Additive Manufacturing Improves Prototyping Urethane Foam Parts

We may take the arm rest that fits just right in our car or the comfortable cushioned chair for granted. Like any product, their usefulness is the direct result of prototyping and product testing to ensure fit and function.

So how do companies build foam prototypes to perfect their products? Traditionally, a couple of the common methods are pouring two-part urethane liquids into hard tools or cutting existing blanks of foam into a specific shape. While these methods can produce foam prototypes, they can be time consuming and aren’t particularly cost-effective in low volumes. 

Another way to produce these parts is by pairing foam with additive manufacturing. Instead of injecting foam into hard metal or silicone tools, you can build alternative tooling with durable thermoplastics like ABS available in Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).



foam

Whether you have one-off prototypes or quantities in the hundreds, pairing low-volume urethane foam part production with FDM tools can provide you with the following benefits:

Eliminate hard tooling costs:

The upfront investment in hard tooling is usually not feasible for low-volumes of foam prototypes.  You also don’t want to get locked into a tool design during the prototyping phase because modifications can be costly. With FDM tools, design changes are affordable, all that is needed is an updated CAD file and a new tool can be printed.

Improve production time:

Another challenge with hard tooling is long lead times, both with initial production and any required modifications. You can start producing foam parts within hours of 3D printed tools coming off the FDM platform. This accelerated production time can help you test and validate designs and get a final product to market faster.

Create complex designs:

One of the inherent benefits of FDM and additive manufacturing in general is that you are capable of designing parts with complex geometries that would be previously impossible with traditional methods. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, with FDM tools for foam casting you can include unique features and sharp edges, allowing you to maximize functionality and usability.

Find a customized foam solution:

Each project has unique requirements and with foam casting there is a wide range of urethane foams to choose from. FDM tools built in ABS are compatible with a variety of foam densities (4-32 lbs./cubic ft.), from flexible ones ideal for crash pads, seat cushions, arm rests and vibration and sound dampening applications, to rigid ones suited for conformal insulation. For transportation applications, parts can also be built using foam certified to meet FMVSS 302 flame specifications.

The combination of FDM tools and urethane foam production is just another example of how combining multiple technologies can help you meet unique challenges.

Interested in learning more about urethane foam materials? Check out our Urethane Casting materials page to find the important technical data to see if it is a fit for your project.

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