Using Foam for Shipping Temperature-Controlled Goods

Foam is one of the most reliable insulators, which is why it’s commonly used in shipping temperature-controlled goods. Whether you’re shipping pharmaceuticals or perishable foods, choosing the right foam allows you to address the unique shipping challenges of your specific products. What are the best packaging foams to use for temperature-controlled goods? Let’s first address the challenges of cold storage and shipping. 

The Unique Challenges in Temperature Sensitive Shipping

Temperature-sensitive goods require controlled environments to maintain their quality and efficacy. Depending on the products, even small variations in temperature during transit can compromise quality or lead to spoilage, reduced efficacy, or total loss. This challenge is particularly important for pharmaceuticals and biological samples that must adhere to strict temperature ranges. 

External environmental factors are also a significant challenge. Ambient temperature fluctuations, humidity, and exposure to sunlight can significantly impact the internal temperature of shipping containers. Without proper insulation, these factors can quickly alter the product’s condition. 

Finally, many temperature-sensitive goods, particularly in the pharmaceutical and food industries, are subject to stringent regulatory requirements. Compliance with these regulations necessitates reliable packaging solutions that can provide documented evidence of maintaining the required temperature range throughout transit. 

Consider the Length of Transit

The longer the transit time, the greater the risk of temperature deviations. Long-haul shipments or those that involve multiple handling stages are particularly vulnerable. Maintaining consistent temperatures over extended periods requires robust insulation and effective thermal management solutions. Always make sure to understand how long your shipments will be outside of temperature-controlled environments before making a selection in packaging foam. 

How Foam Helps in Temperature Sensitive Shipping

Foam is an excellent insulator due to its cellular structure, which traps air and reduces heat transfer. The makeup of foam materials, such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) and polyurethane, includes numerous tiny air pockets that act as barriers to heat flow. This structure minimizes conductive and convective heat transfer, maintaining a stable internal temperature. 

Foam materials specifically used in temperature-controlled shipping are engineered to have low thermal conductivity. The chemical composition of foams like polyurethane includes closed-cell structures that are particularly effective at insulating against temperature variations. These materials can be customized to enhance their insulating properties further, ensuring minimal thermal exchange. 

In addition to thermal insulation, foam provides excellent cushioning. The resilient and shock-absorbing properties of foam protect delicate temperature-sensitive goods from physical damage during transit. This dual functionality of insulation and cushioning makes foam an ideal material for shipping temperature-sensitive products.  

Foam materials are also lightweight, which helps in reducing overall shipping costs. Despite their light weight, they are durable and can withstand the rigors of handling and transportation. This durability ensures that the insulating properties remain effective throughout the shipping process. 

The Best Foams to Use in Temperature Sensitive Shipping

Some foam options to consider for temperature-controlled shipping include: 

  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS): EPS is a widely used material for insulating shipping containers. It is lightweight, cost-effective, and provides excellent thermal insulation. EPS foam is commonly used in the shipping of perishable foods and temperature-sensitive medical supplies. Its closed-cell structure minimizes heat transfer and protects against temperature fluctuations. 
  • Polyurethane Foam: polyurethane foam offers superior insulation due to its high R-value, which measures thermal resistance. It is highly effective in maintaining a stable temperature and is often used in high-performance insulation applications. Polyurethane foam is also versatile and can be molded into various shapes and sizes, making it suitable for custom packaging solutions. 
  • Polyethylene Foam: polyethylene foam provides a balance of insulation and cushioning. It is less rigid than EPS but offers good thermal resistance and protection against physical impacts. Polyethylene foam is used in a variety of temperature-sensitive shipping applications, including electronics and pharmaceuticals. 
  • Zote Foams: Zote foams, such as those from the ZOTEK® and AZOTE® families, are high-performance materials known for their exceptional insulating properties and durability. These foams are made from various polymers, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon, and are engineered to provide consistent thermal protection and cushioning. Zote foams can be ideal for shipping temperature-sensitive goods because they offer excellent thermal insulation, are lightweight, and can be customized to fit specific packaging requirements. 


Find Temperature Sensitive Foams for Your Shipping Operation

At Amcon, we can help you select the appropriate type of foam to safeguard your temperature-sensitive products, maintain quality, and comply with regulatory standards. We can also help you customize them to perfectly fit your products and packaging. Ready to find a foam that’s right for you? Get in touch with our team today.