Reticulated polyurethane foam is a versatile, open-cell material that is light weight, low odor and high resistance to mildew. It's typically used to make products that are involved in filtration, sound absorption, fluid management, wiping and padding. This family of materials features high tensile, elongation and tear characteristics.
UFP Technologies has designed and fabricated a host of solutions using reticulated foams. This includes liquid delivery components for medical devices, sound absorption components in automobiles, cosmetic applicators, air conditioner filters, and sponges. Reticulated polyurethanes high resistance to chemicals makes it an ideal material for filtration applications such as in lawn mower engines or wipes used in clean rooms.
The porosity of reticulated foams is vital when designing a custom component or product. UFP Technologies' technical expertise will help guide you to selecting the proper material for your component.
Foam technology involves the manipulation of thousands of plastic bubbles (called cells) of precisely controlled sizes. Reticulation is a post process in foam manufacturing that removes the window membranes of the cell. The cells that make up the foam can have a number of variations, which can also be precisely controlled. Different foams have varying cell structures and characteristics, but foams from the same material family can also be made with vastly different density and firmness specifications that will greatly affect their performance.
There are two methods of reticulation: Thermal, called "zapping" and chemical, called "quenching." To learn about the differences between these two methods check out our blog post here.
Reticulated foam is available in two primary types, polyether and polyester and a range of densities and colors. A fine porosity, 100 PPI (pores per inch) reticulated foam is used in a wide variety of applications such as:
- Sound absorber in anechoic chambers
- Face masks
- Wiping pads and applicators
Reticulated foam can act as a filter. Filter foam is a reticulated polyurethane foam, specially adapted to air and liquid filtration, in a range of controlled cells from 10 pores per inch to 100 ppi. Filter foam, with a medium porosity 45 PPI works as a depth loading filter, opposed to a surface loading filter, trapping dust particles within its cell structure. Because the reticulation process leaves behind the skeletal structure of the foam it is 97% void volume giving it a high degree of surface area for impingement of dust particles. With its homogeneous and uniform cell structure, a reticulated foam filter can be engineered for pressure drop and filtering efficiency by changing its pore size. A coarse porosity, 10 PPI, reticulated foam is effective as a sound attenuator, scrubber pad, washable filtration media for air conditioners, furnaces, small engines and automobile air cleaners, plus many other applications.
When reticulated foam is compressed, the material takes on a new set of properties ideal for other applications requiring high void volumes, uniform porosity, non-directional characteristics, exceptional breathability and uniform texture. Reticulated foam is often compressed and used for creating ink rollers, blood filters, and other products requiring wicking properties.
Reticulated polyester urethane foams have a three-dimensional skeletal strand structure that minimize the possibility of open channels and provide excellent filtration properties. Polyester foam is a flexible, open-cell type of polyurethane foam that is porous and has a uniform cell structure. It has an evenly spaced cell structure with a high proportion of closed cells or “windows” that reflect light. The large amount of windows makes polyester foam ideal for sealing as it naturally prohibits the flow of air. The uniform cell structure inherent in polyester foam also makes it ideal for the reticulation process. Polyester foam can be easily compressed, forming sheets with a fixed, desirable thickness. Additives introduced during manufacturing can transform the foam properties making it flame retardant, anti-microbial, anti-static, conductive and/or electrostatic dissipative (ESD). Felted polyester filter foam has a highly restrictive cell structure and is largely used for air and liquid filtration.
Reticulated polyether urethane foams were developed for increased hydrostatic stability. Polyether foam is a flexible, compressed, open-cell type of polyurethane foam that is smooth in texture. Polyether foam is manufactured by mixing polyether polyols with catalysts and a blowing agent, forming a free-rising, foamy froth that solidifies within minutes resulting in a slab stock bun of polyether foam ready for fabrication. Polyester foam protective and cushioning properties make it ideal material for packaging applications. It has a high viscosity rate, superior solvency qualities and resistant to abrasion and cutting. It is used widely in the medical, apparel and sports industries.