Infared Foaming in Serial Production
Foam particles can be pre-foamed by infrared radiation instead of using blowing agents. Partners involved in the IR-PreFoam-Project have now provided the basis for the industrialisation of this process.
In the IR-PreFoam project, New Materials Bayreuth, Vox Velution and Rygoll have developed a steamless pre-foaming process for foam particles that is applicable on an industrial scale. The partners decided on using pre-foaming by means of medium wave infrared radiation. This dry process, which was developed by Fox Velution, enables uninterrupted processing with short cycle times. It also does away with the need to dry bead foams, which was necessary when using blowing agents. According to New Materials Bayreuth, the process is suited for finishing all kinds of foam particles, even those with high temperatures.
By explaining the relation between radiation impact and the resulting material properties, the project partners can now adjust the cell morphology and apparent density of the bead foams, in a method that is application-specific, precise, and reproducible across a broad range. The project also found ways to upscale the process for high-volume manufacturing. According to the institute, this fulfils the requirements needed for bringing the technology to market. Usually when pre-foaming with blowing agents, loaded micro-granular compounds are expanded to become bead foams, and then joined to become formed components. Until recently, both sub-processes worked on the basis of steam as an energy carrier, which required a relatively complex infrastructure and high resources.