Process control parameters impacting foam garage door panel manufacturing

The foam that makes up the core of many modern garage doors is possible thanks to some very specific chemistry.

But solid chemistry alone is no guarantee for success.

Optimal processing conditions must be maintained to produce quality panels. If they’re not, common quality problems such as underfilling, overfilling or an array of surface defects can result.

Many foam garage door manufacturers experience unacceptable scrap rates which occur because the process parameters discussed below are not appropriately controlled. But with a better understanding of these parameters — and how they relate to one another — manufacturers can become key front-line troubleshooters that save time, money and material.

Know the 4 main process control parameters

In foam core garage door manufacturing, four main process control parameters impact finished product quality:

  • Temperature (including storage, processing equipment and ambient)
  • Dispensing rate
  • Line speed (in continuous applications)
  • Demold time (in discontinuous appplications)

While determining ideal process control parameters begins during process design, we’re not going to talk about specifications at any length. This resource is meant to help you understand the things you can control right nowwithout going back to the drawing board.  

A picture of several bulk storage tanks for foam inside a factory.

Temperature

Temperature might be the most difficult process parameter to control because it impacts foam garage door panel manufacturing quality at a few different stages. 

Bulk storage – The two components of a foam system are usually stored in large tanks in ambient conditions. Bulk storage temperature is easier to manage if the tanks are inside a climate-controlled facility. But if facilities lack climate control or the tanks are kept outdoors, the foam components are at the mercy of frequent seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations. As temperature deviates more and more from the ideal processing range, operators’ options for correcting the problem by tweaking other process parameters significantly diminish.

Day tank storage – Prior to mixing and dispensing, foam components are kept in “day tanks.” Most modern equipment features heat exchangers in these tanks designed to regulate the temperature of the foam. But if the components enter the tanks too hot or too cold, the heat exchangers won’t do their job in time. If precursors are dispensed outside of their normal process temperature, they might not mix or dispense properly. 

Processing equipment – For garage door panel foam to cure properly, the temperature of hardware such as platens, molds or conveyors must be maintained according to the foam system’s specifications. If contact surfaces are too hot, foam could cure before reaching its full rise. If they’re too cold, the foam could cure to a gummy texture and pull away from surfaces it should stick to. 

Ambient – If facilities lack climate control, seasonal or daily temperature fluctuations could cause quality problems that operators must constantly work to correct. A lack of ambient temperature control could exacerbate quality problems if the other temperature parameters noted above also are not well-controlled. However, if the other temperature parameters are well-controlled, ambient temperature is less of a factor in product quality.

Dispensing rate

The amount of pour-in-place foam deposited from a mixing machine to a mold or conveyor platen can influence its expansion and curing. This rate is settled on the premise that other parameters (such as line speed, demold time and temperature) also are optimized. A common misstep is for manufacturers to observe defects like voids or underfilling in finished panels and crank up the dispensing rate in response. 

That might be the right answer, but it might not. Was the temperature of the foam components or equipment too hot or too cold? Was the line speed too fast or demold time too brief? 

Line speed

That same logic applies to line speed for continuous panel manufacturing. This speed is determined in advance in harmony with other process parameters and the foam’s curing characteristics. 

If line speed increases without a commensurate increase in dispensing rate, there won’t be enough foam applied to fully fill panels and underfilling will result. Even if dispensing rate is adjusted to match a faster line speed, higher speed could result in foam that never fully cures. 

Conversely, if line speed slows, too much foam could be dispensed onto the conveyor unless the dispensing rate also is dialed down. Lower speed could also extend the curing time beyond what a foam system requires, potentially resulting in over-cured foam. 

Demold time

Demold time — which refers to the amount of time foam is held in a fixture to cure — is the discontinuous manufacturing version of line speed. Essentially, the same problems described in the line speed section can occur if demold time is adjusted upward or downward.

A picture of a variety of bulk storage tanks and smaller totes for foam inside a factory.

Take a holistic approach to troubleshooting

Foam garage door panel manufacturing is a complicated process where many variables must be tightly controlled. They must also be collectively optimized.

Fortunately, most quality problems can be solved by making educated process parameter adjustments. It’s merely a matter understanding the why behind a problem. 

But if problems still persist, the technical support and product guidance offered as part of our high-service business model is just one reason why a relationship with Foam Supplies is different. Are you experiencing persistent quality issues? Are process parameter adjustments not helping? It might be time to get some help. Contact a technical expert here

Technical Superiority and Support: Another FSI Advantage

For nearly 50 years, Foam Supplies has been distinguished not just by our products, but by our technical support as well. In fact, we are the only major polyurethane systems provider to offer routine, on-site maintenance to our customers to make sure that unplanned downtime is kept to a minimum.

At FSI, “Service What We Sell” is more than just a slogan – it’s one of the founding principles on which our business is based. And after nearly five decades, we’re proud to say that no other company can match our proactive approach to meeting all of our customers’ polyurethane needs – including their associated technical and troubleshooting needs – through our ongoing commitment to service.

Offering regular on-site service, training and support is part of our total commitment to customer success. It all starts with developing the right chemical system for your unique needs, progresses through extensive trials and demonstrations to optimize processes and ensure product performance, and continues with ongoing communication and personal visits to assure your operation runs smoothly and successfully.

Foam Supplies is not just a polyurethane chemical provider… we’re a true partner who’s there with our customers every step of the way. Find out more about our technical service and support here or contact your FSI representative to discuss your maintenance and support needs.

Don’t Let the Coming Cold Affect Your Foam’s Performance

With the hot days of summer behind us, it’s time to start planning for the cold days ahead (depending on your location, of course). Process control is important in any weather, but for polyurethane foam users, fall and winter are particularly important times to pay attention to chemical temperatures.

Foaming with chemicals that are too cold can adversely affect final foam performance, sometimes significantly. It’s important to keep your polyurethane chemicals within a consistent temperature range, especially with temperatures dropping below freezing – not to mention below zero – in many parts of the US. Properly storing your polyurethane chemicals is also critical to maintaining optimal shelf life.

Here are some important facts to remember:

  • Do NOT store chemicals at temperatures below 50°F.
  • Pre-heat chemicals to 75° – 90°F prior to use. Depending on vessel size, pre-heating will
    take a minimum of 12 hours and up to 48 hours in an 85°F temperature-controlled
    room.
  • Maintain chemical temperatures of 75° – 90°F during use.

When in doubt, Foam Supplies is always here to help! You’ll find optimal storage and use temperatures, as well as other important information, listed in the Safety Data Sheet for each chemical system we offer. And of course, always feel free to contact your FSI representative if you have any other questions on how temperature can affect your foam performance.

Kigali Amendment Effective as of January 1, 2019

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has been ratified by 71 countries. Here’s what it could mean for your business.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer became effective January 1st of this year, following ratification by 71 countries in the accord. The Amendment was created to help reduce the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by more than 80 per cent over the next 30 years, which is projected to reduce global warming by up to 0.4°C this century.

Under the amendment, developed countries will reduce HFC consumption beginning in 2019. Most developing countries will freeze consumption in 2024, with a small number of developing countries with unique circumstances freezing consumption in 2028.

If you are a US manufacturer still using HFC-blown polyurethanes, you are no doubt aware that these changes will affect your company’s ability to export your products in the very near future. Plus, the United States could also ratify the agreement at any time, which would ultimately eliminate the use of HFCs here at home.

With the future of HFC blowing agents in serious doubt worldwide, one thing is certain: Ecomate® blowing agent technology is the proven effective alternative to HFCs that is available right now in both rigid and flexible polyurethane foam systems. Ecomate-based foam systems will meet or exceed the properties achieved with HFC-134a, HFC-245fa and other HFC blowing agents – including critical foam properties such as thermal efficiency, adhesion, dimensional stability, flotation and more.

While the US has yet to ratify the Kigali Amendment, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the US Chamber of Commerce and various trade organizations are strongly in favor of it. They say that the goals of the Kigali Amendment can be accomplished without an increase in costs to the U.S. consumer, and in some cases can generate savings, and also be a win for the environment and the U.S. economy.

To learn more about how the Kigali Amendment reduces climate change, watch this short animated video prepared by UN Environment, the leading global voice on the environment.