The foam lamination process
Laminated foam is used in a variety of industries, for a variety of purposes. From packaging and construction to medical cushioning and transportation, this truly versatile material boasts numerous advantages that make foam lamination a popular process.
Put simply, laminated foam consists of a foam material, bonded to either additional foam or other materials. There are numerous ways of producing laminated foam, each of which is uniquely beneficial in certain ways.
With almost four decades of experience in the foam lamination industry, we’ve put together this brief guide to the foam lamination process, in the hope that it might help you determine which types of laminated board would work best for you based on the different types of lamination processes available.
PE vs PU foam
Before we begin to break down the foam lamination process into different techniques, we must first touch on the two most common types of laminated foam, namely PE (polyethylene) and PU (polyurethane) foam. Both materials prove incredibly useful when it comes to enhancing performance, but PU foam tends to be thicker and softer, providing greater cushioning properties. Conversely, PE foam triumphs if you’re looking for a firm foam composite material for use in flooring or shock absorbing mats, to name just one of many examples.
Different types of foam lamination
Now that you understand what laminated foam is and what it can be used for, we can begin to break down the different types of foam lamination processes commonly used in the lamination industry. As mentioned above, foam can either be bonded to additional foam or to other materials, such as glue, cloth, film and foil, as part of any of the processes outlined below.
As the name suggests, adhesive lamination is carried out using a strong adhesive substance that’s distributed across the material to be bonded, often using rollers. Some adhesive lamination processes also require heat – but not all do. These processes tend to be quicker than thermal lamination and produces strong, resilient materials with enhanced structural performance.
PSA lamination is a specific type of adhesive lamination process. It essentially consists of applying pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) to the foam substrate, along with a liner, in order to form the resulting composite foam material.
PSA lamination typically produces laminated foam with a high bond strength, making it an ideal process for those of you looking for an incredibly durable product. The only downside is that the adhesive used can add weight and could give off harmful chemical gasses, depending on where the resulting material will be used, so if you’re looking for a lightweight material or are looking to create healthcare products likely to be exposed to heat, other types of lamination process may be better.
Heat is used in many types of lamination process, in order to create a bond between the different material layers or substrates. There are many different types of heat lamination processes, the most common of which are outlined below.
Following on from the adhesive lamination process discussed above, hot-melt lamination is the process of heating up an adhesive substance like hot glue before spreading it across the materials to be bonded together using hot rollers. The adhesive can either be applied as a continuous layer or in a specific dotted pattern.
At Archbond, we use PUR hot-melt adhesives to produce both glossy and matte laminated foam materials, whether you’re looking to create large-surface products like mattresses or need strong foam materials for use in HVAC systems.
The major advantage of hot-melt lamination is that the end material can be created quickly, as it solidifies as soon as the industrial adhesive has cooled.
Flame lamination is another type of thermal lamination process. Unlike hot-melt lamination, which requires the use of a separate adhesive, flame lamination can be carried out using just the substrates to be bonded. One layer of substrate is basically exposed to an open flame, in order to create a thin layer of molten polymer across the surface. Another layer of substrate is then placed on top of it, before running the whole thing to compress it together. As soon as both materials have cooled, they will be successfully bonded.
The strength of the resulting laminated foam will ultimately depend on how close your substrate materials were to the open flame and how quickly they passed through. The process tends to work best when bonding flexible layers of foam to non-woven fabrics but it’s also ideal for bonding foam to paper-based products and films.
The main advantage of flame lamination is that it doesn’t require any adhesive. Not only does this reduce costs but it also makes the process more sustainable, in addition to producing an end material that’s easy to recycle. Often performed using PU foam, this quick and efficient process produces a flexible material in less time than it would take with comparable lamination processes.
The infrared lamination process is similar to flame lamination, in that it doesn’t require any adhesive. It’s therefore another cost-effective, sustainable solution for creating your ideal composite materials.
The difference is that rather than using an open flame, the different layers of substrate materials will be exposed to infrared radiation before being compressed together. This is an incredibly safe process that doesn’t present any risks, either before, during or after completion.
The infrared lamination process is ideal for creating a stable bond between different substrates of materials. It creates incredibly durable laminated-foam-based products, which are highly protective, making them ideal for use in a variety of industrial uses, including the automotive sector.
Water-based foam lamination
Some companies also conduct water-based lamination processes. However, this relatively new method tends to be less common than other lamination techniques. It’s incredibly eco-friendly and can be used to bond a variety of materials together.
Which foam lamination process is best?
As you can see, there are several different reliable methods for manufacturing high-quality laminated foam. The method you pick will ultimately depend on the strength and firmness of the material you want to create.
Adhesive lamination can be used to create strong, resilient materials with a firm structure. However, the process can take a little longer than other methods, so it may not be the best choice if time is of the essence. The resulting materials also tend to be a bit more weighty, so opt for something like flame lamination if you’re looking for softer, lighter foams.
The flame lamination process is also more environmentally friendly than adhesive lamination, as is infrared lamination, which comes out on top if you’re looking for a fast, sustainable process that will give you composite foam with high levels of industrial protection.
At Arkinstall, we’re strong believers in tailoring our methods to create products that work for you. If you would like further advice on the ideal foam lamination process for your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our expert team would be more than happy to advise.