Choosing the right type of foam for marine floatation applications has as much to do with performance as it does with cost. Many types of foam can float, but not all are suitable for boat manufacturers to use in the boats they manufacture. The buoyant properties of foam make them ideal for floatation in marine applications, but what other properties should they have?
Floatation Approved by Coast Guard Regulation
The US CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) that regulates the manufacturing and use of approved floatation foams is CFR § 183.114 Test of floatation materials. This regulation dictates that all foams used for floatation purposes must pass several tests, including a vapor test that states “the floatation material must not reduce in buoyant force more than 5 percent after being immersed in a fully saturated gasoline vapor atmosphere for 30 days at a minimum temperature of 38 °C.”
CFR 183.114 also puts forth multiple gasoline, oil, and bilge cleaner tests, stating that the foam material must not lose more than 5 percent of its buoyant force when submerged in any of these liquids for 24-hour and 30-day periods, at specified temperatures.
All foams must pass these tests to be considered usable on marine boats and vessels for floatation purposes. Flame lamination can be used during the fabrication process to ensure polyurethane foams are resistant to heat, gasoline, water, and other solvents.
Thermal Insulation and Sound/Vibration Deadening
Many floatation foams double as thermal and sound insulation foams for engine compartments on boats. These foams help absorb the heat, noise, and vibrations given off by boat engines, making for a more comfortable riding experience. Because of this, these types of foams need to be able to isolate and attenuate sound and vibration, a property common in closed-cell cross-linked polyethylene and expanded molded polyethylene foams.
Since they are commonly used in engine compartments, these foams should also meet flame retardant requirements.
Resistance to Chemical Solvents, Water, and Mold/Mildew
Floatation foams operate in areas filled with multiple types of liquids, from engine oil to gasoline and water. These foams must exhibit a strong resistance to these liquids. A heavy resistance to hydrolysis (the ability of a material to not degrade or break down when submerged) is highly preferred.
Since these foams are constantly exposed to liquids and then left in humid, often high temperature environments, they must also be resistant to mold and mildew growth, which are common in damp and humid environments. It’s highly advised to ensure floatation foams are anti-microbial, which will help extend their life expectancy and allow them to be used safely in marine applications.
Work with a Reliable Foam Fabricator
At Amcon, we work closely with our boat manufacturing partners to ensure they get the highest quality floatation foam materials shaped the way they need it for their marine applications. We can help you select a foam that fits your application and budget and will deliver those materials to you on-time and on an ongoing basis. We are a reliable materials supplier and fabricator for many partners. Get in touch with us today to talk about what you need to complete your next project.