Engineered foam is used in various applications such as insulation materials, packaging, wind energy, and cushioning of furniture. In engineered foam, solid and gas phases are combined at fast rate to give a resulting mixture that has a polymer matrix with bubbles or air channels incorporated in it. The gas, which is mixed with the foam, is called the blowing agent. It can be either chemical or physical. Physical blowing agents are those gases that do not take place in the chemical reaction and are inert to the polymer forming the matrix. Chemical blowing agents are those that take part in a reaction, giving off chemicals in the process. In all the foam structures, the pore size is not uniform with some amount of closed cells. The amount of pores present in the foam affects the properties of the foam. The presence of high quantity of smaller pores makes the foam an insulator. Open cell structure has the capability of compression and better sound absorption. Various techniques are used to manufacture engineered foams. These include initiation of a chemical reaction that generates the gas phase; usage of a chemical blowing agent, which takes part in the chemical reaction and forms the gas phase; and introduction of the physical blowing agent at high temperature.
The global market for engineered foam can be segmented based on the type of polymer used into polyurethane (PUR), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene (PE), and polypropylene (PP). Polyurethane is synthesized by the reaction between polyols and polyisocynates. Rigid PUR foam is employed in various applications in refrigerators, insulated buildings, water heaters, and thermosets. Flexible PUR is used in cushioning in furniture, packaging, and transportation. Flexible PUR is also employed in cars for sound insulation and vibration dampening. Polystyrene foam is extensively used for making white polystyrene cups, which are ideal for serving hot beverages, due to heat insulating properties of foam. The engineered foam market can also be segregated based on structure into rigid and flexible structure. Rigid engineered foams are used for structural applications, while flexible engineered foams are used for packaging and cushioning applications. The engineered foam market can also divided in terms of end-user application into automotive, wind turbines, packaging, manufacturing, and construction industries.
In terms of region, the engineered foam market can be segregated into North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and Middle East & Africa. The global engineered foam market is anticipated to expand significantly during the forecast period. Asia Pacific is expected to dominate the market for engineered foam due to significant growth of the automotive industry in emerging economies such as China and India. Rise in demand for lightweight structures in the building & construction industry is anticipated to boost the market for engineered foam in the region. The engineered foam market in North America and Europe is also estimated to expand, led by the presence of large number of automobile manufactures in these regions.
Key players operating in the engineered foam market are BASF SE, The DOW Chemical Company, Skisui Chemical Company Co. Ltd., Bayer AG, Armacell, Jiffy Packaging Company Limited, American Foam Products, Rempec Foam Corporation, Heubach Corporation, and G&T Industries Inc.
Armacell, a leading provider of engineered foams, operates in Europe, North America, Asia, and Middle East. It offers a wide product portfolio, which includes polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam, and polyethylene foam.
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