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The Different Types Of Packaging Foam

custom foam packaging

Packaging foam is used to provide packaged products extra protection throughout the supply chain to the end users. It consists of three main types of foam which include polyurethane, polyethylene, and expanded polystyrene (EPS). These foams are versatile but different in their properties, advantages, disadvantages, and applications, which is why you should know the difference between each type before you invest in foam.

The 3 Main Types of Foam Packaging

NamePolyethylene Polyurethane (Ethers/Esters)
Expanded Polystyrene
DefinitionPolyethylene foam (PE) is a closed cell foam that is formed from the heating of compound polymers. This foam is extremely versatile and customizable, which makes it useful for a wide range of applications.

*Closed cell foams consist of millions of small bubbles that are sealed off from one another.*
Polyurethane foam is an elastic open cell foam that is synthesized using polyol and diisocyanate. Foam can either be ether or ester based polyurethane, in addition to a variety of densities which makes it suitable for a wide range of packaging applications.

*Open cell foams consist of millions of small air bubbles that are not sealed off from one another.*
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), also known as Styrofoam, is a closed cell foam that consist of plastic material produced from solid beads of polystyrene. EPS can be either in sheet form or shaped to a specific size and shape, which make it useful for a variety of packaging applications.
Benefits- Available in anti-static and conductive
- Indefinite shelf-life
- Fire retardant available
- Good die cut material
- Heat sealable
- Vibration and compression protection
- Durable and abrasion resistant
- Easy to process and fabricate
- Highly resistant to chemicals and moisture
- Additives can be added
- No liquid absorption
- Buoyant
- Shock absorption
- Available in multiple colors
- Available in anti-static and conductive
- Vibration and compression protection
- Additives can be added
- Flexible and lightweight
- Superior cushioning properties
- Good die cutting capabilities
- Available in multiple colors
- Easily laminated to corrugated
- Scratch resistant
- Moisture resistant
- Available in a variety of densities
- Thermal resistance and insulated
- Inexpensive
- Bacteria resistant
- Lightweight and strong
- Indefinite shelf-life
- Moisture resistant
- Versatile in size and shape
Disadvantages- Depending on how the foam is formulated, it can be prone to tears
- Can be toxic to the environment during combustion
- The fabrication and processing of polyethylene foam can be time consuming and costly compared to available alternatives
- Difficult to recycle
- Flammable, when ignited polyurethane will burn rapidly producing intense heat and releasing toxins in the air that is hazardous to the environment and human health
- Not odorless
- Shorter shelf-life compared to other foams
- Brittle
- Loses strength overtime if exposed to UV
- Difficult to recycle
- EPS bans
- Not environmentally friendly
ApplicationsPE is used in many industrial, construction, medical and electronic devices, and industrial applications:

- End caps
- Laminations
- Box liners and dividers
- Caps (top and bottom)
- Corner blocks
- Flip out backers
Polyurethane is used in many industries such as food, medical, electronics, and industrial applications:

- End caps
- Fast packs
- Special die cut designs
- Display trays
- Display cases
Expanded polystyrene is used commonly for packaging and shipping purposes in industrial, food, and other applications:

- End caps
- Insulated box liners
- Trays
- Corner blocks


polyethylene foam


Polyurethane Foam

Expanded Polystyrene

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

Other Foams

There are types of foams in the world, but they are not used for packaging. Most packaging foam types that you probably heard such as ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). anti-static, charcoal, eggshell, cross-linked, or packaging peanuts come from the three major foam types polyethylene, polyurethane, and expanded polystyrene.

Your packaging needs may warrant specific additives, shape, and size of your foam. Additives change and alter the properties of foams. For example, polyethylene or polyurethane foam can be made to be anti-static or more resistant to tear.

If you are interested in custom packaging foam for your products, then partner with Brown Packaging today.

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