of cutting sheets of foam, which is why we use it here at Merryweather. To learn more about our precision foam skiving capabilities, keep reading.
Skiving entails pushing a solid block of polyurethane foam through the blade of a knife. The blade is actually a steel belt around 1mm (0.040") thick with a very sharp edge, and is positioned horizontally above the machine table. To help the blade cut it's looped over two drums that pull it perpendicular to the direction the block is moving. These two motions help the blade slice through the material, shaving off the thickness required.
The skiving machine, sometimes called a continuous bandknife or a foam splitter, looks rather like a bandsaw laid down on it's side. Keeping the blade under tension ensures it doesn't sag, so we can cut a block of foam into thin sheets quickly and efficiently.
As skiving splits the foam rather than cutting pieces out it, there's no material removal. That gives it five big advantages over traditional sawing-type processes:
- No waste - Sawing, and for that matter, processes like water jet cutting, have a 'kerf' or thickness of material that's lost. Skiving has no kerf so there's no waste. That helps keep costs down.
- Dust free - Sawing is messy because the teeth carve away little chips of material. They stick to everything and can never be completely brushed off.
- Smooth edges - Sawed edges are rough, which looks untidy and creates problems when sheets are put to use. Skiving polyurethane foam blocks avoids this problem, which means no secondary clean-up operations.
- Close tolerances - A precision foam splitting machine, as we use at here Merryweather, keeps the blade tight and parallel to the machine bed. That ensures tight tolerances are maintained, which means customers receive sheets of consistent thickness.
- Continuous resharpening - In material removal processes the cutting edge dulls with use, so the last piece cut has a different finish to the first piece. Skiving machines continuously resharpen the blade, so every sheet looks the same.
Merryweather for polyurethane & polyethylene foam skiving
The best way of producing thin foam sheets is by skiving. It's an efficient process that produces smooth, clean sheets of uniform thickness. If you need closed tolerance foam sheets, discuss it with us and we'll explain what skiving has to offer.