Cleaner  Technologies  Substitutes
       Assessment  Case   Studies:
            Upholstered  Furniture
EPA 744-R-88-008
                                                          June 2000
  Bulletin Contents
  Description of
  upholstered furniture
  Case study on La-Z-
  Boy West's furniture
  manufacturing plant in
  Redlands, CA
  Case study on Sit-On-lt
  in Brea, CA
  Case study on
  American Seating in
  Grand Rapids, Ml
  Case study on Country
  Roads in Greenville, Ml
Alternatives to Chlorinated
Solvent Adhesives in the
Upholstered Furniture
Manufacturing Industry
   The Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA), a non-
   profit 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® (AWFSS).

Industry Description
Flexible slabstock polyurethane foam is produced by 23 companies in
about 75 pouring plants in the United States. In 1997, approximately
830 million pounds of slabstock foam were produced. By 1998, slab-
stock foam production doubled to about 1.6 billion pounds.
                                                    CTSA: Upholstered Furniture 1

About 10 percent of furniture
manufacturers use adhesives to
bond foam to fabric or wood.
        Flexible  slabstock foam  is fabricated (cut  and shaped) into
        pieces to be used in carpet underlay, furniture, bedding, packag-
        ing, transportation 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.  These  flexible foam manufacturers  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 various products.  There are approximately 350
        foam fabrication plants in the United States.  All foam fabrica-
tors perform fabrication services for other companies that manufacture
bedding, upholstered furniture and other products.
About IRTA
IRTA is a nonprofit
established in 1989 to
assist companies in
adopting low- and
technologies. IRTA
provides technical
assistance in general
and precision
cleaning, drycleaning,
paint stripping and
coating, adhesive and
ink operations.
Types  of Upholstered Furniture Manufacturing
Upholstered furniture manufacturers purchase foam from foam manufac-
turers or foam fabricators and they use the foam to manufacture their fur-
niture. Some upholstered furniture manufacturers make home furniture,
some make office furniture and some make both types of furniture. Other
manufacturers make stadium seating or transportation seating for use in
conveyances like buses; some of these companies also manufacture office

There are more than 2,600 upholstered home furniture manufacturers in
the United  States.  Approximately 60 percent of these firms have fewer
than 10 employees.  Although all upholstered home furniture manufac-
turers use foam for their seat backs, arms, cushions and pillows, only
about 10  percent of them use adhesives in their operations.  They use the
adhesive  to bond foam to fabric and wood.

There are about 950 companies that manufacture wood and non-wood
office furniture in  the country. Approximately 90 percent, or about 850
of these companies manufacture seating.  Perhaps 90 percent or 765 of
them use adhesives in their process.  They use adhesives to bond foam to
fabric, wood, metal and plastic and to bond fabric  to wood, metal and
plastic.   The vast majority  of these companies have fewer than 25
2  GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

The vast majority of home and office furniture manufacturers are small businesses.

There are about 14 stadium seating manufacturers in the United States.
Thirteen  of these manufacturers have fewer than 25 employees. There
are 26 manufacturers in the United States that make seating for buses and
other public conveyances.  Some of these manufacturers also make sta-
dium seating. About three-quarters of these companies have fewer than
25 employees. Stadium and transportation seating requires adhesives to
bond foam to fabric, wood, metal and plastic.

Adhesive Alternatives
In the 1980s and early 1990s, most of the adhesive used by upholstered
furniture  manufacturers  was based on  1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), a
chlorinated solvent.  TCA was an effective carrier for the  adhesive
because it evaporates rapidly 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 chlori-
nated solvent.  Like TCA, METH evaporates quickly, does  not have a
flash point and is not classified as a VOC. However, METH is a suspect
ed  carcinogen.    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
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
 Office chair, stadium, and
 transportation seating requires
 adhesives to bond foam to
 fabric, wood, metal, and
                                                                               GTSA: Upholstered Furniture  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
Water-based, acetone-based, and
hot melt adhesives have been
used as alternatives in upholstered
furniture manufacturing.
ppm.  Companies with worker exposure above that level are required to
institute monitoring and medical surveillance.

In the early 1990s, the formulators developed one-part and two-part
water-based adhesives  and some upholstered furniture  manufacturers,
particularly in  Southern California,  adopted  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-borne adhesives. The two-part adhesives
were difficult to use  in equipment but  did bond instantly.  They were
much more expensive  than the one-part adhesives, however.  At this
stage, new one-part water-based adhesives  composed of natural latex
and a small amount of synthetic polymers are available. These adhesives
bond much more rapidly than the older one-part adhesives that are based
exclusively on latex.   Many California  upholstered furniture manufac-
turers have converted or are converting to these new one-part latex/syn-
thetic water-based adhesives.  Some companies are still using the two-
part water-based adhesives.

Another alternative in this industry is hot melt adhesives which are 100
percent solids.  They are  applied with special spray guns that heat the
resins in the hot melt adhesives to 300 degrees F or higher so they can
flow.  Many upholstered  furniture manufacturers, including those with
automated lines, have adopted hot melt adhesives.

Another alternative is an  adhesive based on acetone, a non-chlorinated
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.  These codes vary according to loca-
       tion and local fire departments  have regulations that affect the
       amount of the adhesive that can be stored and require explosion-
       proof motors  and high air flow  ventilation  systems. Some for-
       mulations based on acetone also contain other  chemicals like
       heptane, hexane and mineral spirits.  The other chemicals in
       these formulations are classified as VOCs.
 4 GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

The best choice of adhesive differs by the type of product.  The major
alternative to METH- and TCA-based adhesives in the upholstered office
furniture sector is hot melt adhesives.  The major alternative in the uphol-
stered home furniture sector is either one-part or two-part water-based
adhesives. In the transportation seating sector, both hot melt and water-
based adhesives are good alternatives. In some niche applications, man-
ufacturers use acetone-based adhesives.

Manufacturers that use any of the adhesive types except hot melt adhe-
sives generally need to install  a ventilation system. Upholstered furni-
ture manufacturers 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. Manufacturers that wish to
use acetone-based adhesives must also install  ventilation systems to
ensure the acetone concentration is below the lower explosion limit of
the chemical. Manufacturers adopting water-based adhesives generally
install a ventilation system; the water-based systems produce aerosol par-
ticulates that can be removed  from the  workplace with the ventilation
                                                      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
                             Characteristics of Alternatives
Classified      Toxicity      Ozone      Flash Point
 as VOC                  Depleter
  Methylene Chloride
                High          No


             Some high       No
Heavily regulated

  ire regulations

 Fire regulations
 Forms aerosols
   Acetone Blends
                                                                              GTSA: Upholstered Furniture  5

     La-Z-Boy West a  Pioneer  in  Water-
     Based Adhesives
"The new water-based
process is better from
an environmental and
worker exposure
standpoint. The most
important thing is that
the process is
technically effective."
        La-Z-Boy West,  part of the La-Z-Boy
        chain with 14 U.S. plants, established
     operations in Redlands, California in 1966.
     Today the Redlands facility has about 400
     employees in a 190,000 square foot building
     that manufactures 800 pieces of furniture
     each day. In addition to the recliner chairs
     for which La-Z-Boy is famous, the firm also
     manufactures sofas, tables and office furni-
     ture. The Redlands plant manufactures 53
     different styles in 30 different variants. A
     few years ago, the plant began making con-
     tract office furniture, a part of the business
     that is expected to grow substantially.

     La-Z-Boy brings in the fabric, wood, metal
     and foam used to assemble the furniture. The
     Redlands operation includes three paint
     booths where a stain and one or two topcoats
     are applied. They also have three adhesives
     spray booths where  adhesive is applied to
bond foam to foam and fabric.  The prima-
ry fabric used  is muslin but some dacron
and duon is employed as well. The foam is
used to make chair seats, backs, arms and

In 1988, La-Z-Boy decided they wanted to
convert from the solvent-borne coatings and
adhesives they used at the time to water-
based systems.   They elicited the  coopera-
tion of their suppliers and also approached
other suppliers. They spent the next three
years testing  water-based  coatings and

In January,  1992, the experimental work
was completed  and La-Z-Boy converted, in
one shot, to a full water-based coating sys-
tem  and a one-part  and two-part water-
based adhesive system. More recently, La-
Z-Boy has reassessed their adhesive system
6 GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

                                                            La-Z-Boy West manufactures 53
                                                            different styles of furniture in 30
                                                            different variants.
and has now converted away from the two-
part adhesive. All of the adhesives used in
the plant today  are  water-based one-parts.
According to Ted Meinke, Plant Supervisor,
"We worked very hard on the conversions
much earlier than other companies.   We're
pleased that we eliminated solvents from our

In terms of the  new adhesive  system,  Ted
Meinke does not believe the company lost
anything in the conversion.  "Although there
were  problems  with the  two-part system,
now  that  we're in the  one-part system
throughout,  we've  really  minimized  our

At first, the workers did not like the water-
based adhesives. They were used to solvents
which have a very short tack time. Workers
are paid by piecework and they did not want
to wait between  spray operations because it
would reduce their pay.   The employee
charged  with optimizing  the  conversion
quickly figured it out.  She could spray up
two stacks of foam and by the time she was
finished, she could begin bonding the first
stack. On balance, the throughput remained
about the same even though the tack time of
the water-based adhesives is longer. At this
stage, all  three  of the  adhesive sprayers,
Mary, Rosalina and Sylvia, much prefer the
water-based  adhesives  because  of their
reduced exposure to solvents.

The early  efforts of the La-Z-Boy Redlands
plant helped the company convert to water-
based systems in their other plants nation-
wide. "The new water-based process is  bet-
La-Z-Boy recliners like this one are bonded using
water-based adhesives.
                                                                        CTSfi: Upholstered Furniture  7

    The early efforts of the La-Z-Boy Redlands plant
    helped the company convert to water-based systems
    in their other plants nationwide.

    ter from an environmental and worker expo-
    sure standpoint.  The most important thing
           is that the process is technically effective,"
           says Ted Meinke.

           The cost comparison for La-Z-Boy for the
           TCA-based adhesives and the water-based
           one-part adhesives is shown below.  The
           figures  account for the fact that La-Z-
           Boy's production has increased since 1992
           when the plant converted away  from the
           TCA-based adhesives.  The values show
           that use of the water-based adhesives is 35
           percent less costly than use of the TCA-
           based adhesive.

           Says  Tony   Freitas,   a  Production
           Supervisor involved heavily in the conver-
           sion, "I wouldn't want to  convert back to
           the solvent-based glue  even if we could.
           The water-based system we have today is
                       Annual Cost Comparison for La-Z-Boy
                                TCA-based Adhesive
                    Water-based Adhesive
          Capital cost

         Adhesive cost

          Labor cost

        Maintenance cost

         Electrical cost

         Training cost

        Regulatory cost

       Production adjustment

          Total cost






GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

Office  Chair  Manufacturer  Starts
Up  with   Hot  Melt  Glues
                           T  I •  t
 "Hot melt adhesives were
 the right choice for us.
 We've been able to expand
 and do the right thing for
 the workers and the
      Mike Mekjian started a new business in
      February 1996. The company, called
Sit-On-It,  manufactures office chairs and is
located in  Brea, California.   Between
100,000 and 200,000 chairs are manufac-
tured each year and the company is one of the
top  25 office  chair  manufacturers  in the
country.   Today,  Sit-On-It  has a 31,000
square foot facility with 60 employees.

"I worked at another larger office furniture
Established in 1996, Sit-On-It has grown to 60
employees at its Brea, California plant.
manufacturer for several years," says Mike
Mekjian. While he was there he analyzed a
variety  of different gluing processes  that
used 1,1,1-trichloroethane, methylene chlo-
ride, water-based and hot melt adhesives.
"When I started up Sit-On-It, I wanted  it to
be completely clean from the beginning so I
decided to go with hot melt adhesives," says
Mike Mekjian. "I didn't want environmen-
tal problems down the line."

In the office chair production process, Sit-
On-It bonds  foam  to  wood  and  fabric.
Particularly for bonding foam to wood, an
aggressive adhesive is needed.  In bonding
the foam to fabric, the adhesive must have a
two to  three  minute "open time."  This
allows a period for the workers to adjust the
foam and fabric properly. This is especially
important when the fabric has patterns  or a
geometric design. Another requirement for
the  adhesive  is that it have a high heat
                            GTSA: Upholstered Furniture 9

               release rate.  This is to ensure that high tem-
               peratures would not reactivate the adhesive.
               The company has changed glues three times
               to get the hot melt with the best properties
               for their application.

               Originally the company applied all the adhe-
               sive in a batch operation.  Last year Sit-On-
               It purchased a conveyorized system. At this
               stage, about 30 percent of the bonding is
               done on a manual line and 70 percent on an
               automated line. All  of the foam to  wood
               bonding  is  done on the  conveyor line.
               Pressure  is applied and the glue  dries
               instantly. Then the conveyor applies glue to
               the foam and to the  fabric.  Four workers
            Sit-On-lt uses an
            automated hot melt
            line in its office
            chair production
     Annual Cost of Hot Melt
     Adhesives for Sit-On-lt
 Capital cost

 Adhesive cost

 Labor cost

 Maintenance cost

 Electrical cost

 Gas cost






staff the three upholstery assembly stations
where the foam and fabric are adjusted prop-

"We grew 600 percent in 1997 and 300 per-
cent in  1998," says Mike Mekjian.  "The
investment in the conveyor line was worth-
while.  It's very  efficient.  Hot melt adhe-
sives were the right choice for us.  We've
been able  to expand and do the right thing
for the workers  and the  environment,"  he
10 GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

Bus  Seating  Manufacturer
Searches  for Alternative Adhesive
                                       "If we could use a water-
                                       based glue, it would be
                                       better for the workers, the
                                       community, and the
    American Seating manufactures  trans-
    portation, office and auditorium seating
at their production plant in Grand Rapids,
Michigan. The company has 700 employees
today and has operated at the same location
since 1888. American Seating has a 95 per-
cent market share in the manufacture of seats
for tour and inner city buses; about 200
employees work in the transportation seating
division. They also manufacture auditorium
and sports seating, seats for colleges and
major league teams. The company produc-
tion amounts to between 500 and 1,000 seats
per day.

American    seating   uses   slabstock
polyurethane and molded foam in their bus
seating. Their operations involve bonding
foam to metal, foam to vinyl, foam to fabric,
vinyl to metal and vinyl to fabric. The prod-
                                     uct used by the company currently is a sol-
                                     vent-borne adhesive containing acetone and
                                     various other organic solvents. Two or three
                                     people apply adhesive during the two 12-
                                     hour shifts the company operates.

                                     American Seating has been testing alterna-
                                      American Seating Company provides seating for
                                      stadiums and auditoriums like the Fulton County
                                      Governmental Building—Assembly Hall in Atlanta.
                                                              GTSA: Upholstered Furniture 11

                Operations at American Seating involve bonding
                foam to metal, vinyl, and fabric, as well as bonding
                vinyl to metal and fabric.
              tives to their solvent-based  adhesives  for
              years. They would like to identify a suitable
              water-based alternative.   The water-based
              products they have tested give good results in
              bonding foam to metal and foam to vinyl but
              not for vinyl to metal.  The "green strength"
              or bond strength  of the water-based adhe-
              sives they have tested so far do not meet the
              company's standards. The company has also
              tried hot melt adhesives that did not bond
              well to the metal.

              "We would convert to a water-based adhesive
              tomorrow if we could find one that met our
              requirements,"  says Warren Zimmerman,
              Manager  of the  Production  Operations
              Group. "We're not happy with a solvent glue.
              If we could use a water-based glue, it would
              be better for the workers, the community and
              the environment," he says.
Transportation seating provides challenges for
adhesive alternatives.
      Annual Cost of Solvent
 Adhesives for American Seating
12 GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

Public Seating  Company  Converts
Away  From  Solvent  Adhesive
                                        "The hot melt glues look
                                        very good for most of our
                                        production...We're going to
                                        make a full conversion away
                                        from methylene chloride."
    Country Roads is located in Greenville,
    Michigan. During the winter, the com-
pany has 80 employees that work one shift.
During the summer, Country Roads hires 40
additional workers and the company operates
two shifts.

Country Roads manufactures and remanufac-
tures public seating for arenas, auditoriums
and theaters.   During  the refurbishing
process, the seats are pulled apart. All of the
metal and most of the wood they contain is
reused in the process. New foam and fabric
are used on the refurbished  seats which are
put back in use.  The company remanufac-
tures about 200,000 chairs a year.

As part of the refurbishing process, the com-
pany used a methylene chloride-based glue to
bond foam to wood, foam to steel, foam to
fabric,  steel to fabric and foam to vinyl.
Three workers apply the adhesive in two
spray booths. The company started aggres-
sively investigating alternatives in the last
year. After a significant amount of testing,
the company found that hot melt glues best
satisfied their requirements for about  90
percent of their production. The company is
in  the process  of converting from the
METH-based adhesives to the hot melt

"The hot melt glues look very good for most
of our production," says Dave MacMillen,
Plant Superintendent at Country Roads.
"We still need a good adhesive for bonding
plastic to metal," he says.  "We plan to test
                                                            GTSA: Upholstered Furniture 13

             an acetone glue for those applications. We're

             going to make a full conversion away from

             methylene chloride."
Annual Cost of Methylene
  Chloride Adhesives for
      Country Roads
                                                           Adhesive cost
                                                           Labor cost
                                                           Maintenance cost
                                                           Electrical cost
                                                           Total cost
14  GTSA: Upholstered Furniture

 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 considerations
 into their products, processes, and technical and management systems.
 To help industry implement some of the ideas and technologies identi-
 fied, the DfE program has published a number of case studies of compa-
 nies which have found that environmental improvements can also lead to
 economic benefits. The case studies encourage other vendors, as well as
 other businesses, to learn from these environmental successes 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 Moncia, CA  90404

                      Telephone: (310)453-0450
                         Fax: (310)453-2660
               IRTA website:
                                                                         Check Out DfE's
                                                                         Adhesives Web Site:
Check Out IRTA's Web
                                                                        GTSA: Upholstered Furniture 15