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Merryweather Foam Blog

Since 1948, we have been industry leaders in fabricating unique, foam components for customers in the medical, sound absorption, automotive, and unique packaging industries. At Merryweather Foam, we pride ourselves on our ability to combine experience, innovation, and excellent customer service. We have the knowledge, manpower & equipment to help you get the job done. Visit our website to see our fabrication portfolio as well as our capabilities.

Lower your shipping costs with custom-cut XLPE foam for dunnage

Cross-linked Polyethylene Case Insert

Almost every manufactured product gets shipped, and shipping costs money. Minimizing shipping costs is a priority for most businesses. That means using all the space in the truck for product, loading it to it's maximum weight, and ensuring nothing gets damaged in transit. XLPE foam dunnage is proven to help with all three.

Rough roads mean parts are in constant motion. Even when product is generously spaced, shocks and vibration can compress separating materials, letting surfaces touch and leaving marks. Adding more separation might prevent touching, but reduces volume utilization in the truck, pushing up shipping costs. Even if contact is avoided, vibration means movement against the dunnage material. That's a problem with many types of parts, but especially when appearance is critical, as with Class A automotive components.

Polyethylene foam is widely used in dunnage. It compresses and recovers readily, so does a good job of absorbing shocks and vibration. Unfortunately though, it's open-cell structure tends to rub, creating marks on paint and in metal and plastic.

For holding fragile parts and those where surface appearance is critical, cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) foam performs much better. A closed-cell structure means no edges to abrade part surfaces, so coatings and finishes remain pristine, yet it's still resilient enough to protect against shock and vibration.

Another benefit of XLPE is the ease with which it's cut and shaped, as Merryweather demonstrated when producing inserts for specialized dunnage racking. That helps reduce spacing between parts while still ensuring they won't touch or rub. Tighter intra-part spacing translates to improved weight or load utilization and the low density of XPLE foam also means the excess weight being shipped is minimized.

XLPE foam is available in a range of colors, which can be beneficial for easy product identification, and as a closed-cell foam, is waterproof if left uncovered while outdoors. Unlike wood, it doesn't splinter, and has no sharp edges, so there's little risk of people being injured while loading or unloading parts.

Minimizing shipping costs involves maximizing volume and weight utilization in the truck, but that's not enough if product gets damaged in transit. By choosing the right material for dunnage it's possible to pack individual pieces tightly yet still be confident in them arriving undamaged after even a long cross country journey. Precision cut XLPE foam is the material to use.

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Seven Surprising uses for Reticulated Foam

Ever unloaded the dishwasher and found the spoons or knives didn't come clean because they were stuck together? Well imagine that happening with surgical instruments. Placing instruments in bags made from open-cell foam is one way healthcare professionals avoid this. Steam reaches the surfaces but foam keeps them from touching.

Open-cell is another term for reticulated foam. One way of visualizing reticulated foam is to picture a mass of bubbles, then think how they'd look if the wall between each bubble was removed. Effectively, you'd have a three dimensional mesh where every cell is open to its neighbor. Cell size and density are controllable during manufacture. Density is specified in terms of pores per linear inch (ppi) and is controllable from 4 to 100 ppi. (A larger number means smaller pores.)

This results in some interesting and useful properties. Reticulated foam is compressible, yet springs back when the load is released. It's lint-free, porous, and at under two pounds per cubic foot, lightweight. As a result, it's used in a very wide range of applications. Here are some that may surprise you.

  1. Blood filtration and oxygenation. Heart-lung machines put oxygen back into blood, but tend to create bubbles. Passing the blood through a felted reticulated foam breaks these up, making it safe to return to the body.
  2. Air filtering. From automobile cabin air filters to nebulizers, there's a long list of air filtration applications. Even small lawnmower engines use reticulated foam to prevent dust and grit from being sucked in.
  3. Filtering molten metal. In casting, as metal is poured into a die it's important to remove impurities. Reticulated foam wouldn't withstand the heat; instead it's dipped into a ceramic slurry which dries to leave a more durable, heat-resistant mesh.
  4. Stabilizing fluid in tanks. Gasoline in an empty tank will slosh about, but fill that tank with reticulated foam and the gasoline moves slower. The foam can also help dissipate static, reducing the risk of fire if the tank ruptures. (Ink jet printer cartridges are a similar reservoir-type application.)
  5. EKG pads. Electrical conductivity between skin and electrode pads is improved with a specially formulated gel, but applying this adds a rather messy step. Reticulated foam EKG pads are pre-impregnated with the gel, saving time on prep and clean-up.
  6. Sound absorption. Reticulated foam makes an excellent windshield for microphones. Sound still penetrates but wind buffeting is absorbed, eliminating most background noise.
  7. Surgical instrument sterilization. Discussed before, reticulated foam: allows steam to penetrate, stops instruments touching, and avoids lint carryover.

Is your application next?

Reticulated foam is surprisingly versatile. With an open cellular structure it can filter or stabilize fluids, so finds application in areas ranging from motorsport to healthcare. If you're interested in learning how this lightweight material could benefit you, contact Merryweather today.

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