Reduce foam use by up to 40% and improve performance

Zotefoams highlights sustainability benefits of unique process at Foam Expo Europe 2023

Zotefoams, a pioneer and acknowledged world leader in technical foams, will use Foam Expo Europe as a platform to highlight new comparative testing that challenges traditional associations between performance and density. 

Results highlight opportunities to reduce substantially the amount of raw material entering the foam supply chain, while cutting downstream waste through better quality components.

The research, conducted as part of a broader sustainability programme at Zotefoams, pitted the most popular grades in Zotefoams’ AZOTE® polyolefin foams range against heavier competing chemically blown materials. 

Key performance metrics such as tensile strength and compression deflection – parameters typically used in specifying foams for technical applications – were recorded, with the results demonstrating conclusively that an 18kg/m3 LDPE foam from the Plastazote® polyethylene foams family delivers performance on par with that of a well-known 30kg/m3 competitor foam specified for similar applications.

Furthermore, the results obtained from LD18 were broadly consistent from the edge to the centre of the sheet, where the results for the competing foam varied by almost 50%. For foam converters, this provides reassurance that components will deliver consistent performance, wherever they are cut from the sheet.

Zotefoams’ proprietary manufacturing process, commercialised over a century ago, uses only temperature, pressure and nitrogen borrowed from the atmosphere as the foaming agent. 

Resulting materials are lighter, purer, more consistent and durable than those made by chemical processes.

Global Business Manager for Zotefoams’ AZOTE® polyolefin foams business Fabrice Lacroix says that these tests are highly significant at a time when converters and end users are seeking to maximise sustainability in their operations. “Over time, foam densities have become a kind of shorthand, with the assumption that for certain applications, only certain densities are appropriate. While this may be true for chemically blown foams, it’s not the case for Zotefoams materials.

“The hierarchy of waste – reduce, reuse, recycle – is now generally understood but widely held industry perceptions often overlook the potential to reduce waste before it even enters the supply chain. In the case of our Plastazote® polyethylene foams range, this means that we can reduce polymer usage by up to 40% from the outset. Consistency of Plastazote across the sheet is a further factor, with less risk downstream of reject products.

Elsewhere, Zotefoams is extending its Ecozote® Sustainability+ range of foams with the introduction of Ecozote PE/R, a polyethylene foam made with 30% certified post-consumer recyclate. With a fine, closed cell appearance, the company anticipates significant demand in consumer packaging applications, which is one of the first sectors to be impacted by legislation on recycled content. 

This follows last year’s launch of Ecozote LDR, also a polyethylene foam, made with 30% post-industrial waste, which is now widely used as an alternative to foams made from 100% virgin polymer in applications such as transit packaging. Both materials offer the same performance benefits as traditional AZOTE foams but with the advantage of improved sustainability where recycled content is a priority.

AZOTE and Ecozote products will be shown alongside Zotefoams’ ZOTEK® high-performance product family at Foam Expo. Produced from engineering polymers including PVDF, nylon and thermoplastic elastomers, ZOTEK products have properties that make them a material of choice for the most demanding applications in sectors such as aerospace, automotive and life sciences.

Zotefoams Group CEO David Stirling comments,

“We have spoken for many years about the Zotefoams Difference but based on this new research, we could equally call it the Sustainability Difference.

“With higher energy costs forecast to be with us for the foreseeable future and the need to conserve resources universally recognised, the value of components that are lighter but make no compromise on performance cannot be underestimated. From more efficient material usage during manufacture, through reduced transit costs and lifetime energy savings in sectors such as transportation, the case for specifying Zotefoams materials is more compelling than ever.

“We look forward to sharing this research with Foam Expo visitors to help them and end users make the most sustainable choice in foam-based applications.”

Zotefoams is exhibiting at stand 301 at Foam Expo Europe, taking place from 5-7 December.