FXI, Media, PA, USA, is one of the world's leading producers of polyurethane foam innovations. With more than 400 patents and more than 60 years of experience to its credit, the company works closely with customers to address opportunities that essentially fall into two categories - that is, how can foam enhance the management of fluid and energy? When that question is layered on a specific customer scenario, such as how to ensure that an inkjet printer cartridge applies ink more evenly, the R&D team goes to work to devise a solution that manages, in this case, the movement of the liquid ink more effectively. The solution in this scenario revolutionised the inkjet industry. The solution to this problem was the development of ultra-fine, reticulated and permanently compressed foams that transport ink consistently without clogging or pooling. These foams are a mainstay of FXI's technical products line and the basis of a 20-year relationship with customer Hewlett-Packard.Advancing the science of polyurethane foam and bridging business hurdles, large and small, for customers is what fuels FXI's pipeline of innovation and growth. "We encourage industry to bring their challenges to us", says Alvaro Vaselli, FXI's Senior Vice President of Foam Products Business Management. "Our R&D is a differentiator, and we continually invest in our products and solutions because they create a competitive advantage for our customers, which is ultimately an advantage for us."Today, the company serves the home, healthcare, electronics, industrial, building and construction, personal care and transportation markets. Its products include finished goods, sub-assemblies, services and raw materials for OEMs, fabricators and retailers, which means FXI's science and technology is ultimately inside, around and under consumers in countless applications. A quieter, safer ride
The ability for polyurethane foam solutions to manage energy, liquid and air movement is at the core of what the material does every day for the automotive industry. Car makers bring their business and production challenges to FXI - the ride is too noisy, the manufacturing process is too cumbersome, drivers want smoother contours, a safer cabin, etc. - and the company's engineers and scientists test and explore possibilities to arrive at a foam application that does the job. For example, as automotive OEMs continue to develop more energy efficient models, acoustical issues have emerged as an important role for polyurethane. The company's Qylite Foam product line has a long track record of solving problems such as high frequency engine noise, road noise, and more recent challenges resulting from, liquid "sloshing" sounds in electric vehicles.FXI also works with its customers to pull costs out of the manufacturing process. For example, SureForm foam laminates to textiles and manages acoustic properties for headliner manufacturers. "Consumers are wanting more dramatic lines in their vehicles, making it difficult to shape materials to those contours," says Donald Phillips, Executive Vice President, Automotive Products for FXI. "SureForm foam is a key ingredient in the textile composite that makes this forming process easier," he said.Similarly, the company's SureFill foam is a new polyurethane-based technology. When automotive headrests are manufactured, the textile shell is sewn and then filled with expandable liquid foam. To make sure that liquid foam only expands to the shape and not through the shape, SureFill foam forms a barrier at the textile to keep everything in its place.Beyond keeping things in place is the need to keep lives safe. For 45 years, FXI has partnered with the United States military to develop safety foams - still another form of energy management. These specialty lightweight foams act as a three-dimensional fire screen in military aircraft and land vehicles, preventing fuel explosions from ignition sources such as gunfire, electrical sparks, lightning strikes and static discharge. That same life-saving technology is also at work in racing cars, boats and stationary fuel storage tanks. A better building protector
When rain falls into gutters that are blocked with leaves and debris, problems happen. Overflow water damage can lead to compromised foundations, basement leaks, rotting windows, and mould and mildew. Standing water trapped in clogged gutters can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and others illnesses, like West Nile virus. To eliminate these problems, FXI was tasked to manage the movement of rain water and keep it flowing through gutters and downspouts as intended. The solution was Rain Filter, a gutter protection system utilising the most advanced urethane technology and engineering. The product comprises of a multi-polymer, open cell polyurethane foam insert that is specifically shaped to fit into gutters, creating a barrier to prevent the buildup of water and debris. Because Rain Filter keeps water flowing, it is also snow and ice resistant. The dark colour attracts solar warmth, melting snow and ice from the roof - the water passes through the filter and out of the downspout Rain Filter's flexible design also does not dent or crack like typical aluminum guards.Rain Filter's patent pending material is treated with a biocide and fungicide that inhibits the growth of mould, mildew, fungus, algae and moss within the product. It also has a built-in UV-stabiliser to prevent degradation from the sun. Rain Filter has been installed and tested in homes across the US and has been proven to withstand heat, ice and torrential rain. It has also received the Green Buildings Product Seal. A more comfortable, more restful sleep
Achieving the right technology mix in product offerings means combining all of this FXI science with just the right amount of art. "We keep a very close eye on the consumer to understand and anticipate what's next," says Vaselli. "On the homefront, that's translated into products that can enhance productivity by managing the energy and motion associated with sleep."In fact, FXI continues to raise the bar for innovative sleep solutions by anticipating market demands and customer preferences. Its newest products continue the company's tradition of industry firsts, by combining industry-leading technologies with best-in-class materials and advances in "green" chemistry for an extensive portfolio . As a result, consumers can essentially customise their sleep experience with cooler sleep surfaces, greater luxury, natural products and energising mattresses.FXI recently introduced three new specialty foams at this year's International Sleep Products Association show, and they all go beyond traditional visco-elastic foams. Aerus uses the company's patented open-cell technology for cooler and more comfortable surfaces. Activus offers high resiliency for a lively feel and rapid recovery, and Altus, made from the softest polyurethane foam available, features a layer of quilting for enhanced luxury, softness and comfort. To further emphasize the foam manufacturer's forward-thinking, solutions-oriented approach to customers, the company also exhibited concept mattresses at the show. These included an all-recycled mattress as well as a "Bed in a Box", which addresses shipping and storage ease and reduced distribution costs for retailers and customers.All of the new mattress foams were developed using patented Surface Modification Technology (SMT). According to Vaselli, SMT enables FXI to customise the sleeping surface to achieve optimum properties. SMT is also the foundation for FXI's successful BodyZone support surfaces, which are helping the medical industry alleviate pressure sores for patients who have long-term hospital, rehabilitative or nursing home stays. A greener world
Pioneered over 20 years ago, FXI's variable pressure foaming (VPF) technology has set the standard for "green" manufacturing across the world's polyurethane foam industry It is one of the most environmentally friendly and responsible process for the manufacture of polyurethane foam available today, exceeding US Clean Air Act requirements.Beyond providing uncompromising product quality and consistency, the company's patented VPF process is virtually emissions-free. It substitutes pressure for chemicals, using sealed, controlled environment pressure chambers to manufacture foam. "Manipulating the pressure gives us more control over the foam's physical properties and allows us to create different grades of foam, which are not possible in an open process," says Vincent Bonaddio, Senior Vice President, Technical Products Business Management. This has enabled the company to develop and produce unique, value-enhancing products, while providing higher yields from raw materials than traditional foaming methods. Currently, FXI operates four VPF facilities throughout the United States.In addition to VPF, individual product lines and processes also address the company's commitment to manufacturing in a greener world. In the automotive division, a new bio-based foam called Green Blend Natural Oil Polyol (NOP) foam was introduced earlier this year. "Not only do products like Green Blend help us decrease our carbon footprint, but it also helps our OEMs do the same in pursuit of their own environmental goals," says Phillips. A flame-bondable seating foam, Green Blend, is now available to the automotive industry in North America and China. Proven experience, advanced technology, superior solutions
FXI technology plays an essential role in more markets and products than most people could ever imagine. Its research and development team works in close collaboration with customers in a wide range of industries to develop solutions that meet their challenges today and unlock new opportunities for the future."One of the highest compliments for our business is the fact that consumers enjoy all the benefits of our technology without even knowing it's there," says Vaselli. "A restful night's sleep and a quiet car ride - it's our job to make sure that happens and to be sure that every foam innovation adds value to our clients' businesses and to people's lives."