Cleaner  Technologies  Substitutes
       Assessment   Case   Studies:
                 Foam   Fabrication
EPA 744-R-00-007
                                                              June 2000
  Bulletin Contents
  Description of the foam fabri-
  cation industry
  Case study on Foam Craft
  Inc, a foam fabricator in
  Cerritos, CA
  Case study on Prestige, a
  foam fabricator in North
  Case study on Latex
  International, in Santa Fe
  Springs, CA
  Case study on Hickory
  Springs, a flexible slabstock
  polyurethane foam manufac-
Alternatives to  Chlorinated
Solvent Adhesives in  the
Foam  Fabrication  Industry
   The Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA), a
   nonprofit organization located in Santa Monica, California, analyzed
the cost and performance of alternative adhesive technologies used by the
furniture and sleep products industries. This project was sponsored by the
U.S. EPA with a grant from the Design for the Environment (DfE)
Program. The Cleaner Technologies Substitutes Assessment (CTSA) is a
partnership with industry including Southern California Edison (SCE)
and the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers®

Industry Description
Flexible slabstock polyurethane foam is produced by 23 companies in
about 75 pouring plants in the United States.  In 1977, approximately
830 million pounds of slabstock foam were produced. By 1998, slab-
stock foam production doubled to about 1.6 billion pounds.
Flexible slabstock foam is fabricated (cut and shaped) into pieces to be
used in carpet  underlay, furniture, bedding, packaging, transportation
                                                          CTSA: Foam Fabrication 1

Flexible slabstock foam manufac-
tured at a pouring plant.
 About IRTA
 IRTA is a nonprofit
 organization established
 in 1989 to assist
 companies in adopting
 low- and non-solvent
 technologies. IRTA
 provides technical
 assistance in general
 and precision cleaning,
 drycleaning,  paint
 stripping and coating,
 adhesive and ink
                seating,  and  other  products where  a durable  and
                resilient cushioning material is required.

                Many foam manufacturers are vertically integrated and
                have on- or off-site foam fabrication operations using
                the foam stock they manufacture. Flexible foam manu-
                facturers fabricate about half of the foam produced in
                their own  facilities.   The other half is  purchased by
                independent fabricators who cut and shape it into vari-
                ous products.  There are approximately 350 foam fabri-
                cation plants in the United States.  All foam fabricators
perform fabrication  services for other companies that manufacture bed-
ding, upholstered furniture and  other products.

Some of the foam is  fabricated using adhesives and some is not. In many
cases, the foam requires a particular shape or a particular feel.  During
fabrication, several  different densities  of foam or other materials, like
polyester fiber, are bonded together to form a particular shape with spe-
cific characteristics.  The foam  used in sofa arms, for example, does not
require adhesive because it has the proper shape and density.  In contrast,
pieces of foam are cut then bonded together with adhesive to achieve the
proper shape for sofa seat cushions.  It is estimated that about one-third
of the foam used in  furniture manufacture and five percent of the  foam
used in bedding manufacture requires adhesive in the fabrication opera-

Adhesive Alternatives
In the 1980s and early 1990s, most of the adhesive used by foam fabrica-
tors was based on  1,1,1-trichloroethane  (TCA), a chlorinated solvent.
TCA was an effective carrier for the adhesive because it evaporates rapid-
ly leaving an instant bond, it is fairly low in toxicity, it does not have a
flash  point, and it is not classified as a Volatile Organic Compound
(VOC) that contributes to photochemical smog.

In the  1990s, TCA was designated as a class one ozone depleting sub-
stance and, in 1996,  its production was banned for that reason.  Although
TCA inventory was still available, the chemical had become very expen-
sive because of a Federal tax on ozone depleting substances. Virtually all
adhesive formulators stopped making TCA adhesives and began offering
adhesives based on methylene chloride (METH), also a chlorinated sol-
 2  GTSA: Foam Fabrication

vent.  Like TCA, METH evaporates quickly, does not have a flash point
and is not classified as a VOC. However, METH is a suspected carcino-
gen.  In  1997,  the  Occupational  Safety  and Health Administration
(OSHA) issued a regulation on METH that lowered the worker exposure
level from 500 ppm to 25 ppm measured as an 8-hour time  weighted
average.  The regulation also set an action level at 12.5 ppm. Companies
with worker exposure above that level are required to institute monitor-
ing and medical surveillance. The regulation was effective for foam fab-
ricators with more than 150 employees in April, 1999 and for fabricators
with less than 150 employees in April, 2000. Many foam fabricators
have converted to alternative adhesives because they do not believe they
can meet the new worker exposure levels for METH.  Other fabricators
are testing alternatives and still others have not done anything to address
the changing regulatory requirements. A few fabricators plan to contin-
ue using METH adhesives.

In the early  1990s, the formulators developed one-part  and two-part
water-based adhesives and  many  foam fabricators, particularly  in
Southern California, began testing them. In Southern California, METH
is classified as a toxic and could  not be used when the formulators
stopped using TCA adhesives.  The early one-part water-based adhesives
were based exclusively on natural latex and they did not bond instantly
like the solvent-based adhesives.  The two-part adhesives  were difficult
to use in equipment but did bond instantly.  Because they were much
more expensive than the one-part adhesives, however, the  foam fabrica-
tion industry did not adopt them.  At this stage, new one-part water-based
adhesives composed of natural latex and a small amount of syn-
thetic polymers are available. These adhesives bond much more
rapidly than the older one-part adhesives that are based exclu-
sively on latex. Many California foam fabricators have convert-
ed to these new one-part latex/synthetic water-based adhesives.

Another alternative is an adhesive based on acetone, a non-chlo-
rinated chemical.  Acetone is low in toxicity and like TCA and
METH, readily evaporates leaving a quick bond.  It does have  a
very low flash point, however, and measures must be taken to
minimize the chance of fire or explosion.  The National Fire
Protection Association  (NFPA) has rated acetone as an NFPA
704 level 3 flammability hazard. State building codes and fire
codes are based on NFPA guidelines. The codes vary according to loca-
Mention of trade
names, companies, or
commercial products
does not constitute
endorsement or
recommendation for
use by either the U.S.
Protection Agency or
other firms,
organizations, or
individuals who have
participated in the
preparation of this

New one-part latex/synthetic
waterbased adhesives bond
more rapidly.
                                                                                 CTSA: Foam Fabrication  3

 About SCE
 SCE, the flagship of the
 Edison International
 family of companies, is
 the nation's second
 largest investor-owned
 electric utility company.
 Central to the growth of
 the region's economy,
 SCE continues its
 decades-old commitment
 to assist businesses
 seeking to start, expand,
 or relocate to its service

 About AWFSS
 AWFS® was incorporated
 to fulfill a major need to
 represent the interests of
 companies and
 individuals who supply
 the home  and
 institutional  furnishings
 manufacturing  industries.
 Today, AWFS®  has an
 international membership
 that includes
 manufacturers  and
 distributers of machinery,
 hardware, lumber,
 upholstery materials,
 bedding, wood  products
 and other supplies to
 furniture and cabinet
tion and local fire departments have regulations that affect the amount of
the adhesive that can be stored, require explosion-proof motors and high
air flow ventilation systems. Some formulations based on acetone also
contain other chemicals like heptane, hexane, and mineral spirits. The
other chemicals in these formulations are classified as VOCs.

Another alternative is  an adhesive based on n-propyl bromide (nPB).
This chemical, like TCA and METH, evaporates readily and has no flash
point. It has unknown  but likely high toxicity.  nPB is structurally sim-
ilar to other brominated chemicals that  are carcinogens or have repro-
ductive toxicity problems.   nPB-based  adhesives used by fabricators
contain some 2-bromopropane (2-BP) as a contaminant.  2-BP is toxic
and has  caused reproductive problems in Korean workers. nPB is cur-
rently classified as a VOC and it also contributes to stratospheric ozone
depletion.  OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH) have nominated nPB and 2-BP for carcinogenicity and
reproductive toxicity testing.

In Southern California, VOC regulations are very stringent and fabrica-
tors cannot use adhesives based on nPB  or the acetone adhesives blend-
ed with other chemicals.   In  most  cases, California fabricators have
adopted one-part water-based or acetone-based adhesives. In other parts
of the country, North Carolina in particular, where VOC regulations are
less stringent, many fabricators, especially small ones, are adopting nPB-
based adhesives. A few are adopting the acetone adhesives that contain
other chemicals and very few have converted to water-based adhesives.

Fabricators that wish to continue using METH-based adhesives have to
purchase and install effective ventilation systems that reduce the worker
exposure to the legal OSHA limit. Fabricators that wish to use acetone
adhesives must also install ventilation systems to ensure that the acetone
concentration is below the lower  explosion  limit  of the chemical.
Fabricators that are converting to nPB adhesives are  installing ventila-
tion systems to reduce the worker exposure to a potentially toxic chem-
ical.  Fabricators adopting  one-part water-based adhesives generally
install a ventilation  system; the water-based systems produce aerosol
particulates that can be  removed from the workplace with the ventilation
system.  In effect, fabrication facilities that select any one of the alterna-
tive adhesives must expect to install a ventilation system.
4 GTSA: Foam Fabrication

                              Characteristics of Alternatives
 as VOC
1,1,1-Trichloroethane     No
Methylene Chloride
 Acetone Blends
                                        Production banned
Heavily regulated
 Fire regulations
                                                        rire regulations
 Forms aerosols
                                                                                 GTSA: Foam Fabrication  5

      Foam  Fabricator  Helps  Push
      Water-Based  Adhesive  Technology
                                                "The ban on TCA was
                                                a good thing. It forced
                                                us to examine our
                                                process and find a bet-
                                                ter alternative for work-
                                                ers and the environ-
                                                ment," says Bob
         Foam Craft Inc., located in Cerritos,
         California,  employs  160 people.  The
      firm started operation  in  1965 and was
      bought by Future Foam, a flexible slabstock
      foam manufacturer,  in 1994.  Foam Craft
      fabricates foam for use in packaging, furni-
      ture and bedding.  Products like  futons,
      recreation vehicles, trucks, tractors and dog
      beds use the foam fabricated by Foam Craft.

      Several years ago, like most of the industry,
      Foam   Craft  used  methylene chloride
      (METH)-based adhesives for bonding foam-
      to-foam  in their fabrication  operations.
      Because of air regulations put in place by the
      South  Coast Air  Quality Management
      District, Foam Craft converted their process-
      es  from METH  to  1,1,1-trichloroethane
      (TCA)-based adhesives.  Like other compa-
      nies in  Southern California, Foam Craft used
      TCA-based  adhesives until the cost  of the
chemical became prohibitive.  TCA con-
tributes to stratospheric ozone depletion and
production was banned in 1996. A Federal
tax placed on the chemical made it extreme-
ly expensive to use.

"We have completely converted to water at
this stage," says Bob  Nylander, Foam
Craft's plant manager. The company began
investigating water-based adhesive alterna-
tives about six years ago when it became
clear that TCA would be phased out. At that
time, the water-based products were new to
the market and Foam Craft went through a
long learning curve to optimize their use.
Foam Craft and the vendors, in a partner-
ship, were able to solve all the problems that
arose during a long testing phase.

Foam Craft emerged as one of the industry
pioneers for water-based foam bonding
6 GTSA: Foam Fabrication

adhesives.  The company spent two years of
intensive testing to determine the best meth-
ods of using the new adhesives.  They began
work with  a  one-part  adhesive  made by
Upaco.  Foam Craft found that the adhesive
did not dry as fast as the solvent-borne adhe-
sives so they  tested different application
techniques. Instead of spraying two pieces of
foam and putting them together for an instant
bond, the workers now spray a stack of foam
pieces and  then join them.  Worker applica-
tion time is virtually identical now to  what it
was before  the conversion.

Foam Craft had to work out several other
problems over  the two-year period.   They
had  difficulty developing an adhesive  feed
system for their eight stations that had a total
of 32 spray booths and  guns.   Going  to a
gravity  feed system eliminated shearing

They also found that at first they used about
1.6 times more of the water-based adhesive
than the solvent-borne adhesive. With expe-
rience, they were able to optimize the appli-
cation  process and  now  they use about
three-fourths  as much of the  water-based
adhesives.  This reduction in materials use
means  that the cost  of doing business for
Foam Craft was reduced by the switch to
water-based adhesives.

Foam Craft is now testing new water-based
products to see if they can reduce their costs
further.  The  company is also investigating
new cutting processes that could help elim-
inate some of the requirements for adhesive
use altogether.

"The ban on TCA was a good thing.  It
forced us to examine our process and find a
better alternative for workers and the envi-
ronment," says Bob Nylander.  "We've pro-
vided information to  the other Future Foam
plants in the country.  They are planning to
use our example to convert now that meth-
ylene chloride can't be used. We're investi-
gating  other  methods to reduce our costs
                                                                            GTSA: Foam Fabrication  7

    Prestige  Evaluates  Several  Glue
"I think we'll go with acetone
glues," says Joe Wingfield.
"Acetone is flammable, but it
has low toxicity and the
glues perform well."
       Prestige is one of the largest foam fabrica-
       tors in North Carolina.  The company
    also manufactures polyurethane  slabstock
    foam in Asheboro.  About 80 percent of the
    foam the company manufactures is used in
    the fabrication operation and  20 percent is
    sold to other firms.

    The foam pouring and fabrication operations
    were located in the same building until
    recently; the foam  fabrication now takes
    Prestige produces thousands of styles and sizes of
    cut foam, pillows, sleeper mattresses, and garnetted
place  in a  separate 200,000 square  foot
facility. Prestige does fabrication for a vari-
ety of furniture manufacturers. Adhesive is
used to bond the foam-to-foam in the fabri-
cation operation. The company also manu-
factures  sleeper mattresses for  sofa beds
but, in this case, has found that lifetime test-
ing results are better with sewing for those

Prestige has a very large  fabrication opera-
tion with 30 gluing stations.  The company
has  250 employees and about 40 of them
apply adhesive.  In 1991, the company used
a 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA)-based adhe-
sive. Prestige started evaluating alternative
technologies when it became clear that TCA
production would be banned because of the
chemical's contribution to ozone depletion.

The company converted to a one-part water-
based  adhesive  and  has  been using it for
several years. They also used a two-part
water-based adhesive for critical bonding
GTSA: Foam Fabrication

 In 1983 Prestige
 began manufac-
 turing its own
applications on furniture arms,  ears, seams
and other complex parts. "We never liked the
performance of the  water-based glue," says
Danny Sykes,  General Manager at Prestige.
"It took four to six weeks for the workers to
learn to spray the water-based glues and six
to eight weeks to get their speed up," he says.
The  company purchased  and installed  30
spray booths when they converted from TCA
to the water-based adhesives.

Recently, the  company  began using an n-
propyl bromide adhesive on the line where
they used the two-part water-based glue. The
                                                           The fabri-
                                                           cated foam
                                                           is cut,
                                                           and pre-
                                                           pared for
                             two-part adhesives are very costly to main-
                             tain.   "We like  the performance of the n-
                             propyl bromide glue but are concerned
                             about  possible regulation,"  says  Joe
                             Wingfield, President of Prestige.

                             The company has also evaluated the costs of
                             acetone-based adhesives and is  considering
                             using them.  "I think we'll go with acetone
                             glues," says Joe Wingfield.   "Acetone is
                             flammable but it has low toxicity and the
                             glues perform well.  The cost of using ace-
                             tone glues is also lower  than  the  cost of
                             using the n-propyl bromide products."
                    Annual Cost Comparison for Prestige

      Capital Cost
n-Propyl Bromide
     Adhesive Cost     $656,250

      Labor Cost      $720,000

   Maintenance Cost    $3,780

     Electricity Cost      $2,160

     Training Cost      $1,080

   Total Cost        $1,394,452




                                                                       GTSA: Foam Fabrication  9

       Santa  Fe  Springs
       Foam  Fabricator  Converts to Water-
       Based  Adhesives
              / At TE ft /V A T / O Af A L
"We did a lot of testing and
converted away from sol-
vent-based adhesives
entirely," Roger Coffey says.
"The water-based adhesives
work effectively and they
are better for the workers
and the community."
          Latex International, a large manufacturer
          of latex foam, has two manufacturing
      plants worldwide.  The company has a fabri-
      cation plant in Santa Fe Springs, California
      with 50 employees where  they fabricate
      foam used primarily in the bedding industry.

      In the  1980s, like other  companies in the
      country, Latex International used methylene
      chloride-based adhesives in their fabrication
      operation. More recently, as methylene chlo-
      ride was more heavily regulated by the local
      air district, the company converted to an ace-
      tone-based adhesive.  Latex International did
      not want to  continue to  use  solvent-borne
      adhesives and initiated work on water-based
      products. Today, the company is exclusively
      using water-based  adhesives.
The latex foam cores that are used in mat-
tresses  are   manufactured   in   Latex
International's plant in  Conneticut.   The
ingredients are poured into molds of vari-
ous types. Two twin molded cores are glued
together to form a king sized core.  The
plant in Santa Fe  Springs receives latex
foam cores from the Conneticut plant and
bonds two types of foam products.  In one
operation, latex is bonded to latex to form
the foam core of a high end mattress. The
latex foam takes the place of springs that are
commonly  used in lower  end mattresses.
The company also uses glue to attach alu-
minized "cigarette tape" to the edges  of the
mattress to prevent cigarette fires.  In the
second operation, Latex International uses
10  GTSA: Foam Fabrication

Latex is bonded to latex to form the foam core of a
high-end mattress.

adhesives to bond  "racetracks" which are
smaller  cores  of latex foam with an  outer
perimeter of polyurethane.  These cores are
used in less expensive bedding.

In the polyurethane foam-to-latex operation,
Latex International  uses  a one-part  latex
water-based adhesive which does not have an
immediate tack.  In the latex-to-latex opera-
tion, a different one-part water-based adhe-
sive which has a shorter tack time is  used.
The latex is less porous than polyurethane
           foam so a faster tack adhesive is required.

           Says Ron Bruneau, Plant Manager at Latex
           International  West, "our adhesive use  has
           been reduced by about 30 percent since we
           converted  from  acetone to  water-based
           adhesives."   The cost of using the water-
           based adhesives is roughly the same  as the
           cost of the acetone adhesives. "We are test-
           ing other water-based adhesives to see if we
           can lower our costs," says Ron Bruneau.

           Roger   Coffey,    President   of   Latex
           International West, is pleased with the con-
           version and continued work to find  lower
           cost adhesives.  "We're an environmentally
           conscious company. "We did a lot of testing
           and  converted away from  solvent-based
           adhesives entirely," he says.   "The water-
           based adhesives work effectively and they
           are better for the workers and the communi-
            Annual Cost Comparison for Latex International
        Capital Cos
       Adhesive Cost
                   Water-Based Adhesive

       Electricity Cost
       Training Cost
      Regulatory Cost
        Total Cost

                                                                           GTSA: Foam Fabrication 11

             Hickory  Springs Decides  on Acetone
                                                          "Acetone is low in toxicity
                                                          and it's as effective as
                                                          METH as a blowing agent
                                                          and in the glues," says
                                                          Bobby Bush. "We think it's
                                                          the best overall solution."
                 Hickory Springs is a major manufacturer
                 of flexible  slabstock  polyurethane
            foam. The company has six pouring plants in
            the  country,  including  Conover,  North
            Carolina  and  City  of  Commerce  in
            California.  The foam is used in diverse
            applications like packaging, bedding, furni-
            ture and recreational vehicles.

            In   addition   to   manufacturing   the
            polyurethane foam, Hickory Springs also has
            a number  of  fabrication operations.  The
            company has fabrication operations in all of
            their  foam pouring  plants;  in addition,
            Hickory Springs owns about 30 separate fab-
            ricating companies.  About half the foam the
            company produces is used in their own fabri-
            cation operations.  In all, the  company has
            about 2,000 employees who manufacture and
            fabricate foam.
Hickory Springs historically used methyl-
ene chloride (METH) as an auxiliary blow-
ing agent in their slabstock foam production
operations. Because of more stringent toxic
regulations on METH, the company began
investigating alternatives in the early 1990s.
In 1993, Hickory Springs patented  a new
blowing agent process that used acetone as
 The foam is used in diverse applications including
 packaging, bedding, furniture, and recreational
12  GTSA: Foam Fabrication

the auxiliary blowing  agent in foam manu-
facture in place of METH. A few years, later,
when acetone was deemed  exempt from
VOC regulations, the company converted all
of their pouring  plants from METH to ace-

Like other companies,  Hickory Springs used
TCA-based adhesives in the early 1990s.
When  the  production ban  on  TCA was
announced and the price of TCA increased,
the company  converted to  METH-based
adhesives for their fabrication operations.

In  1990,  the pouring  plant in  City  of
Commerce  used  TCA-based  adhesives.
From 1991 to 1998, the company decided not
to continue fabrication at that  site.  In 1998,
the company decided to  reenter the fabrica-
tion market.  At that stage, METH was heav-
ily regulated by the  local  air district  and
Hickory Springs investigated and adopted
water-based adhesives. "We tried for about a
year to make the water-based adhesives work
for us but we were unsuccessful," says Steve
Isenhour,  Plant  Manager at the  City  of
Commerce plant. "We're using acetone adhe-
sives now and we've had no problems," he

When the Occupational Safety  and Health
Administration  (OSHA)  regulated METH
more stringently, Hickory Springs decided to
convert away from  METH in their fabrica-
tion operations throughout the country.   In
the Conover plant, the  company converted to
water-based adhesives for a short time.  In
1998, the  company began testing  acetone-
based adhesives in their fabrication opera-
tion  at the pouring plant.   "The company
was  very  familiar with acetone because it
was used as a blowing agent in our pouring
plants," says Bobby Bush, Vice President of
the Foam  Products  Division  at Hickory
Springs.  "People are nervous about acetone
because of its combustibility,"  he remarks.
"Our insurance rates did not go up; we had
to install a ventilation system but we would
have had to do that with water or METH
adhesives too."

The  Conover plant has  16 stations where
adhesive is applied.  With the conversion to
acetone, the company installed ventilation
systems that collect from the floor at 11 of
the stations; at the remaining five stations, a
fan pulls the air outside.  At  the City of
Commerce plant, which has a much smaller
fabrication operation,  the company  has
always had one spray booth and no addi-
tional ventilation was necessary for the con-
version to acetone adhesives.

In the Conover plant, the company uses an
adhesive formulation that is a blend of ace-
tone and heptane.  In the City of Commerce
plant, the company uses a straight acetone-
based adhesive because  of the more strin-
gent local air district regulations on VOCs.
"Acetone is low in toxicity and it's as effec-
tive as METH as a blowing agent and in the
glues," says Bobby Bush. "We think it's the
best overall solution."

At the City of Commerce plant, the compa-
ny reduced their costs  in converting from
                                                                               GTSA: Foam Fabrication 13

             water-based to acetone adhesives. The com-
             pany's production efficiency is much greater
             with the acetone-based adhesive. The table
             below shows that the production adjusted
                 cost of using acetone adhesives is about 43
                 percent less than the cost of using the water-
                 based adhesives.
               Annual Cost Comparison for Hickory Springs, Conover Plant

               Adhesive Cost
                 Labor Cost
              Maintenance Cost
               Electricity Cost
                 Total Cost
  METH Adhesive


                    Annual Cost Comparison for Hickory Springs, City of
                                         Commerce Plant
Water-Based Adhesive
              Production-Adjusted Total Cost      $31,608
14  GTSA: Foam Fabrication

About the Design for the Environment (DfE) Program
The Design for the Environment (DfE) Program is a cooperative effort
between  the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA), industries,
research  institutions,  environmental/public interest groups, and other
government agencies. Working  with these partners, the DfE  program
identifies cost-effective alternatives to existing products and processes
that reduce risks to workers and the environment while maintaining or
improving performance and product quality. Through the DfE program,
EPA encourages businesses  to  incorporate environmental considera-
tions into their products, processes, and technical and management sys-
tems. To help industry implement some of the ideas and technologies
identified, the DfE program has published a number of case studies of
companies which have  found that environmental  improvements can
also lead to economic benefits.  The case studies encourage other ven-
dors, as well as other businesses, to learn from these environmental suc-
cesses and adapt the techniques  to their own processes.
                    For More Information
To obtain additional copies of this or other case studies, or for
more information contact:

         Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA)
                   2800 Olympic Blvd., Ste. 101
                       Santa Monica, CA  90404

                      Telephone: (310) 453-0450
                         Fax: (310)453-2660
               IRTA website:
                                                                         Check Out DfE's
                                                                         Adhesives Web Site:
                                                                         dfe/ad hesi ve/ad hesi ve. html

Check Out IRTA's Web
                                                                     GTSA: Foam Fabrication  15