The arrangement to visit the brand-new Rochester Hills facility, and state-of-the-art home of FoamPartner, was an integral part of the Foam Expo tour of Michigan this October. Intrigued by how the polyurethane foam manufacturer meets customer demand through their approach towards internal system integration, our Exhibition Manager, Nathan Reuby was curious to take a look around their premium blending facility and system house.
Maintaining the esteem as one of Foam Expo’s first companies to join back in 2016, Foam Partner continues to support both Foam Expo US and its European sister show, as each event has grown in both size and grandeur. With this in mind, the opportunity to see first-hand what takes place on a day-to-day basis within the business’ hub of manufacturing was tough to ignore.
What is the biggest challenge affecting the foam industry?
There are various trends affecting the industry. Although one might see them as challenges, we prefer to consider them as opportunities for innovation and business growth. The overarching trend within the foam industry is in our opinion related to sustainability; with a strong focus on performance and efficiency increases while reducing the impact on the environment and improving people’s health and safety. In line with that, more stringent regulatory requirements and OEM norms across the globe forcing the foam industry to develop innovative solutions. For example, in the mobility sector, there is a strong focus on improving the air quality inside of the vehicle by reducing emissions, such as VOC and FOG. At the same time, the industry is looking for light-weight solutions for e-cars and hybrid cars to enhance the battery and fuel efficiency, in order to increase the mileage range. Light-weight foams should offer improved performance at reduced material thickness also to save on operational costs. With regards to 2-Component PUR foam systems, we see an increasing demand for solutions with improved flame retardancy, fulfilling the most stringent requirements to ensure occupant safety through better fire protection. There is also a growing interest in water and CO2 blown systems that avoid the emission of greenhouse gases to reduce the impact on the climate. Another big topic in our industry is to find solutions regarding the recycling of mattresses and other PU foam waste. Mechanical and chemical recycling concepts already exist today, but still, have their limitations.
How do you think these challenges could/will be overcome in the future?
A good understanding of the market is key. It is important to understand and foresee today’s and tomorrow’s market trends, customer needs and regulatory changes, in order to identify the key areas for investment (investment in technology, R&D, facilities, etc). Close collaborations along the value chain, with raw material suppliers, Tier 1/2 and OEMs to help us address these challenges. At FoamPartner, we attach great importance to holistic solutions that take into account the entire life cycle of a product on the one hand and provide answers to social, regulatory and ecological needs on the other. We, therefore, focus on sustainable innovations in areas such as electric mobility, climate protection and health & comfort.
What’s new and innovative for you? (this can be changed within your own business and products or outside e.g. how your clients are using your products)
We recently opened our new blending facility in Rochester Hills, MI for 2-Component-PUR foam systems. It is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to provide customized foam systems, including integral foam, flexible foam, semi-rigid and rigid foam systems for various applications, especially for the mobility industry (automotive, rail, aircraft). During the event, we will showcase our latest product developments from the OBoSonic® range, our PUR systems specially made for noise reduction and sound insulation in vehicles, including for applications near engines. The new OBoSonic® products offer better fire protection through improved flame retardancy while being more sustainable as being water and CO2-blown systems. Furthermore, we will highlight at the event our innovative OBoSky® product family, which was specifically developed for the use in modern automotive headliners. The new products combine the advantages of ester-based polyurethane foams with the properties of ether-based materials. This means, that they are not only hydrolytically stable with low emissions and minimum odor, but also have good flame lamination characteristics and an extremely homogeneous cell structure, offering ideal surface results.
What are you most looking forward to at Foam Expo 2020?
The FoamExpo is a dedicated trade fair for the technical foam industry where experts can meet. Having a trade show and a conference at the same time is perfect to learn and exchange information about trends, industry news and the latest product innovations. As the event is a single marketplace, it is ideal for networking, as we can meet customers and suppliers alike – in a very short time. Of course, what we are most looking forward, is to present to customers and prospects, FoamPartner’s novel foam solutions for the automotive industry and the industrial sector.
What will you be exhibiting at the show?
FoamPartner is a leading producer and converter of best-in-class foam solutions for automotive, industrial, and comfort applications. Our range of products comprises over 200 polyether and polyester PUR foams and more than 100 systems. Next to our product highlights OBoSonic® (from the business segment SYSTEMS) and OBoSky® (business segment AUTOMOTIVE ROLLS), we will showcase various novel technical foam materials (from our business segment SPECIALTIES), used in myriad industrial applications, including sponges for professional and household cleaning, polishing pads for painted surfaces’, foams for ceramic filters used in metal processing, or seals for automotive & HVAC gaskets – just to name a few examples. New to the market will be our Duralose foam for janitorial applications. This foam is an ideal alternative to cellulose, where the sponges offer hydrophilic properties for excellent water absorption and dry wiping & cleaning behaviour, similar to cellulose sponges, but with much higher durability as it does not disintegrate with time. It also prevents mold growth, unpleasant odors, and drying out over time.
What are the benefits of the products/services that you will have on the show?
Our product range is so big and the industries we serve are so versatile, that talking to our experts in person at the show can help to determine which foam material is the most appropriate solution for a specific application. FoamPartner has many years of experience in the market and extensive know-how in foam production and processing. We speak our customers’ language and understand their needs. We know that an increasing specialization in the various industrial sectors requires a diversity of foams. Therefore, our foams fulfill many different properties, such as anti-fog, antistatic, conductive, fire retardant, low-emission or mechanically-stable. We are able to develop foam solutions that are tailored, in both design and function, to specific needs and are available in any preferred processing state – from raw block foam to the finished product. At FoamPartner, our objective is to give our customers a competitive edge by improving the time to market their new products.