The Best Types of Foam for Industrial Applications

Foam is an extraordinarily diverse and versatile material with hundreds of classifications, each with their own set of properties and uses across a large number of industrial applications. Choosing the proper foam for these applications can be the difference between a successful implementation and a failure. The “right” foam choice depends not only on what your business is trying to accomplish with your foam, but where it will be implemented.

Is insulation important? Does it need to prevent liquids or gasses from passing through it?  Does it need to filter liquids or gasses?  Will the foam be used for its sound dampening properties? What you are trying to accomplish with your products and their applications will lead to very different foam choices. 

These are some of the most common industrial applications and the foams that are generally used for them. 


Foams used in gaskets are generally closed cell, which makes them far denser and unlikely to allow liquids and gasses to pass through them. This is especially true for standard neoprene gaskets. However, there are many open cell foams that are used to create gaskets, generally for medical applications. The foams used in these gaskets should meet MVSS302 and UL94 standards, among others. Open cell foams that are used for gaskets can be compressed to block some gasses from escaping, but they are generally not suitable for stopping water. 

Foams like neoprene, EPDM, crosslinked polyethylene, and many low compression urethanes are most commonly used for gaskets. 


Many types of foam are reliable filters because of their open cell design which contain many air pockets between cells, this allows gas and liquids to pass through them will relative ease. They can, however, stop solid particles without impeding the flow of the liquid of gas. Filter foams should meet high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) performance standards, which ensure that they can perform under the required conditions without failure. In general, the best types of filter foams will be reticulated, which means they have had their cell membranes and impurities removed. This increases the strength of the foam. 

Foams like urethane and polyester, among other types of reticulated foam, are most commonly used in filtration. 

Sound Control

Sound abatement is vital for many industrial environments because of OSHA requirements that dictate appropriate noise levels for safe working conditions. When choosing a foam for industrial sound abatement, it’s essential to differentiate between sound absorption and sound blocking.

Open cell foams are ideal for absorbing sound waves that can echo and bounce around rooms, but they are generally not ideal for blocking out sounds because of how easily sound waves pass through the air pockets in the foam’s cell structure. For sound blocking, denser closed cell foams perform much better, but they are not generally ideal acoustic control that requires sound absorption. 

Different foams will work better depending on the type of sound waves you are trying to control for (high or low range frequencies). 

The Different Types of Cushioning Applications for Foam

The right cushioning application for your solution is an important part of the manufacturing process. It is important for manufacturers to understand both what is needed to create a better product for their industry and what is available to meet that need. Foam cushioning is used across a wide range of industries, and different types of foam are better suited for different applications. 

Healthcare Cushioning Applications

Foams for healthcare cushioning applications are usually open cell polyurethane. This material is used because of its: 

  • Density 
  • Compression deflection 
  • Tensile strength 
  • Elongation 
  • Tear strength 

Although open cell foams are most commonly used, there are healthcare applications that require a closed cell polyethylene to be layered on top of the open cell polyurethane. This allows manufacturers to achieve the right level of cushioning and support. The most important factors when considering foam for healthcare applications include comfort and support while also considering the antimicrobial nature of the foam itself. 

Marine Foam Cushioning Applications

For marine seating and cushioning applications, foams need to be antimicrobial, resistant to hydrolysis, and be easily fabricated into many shapes and sizes. Because these foam properties are essential, it’s recommended to use an ether-based polyurethane or beaded foams for support and comfort. 

When it comes to marine foam applications, reducing the chances of mold and mildew growth that often come with exposure to moisture is important, as is meeting UL 94 safety standards for flame retardation. Both polyethylene and polyurethane foams can be suitable choices depending on the specific application. 

Residential and Commercial Foam Cushioning Applications

There are two crucial aspects to residential and commercial foam applications: durability and comfort. Commercial applications tend to lead towards durability because the seating is used far more often than residential applications. When it comes to residential seating for couches, beds, etc., comfort is the more important aspect of the two. 

Closed cell foams are made from cross-linked polyethylene, giving them a greater structural rigidity that makes them more durable and resistant to tears. This makes them more commonly used in commercial environments. Open cell foams like ether and ester polyurethane foam are favored for residential cushioning because they are lighter, softer, and made of more viscoelastic materials, meaning they can return to their original shape after a force is applied to them. Either foam options can be used in both commercial and residential environments, so it’s up to the manufacturer to choose what is most important in the products they are producing. 

Ideal Foams for Shipping Medical Devices

Shipping healthcare products must be an exact science. Whether you are sending life-saving pharmaceuticals that need to be kept at precise temperature ranges, fragile or static-sensitive medical devices, or bulky equipment, choosing the right foam packaging materials is critical. The right foam packaging can help reduce shipping costs and reduce breakage.  

Selecting the proper medical–grade packaging material requires significant knowledge of each foam’s properties, including: 

  • Density 
  • Porosity 
  • Durability 
  • Compressive characteristics 
  • Microbial resistance 
  • Anti-static properties 

Each application has it’s own requirements but there are some general foams that are ideal for specific categories of healthcare products. 

Packaging Foams for Temperature-Sensitive Products

Cold chain shipping requires adherence to specific temperature ranges in order to prevent medical products, typically things like pharmaceuticals, from spoiling. While refrigerated vans and trailers can maintain the required temperature ranges the products spend a good amount of time outside of those protective areas and the foam within their packaging provides the most protection from temperature fluctuations. 

Foams with heavy insulating properties are ideal for temperature-sensitive medical products. A common choice is expanded polystyrene foam because:

  1. It’s one of the best insulating foams on the market.  
  2. Its lightweight, which reduces shipping costs 
  3. It’s structurally rigid, which provides adequate protection 

Other options can include beaded polyethylene foam and cross-linked polyethylene foam. 

Packaging Foam for Sensitive Medical Devices

When shipping small, fragile medical devices, there are other concerns to consider: 

  • Fragility: how delicate the item is 
  • Abrasion: is the item prone to scratches 
  • Vibration: will excessive vibration damage the item 
  • Static sensitivity: will electro-static discharges harm the item 

Polyurethane foams are common choices for smaller, more fragile devices because they offer good cushioning and low abrasion, ensuring that the foam does not scratch the materials they are protecting. These open-cell foams also have high shock absorption and flame resistance (meets UL 94 safety standards) and can be easily fabricated into any shape to provide all-around cushioning for devices. There are two types of polyurethane foam ideal for this application: 

  • Ester-based polyurethane: a more rigid foam that has high durability and tensile strength, but can breakdown if it comes into contact with liquids.
  • Ether-based polyurethane: a more flexible foam that allows for airflow and moisture permeability. It is also softer and easier to manufacture for specific parts. 

For any medical devices that are sensitive to static, make sure to choose an ESD foam that shields against static discharges. 

Foam for Larger, Bulky Devices

When shipping large medical equipment and machinery, it is important to use foam packaging that can withstand heavy loads without too much compression. Shock absorption is critical, as it prevents damage to the devices as well as limits vibrations that can rattle delicate internal components. Ideal foams for heavier applications are closed cell because of their tensile strength and resistance to compression. These types of foam can include various polyethylene foams.  

Flotation and Buoyancy Foams

Foam is commonly used in many marine applications from engine insulation and sound dampening to deck seating but foam can also be used for flotation applications that have many specific properties that make them the ideal material for the job. When searching for the ideal flotation foam for manufacturing products, it’s best to ensure that it is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard regulation Number 33 CFR 183.114. 

Look for the Ideal Floatation Foam Properties

Flotation foam is mostly known for its high buoyancy butnot all buoyant foams are created equal. There are many other foam properties to consider.

Water Resistant: foams used in marine flotation applications should have a heavy resistance to hydrolysis, which means the material will not easily degrade or break down when submerged in water. 

Durabilityhigher quality foams will make for longer-lasting products. 

Mold and Mildew Resistance: when water is involved, it’s wise to invest in foams that are resistant to bacteria and mold growth. These foams tend to be dense and non-absorbent. 

Is There an Ideal Type of Foam for Marine Flotation Applications?

Many different materials can be effectively used for flotation applications.   Most of these will be closed cell materials.  The beaded EPE and EPP materials meet the US Coast Guard regulation mentioned above. 

Closed-cell foam has a higher compressive strength and dimensional stability than open-cell foam, which means it acts as a better insulator while also being more resistant to water and air leakages. Because of this, it is far more suited for marine applications, particularly flotation. 

Flotation foams can be fabricated through die-cutting, vertical and horizontal contour cutting, hot wire cutting, plank lamination, or water jet cutting.  This allows you to achieve any size and shape. The foam also comes in a variety of color options. 


Foam Options for Seating Applications

There are many types of foams with each having it own unique properties that make them ideal for one or more applications. Manufacturers must choose the right foam for their products. This selection affects the cost, ease and speed of manufacturing, and overall quality of products. 

When it comes to manufacturing seat cushions and other types of commercial and residential seating including mattresses, furniture, restaurant benches, or seating there are several considerations that must be made by manufacturers to maximize the efficacy of their products. 

Durability and Resiliency

Seating foam’s most valuable properties are its resiliency and durability. Cushions must be able to suffer years of use. The foam you choose must be able to withstand this pressure without losing its shape, ripping, or otherwise transforming over time. At the same time, manufacturers also need to consider the firmness and density of the foam, which can greatly impact the level of comfort for the user over time. It’s a delicate balance to make, and when manufacturers get it right, they are rewarded with longer-lasting, better quality products. 


Whether the seating is being used in a commercial or residential setting, the foam must be highly resilient to bacteria, mold, and other undesirable impacts. This increases the quality and longevity of the products they are used in. Many types of polyurethane and polyethylene foams are antimicrobial and help meet this criteria.

Flame Retardant

Flame retardant foams can help hinder the spread of fires and also stop potential fires from even beginning. For commercial businesses, it may be required by state law to use certain types of flame retardant foam in seating. For residential use, this type of foam can increase a home’s protection against fires. Fire retardant chemicals can be applied to different types of foams as well to give them this unique property. 

Choosing Between Closed and Open-Cell Foam

Seat foams and cushioning can be made from polyurethane, which is an open-cell foam, or polyethylene, which is a closed-cell foam. 

Polyurethane open-cell foams (like memory foam) are lighter and softer and can easily return to their original shape. They are commonly used in mattresses, pillows and seat cushions.

Poluethylene closed-cell foams are firmer and more rigidwhich can make them more durable, tearresistant, and better at absorbing shocks. However, these benefits tend to come at the cost of less comfort. When used in seating, closed-cell foams like polyethylene tend to be reserved for outdoor furniture (due to their water resistance) and medical applications. 

Foams for Firearms Storage and Shipping

Proper firearm storage and shipping depends on two factors: the type of foam you choose, and the outer case used for storage. They are both important in terms of protection and can be customized to maximize safety and protection in storage and while in transit 

Choosing the best type of foam for gun cases depends on whether the case will be used for storage, shipping, or both. When considerign a foam it is important to consider not only short-term protection for your firearm, but its long-term safety, as well. 

Types of Foams Used in Firearm Cases

The two types of foams that are commonly used in firearm cases for shipping and storage are polyurethane and polyethylene.  

Polyurethane is a soft, open-cell foam that offers good cushioning and shock absorption. It is easy to custom shape and fabricate so that it perfectly fits a custom firearm case. Ester-based polyurethanes are typically used because of their high tensile strength and non-abrasive surfaces. 

The largest challenge in using a polyurethane foam, particularly an ester-based foam, is that it deteriorates over time. They can also be susceptible to moisture and degradation due to chemical cleaners, oils, and lubricants—all common in firearm maintenance. This makes polyurethane foam ideal for shipping, but not long-term storage of firearms. 

Polyethylene is a closed-cell foam that is more rigid, but it does not have the same weakness to moisture and liquids. This makes these types of foams more ideal for long-term storage and custom cases. They do not break down or degrade when they come in contact with liquids and offer much more stain resistance than polyurethane foam. This type of foam is also more ideal for heavier firearms.

Convoluted Foam

Convoluted polyfoam sheets, also known as egg-crate foam, is a soft, open-cell foam that is commonly used to line the lids of firearm cases. Convoluted foam can be good to use for shipping and storage when the case houses different types of firearms. While many custom cases have foam cutouts for specific firearms and parts this strategy means that the case is specific to only one firearm. Convoluted foam allows you to use the case for transporting and storing different types of firearms, as the foam is not generally custom cut to fit this piece.

The Ideal Foam Packaging for Shipping Electronic Devices

Electronic devices require safe and secure shipping solutions. Depending on the fragility of the item, they can be susceptible to static, vibration, extreme temperatures, and other environmental factors that are common in air, rail, road, and marine transport. To appropriately protect these devices while in transit, foam igenerally the packaging material of choice. This is because many types of foam possess the properties necessary to shield electronic devices, parts, and equipment while in transit. 

What Makes a Foam Ideal for Shipping Electronic Devices?

The best types of foam for shipping electronic devices have three major qualities.  

#1: Anti-Static or Conductive Foam

The foam used should be anti-static (known as ESD foam). Anti-static foam acts as a static shield for static sensitive items. ESD foam helps dissipate electrostatic charges that are easily generated by friction (which is a common occurance as items gently shift while in transit). These static charges can damage sensitive electronic devices and components. ESD foams are chemically treated with anti-static agents that give them a high surface resistance (usuall104 – 109) that reduce electrostatic charges. These types of foams are usually colored pink, but they can be dyed in a variety of colors for presentation purposes (usually for foam electronic device case inserts)

A second option is conductive foam, a polyethylene foam that is filled with carbon, giving it conductive properties. Any item surrounded by conductive foam is protected by the foam that is acting as a Faraday cage, meaning it blocks any electromagnetic fields from coming into contact with the item. 

#2: Non-Abrasive Foam

Many electronic devices have sensitive parts that can be affected by abrasion during shipping. Other high-value electronic devices have delicate layers of paint on the outside of them can easily be scratched off due to small movements and vibrations that occur while in transit. To prevent damage to these sensitive devices, it’s necessary to use a non-abrasive foam. Non-abrasive foam will not scratch delicate surfaces should they brush against them. 

#3: Packaging Material Standards

A good starting point when looking for anti-static foam for electronic devices is to ensure that it meets your necessary packaging standards. The best standard to look for is the EIA-541 Packaging Material Standards for ESD Sensitive Items, which applies to categories of electrostatic protective packaging materials that possess certain electrostatic properties, including: 

  • Preventing triboelectric charging (antistatic) 
  • Dissipating charge either by surface or volume conduction 
  • Acting as a shield against electrostatic fields 

Consider the Size and Weight of the Item

When considering the shipping application it is important to choose  open-cell or closed-cell foam.

Polyurethane, an open-cell foam, is lighter and softer, which makes it more ideal for smaller, more sensitive products like circuit boards, CPUs, microprocessors, etc. This type of foam is available in sheets or as layered convoluted foam, also known as egg crate foam. 

Cross-linked polyethylene, a closed-cell foam, is much more structurally rigid. This type of foam makes it more durable and tearresistant. It also does not compress as easily as polyurethane, which makes it more ideal for larger, more bulky electronic items like computers, sound equipment, etc. 


What foam works in furniture design?

Comfortable and Beautiful Furniture Design

Furniture design falls into two basic categories: visual and functional. Foam can affect both.

Since the visual aesthetic of furniture design is virtually unlimited, and foams can be fabricated or molded to meet any of a variety of requirements, it is important to include functional considerations when developing the furniture.

Functional design should take into account a number of factors, all of which may work with each other, assisting in providing the correct degree of seating comfort. Fabric type, spring type/design/construction, seat/back geometry, basic frame design, physical events during actual sitting/leaning, seating foam type, construction of the back, and firmness ratio between seat and back are major design factors to be considered in seating and comfort design.

Specifying Foam for Upholstery Applications

A number of foam properties will affect design considerations and is important in developing upholstery that provides proper comfort.

DENSITY: Affects the foam’s ability to provide support, comfort and durability. Generally speaking, as foam density increases, durability also increases. Some of the factors related to durability are loss of firmness (flex fatigue), breakdown in the sitting area of the cushion (dishing), and fabric bagging caused by loss of foam dimensions (compression set). Choosing the proper foam density will reduce the impact of these over time.

IFD: A measure of foam firmness that is independent of density. Even high density foams can be soft. For upholstery, 25 percent IFD can range from five pounds to 50 pounds. Softer foams may be laminated to firmer foams to provide surface softness. Firmness can affect the “ride” of a cushion. The ride is the distance that a weight will travel while still being comfortable. Firm foams are often used to create certain “feels” as in thin- profile applications such as in arms or backs. Firm foams are often used to create or hold certain shapes.

COMPRESSION MODULUS (SUPPORT FACTOR): Compression modulus is generally a function of the type of foam. Conventional foams have compression modulus in the range of 1.9 to 2.1; filled foams 2.1 to 2.4; and high resilience grades 2.2 to 3.0. Within a foam grade, the modulus is a function of the foam density. The higher the density the greater the compression modulus. Laminating hard and soft foams together can also increase compression modulus for the composite cushion structure. However, the firmness of the laminated foams cannot be too far apart or the cushion may seem to “bottom out” on the firmer portion.

Compression modulus affects cradling. For greatest comfort, the compression modulus should be selected to maximize cradling. When cushions are thick, lower compression modulus foams may be used to improve cradling and to achieve more even distribution of body weight. If cushions are thin, not too much TVM can be expected. Interfacial pressures of these designs will definitely decrease the comfort of thin cushion seating systems. Higher compression modulus foams may be used in thin cushion applications to prevent system “bottoming” and/or “hammocking” of the seating area.

FLEX FATIGUE: This important measurement of durability is an indicator of a cushion’s long term ability to provide the proper cradling and TVM. Foams that have good flex fatigue values will tend to retain their original firmness and support levels, which means that the cushion can retain more of its original characteristics.

RESILIENCE: The surface resilience of a foam also affects comfort and design. Foams with high resilience
feel springy and provide a good “hand” for cushioning. Conversely, low resilience, or a “dead” feel, typical of many viscoelastic (memory) foams, may be desirable in some pillow and padding applications.

Like design aesthetics, functional designs can vary tremendously, and designers can create comfortable seating by varying design considerations. Ultimately, the intended use for the furniture must dictate much of the design.

Neoprene foam used in gaskets

A common choice for industrial gaskets is neoprene foam. Neoprene foamwhich has the chemical name polychloroprene, offers many advantages when used in foam gasket applications. 

What is Neoprene Foam?

Neoprene is commonly used in foam gaskets and mechanical seals that fill the space between two or more surfaces and prevent leaks in gas or many types of liquids. 

Neoprene foam is a material that is similar to rubber in that it is considered to be an elastomer (a natural or synthetic polymer that has elastic properties). It is a flexible, durable, and soft sponge rubber that is commonly used in many products across the medical, aerospace, and industrial industries. The material is available in both closed-cell and open-cell variants with each having its strengths. Closed-cell neoprene foam is waterproof, which makes it ideal for gaskets, while open-cell neoprene foam allows some air and liquids to passwhen it is not fully compressed. This can makes the material  ideal for industrial filtration foam. 

Why is Neoprene Foam a Good Material for Gaskets?

Neoprene foam is an ideal choice for industrial gaskets. It’s properties include:

  • Is lightweight 
  • Will not degrade due to exposure to sunlight, ozone, and other weather conditions 
  • Has vibration dampening capabilities
  • Has a high chemical resistance 
  • Will not break down when it comes in contact with water or oils 
  • Is a good insulator 
  • Is naturally formfitting, increasing its ability to properly form an airtight seal 
  • Is physically tough, durable, and tearresistant 
  • Is resistant to heat and flames 
  • Has good compression set resistance, stress relaxation, and compression recovery 
  • Can be used with a variety of adhesives 
  • Meets many industrial quality and safety standards 

Easy Fabrication

Neoprene is also very easy to fabricate, allowing it to be custom cut and shaped based on the needs of the application. Depending on the size of the application, it can also be made into a variety of thicknesses. The material generally comes in a roll or a sheet but can be fabricated with die and kiss-cutting machines. 

Options for Custom Foam Fabrication and Shaping

Often applications require pieces of foam that are cut, shaped, and/or molded into a specific size or shape. These applications require custom foam fabrication as the most efficient solution. Designing and manufacturing the right piece of foam yields a better quality product and much better performance in an application. Manufacturers look to custom foam fabricators like Rogers for their fabrication expertise and the state-of-the-art technology they use to create custom foam solutions.

It is important to understand the terms used in foam fabrication.  Please use this short “glossary” to help you decipher the meaning and uses behind these common foam fabrication terms.

Precision Water Jet Cutting

Water jet cutting uses a high-precision, pressurized water stream to cut and carve foam into specific shapes. This non-abrasive means of cutting is a cost effective solution for material stacking.

High Speed Die Cutting

High speed die cutting is used to accurately cut and mass produce pieces of foam in various shapes. Die cutting can also be used to cut shaped holes into sheets of foam.

Vertical and Horizontal Contour Cutting

Contour cutting is a method to quickly and automatically cut patterns and complex shapes of foam. This is an ideal technique for intricate cuts and detailed shaping in foam.

Abrasive Wire Cutting

Abrasive wire cutting is used for cutting contours in various closed cell foam types. Planks or slabs of foam can be accurately cut into a variety of different configurations for a range of specific applications.


Convoluting is a method of altering the surface of a piece of foam. Easily recognized egg crate foam that is used in packaging, storage, and cushioning applications is a good example of this technique.

CNC Routing

Computer numerically controlled (CNC) routing uses guided drill bits and machine tools to cut and carve foam into different shapes. This technologically advanced technique allows for foam to be cut into complex shapes at multiple depths.

Vacuum and Roll Skiving

Skiving allows for very dense closed cell foams to be cut with precision and ease without wearing down the materials. Often, foam sheets can be fed into machines and cut to various thicknesses using this technique.

Foam Lamination

Laminating foams attaches two foams together for the creation of composite materials that are made from two or more types of foam. This gives pieces of foam unique characteristics like increased heat and corrosion resistance or ESD properties. Foam can also be laminated into buildups (case inserts, end caps, and the like) utilizing different lamination methods  such as hot glue, spray glue, hot air, chemical bond and robotic gluing.