The evolution of foam for packaging
- New methods within foam-packaging development playing a key role in efforts to reduce packaging waste
- Emerging economies are behind rising demand for packaging materials
- Technological advancements set to boost the engineered foam market in coming years
Packaging foams are cross-linked structures designed to protect products of any weight during transit. Flexible polyurethane is used for its cushioning properties; strong, non-abrasive, closed-cell foam packaging and foam rolls are ideal for cushioning and protecting fragile goods, providing high energy absorption, light weight, flexibility, strength, support, and resilience, as well as good resistance to chemicals and water.
Companies such as Zotefoams have long been innovating in this area, producing returnable transit packaging that plays a key role in worldwide efforts to reduce packaging waste. For example, the company’s AZOTE foams can be used multiple times, both as case inserts and dunnage. Zotefoams reports that the high-energy-absorbing nature of its foams means that less thickness is needed, and smaller packaging means less space is required during storage and transit.
Recent years have witnessed an increase in the use of foam materials in the packaging industry. Emerging economies such as China, India, and Russia are experiencing significant growth in polyurethane, (EPS) polystrene and polyethylene foams for packaging applications, largely due to increased demand for packaging materials in the e-commerce industry. PU-cored foams are desirable due to their lightweight construction, impressive thermal insulation, and speedy, economic construction.
Broadly, the engineered foam market is set to receive a boost from technological advancements through to 2024. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to dominate the market for engineered foam during this period as a result of major growth of the automotive industries in emerging economies including China and India. But that’s not to say that the engineered foam markets of Europe and North America are set to slow – in fact, they’re also forecast to expand, driven by the presence of numerous vehicle manufacturers.
Major players operating in the engineered foam market include BASF SE, the Dow Chemical Company, Sealed Air Corporation and Armacell. Many of the industry’s leading names will be in attendance at this year’s Foam Expo Conference, where key speakers will address innovations, concerns, and opportunities in the foam packaging market. The conference will present the latest foam research for commercialization and offer in-depth material evaluation relevant to foam packaging companies.
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