Bubbling with Ideas and Innovation

Federal Foam Technologies

Success in business today means knowing your markets, and being adaptable, flexible, and ingenious – all the attributes that have fueled the growth of Federal Foam Technologies, Inc.

Founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 1914 as the Federal Paper Stock Company, Federal International, parent company to Federal Foam Technologies Inc., entered the polyurethane market in 1957, establishing Federal By-Products of Holland in 1964. In 1973, Federal bought Belgium-based urethane scrap recycler Agglorex, while also forming and starting General Foam of Minnesota that same year in St. Paul, Minnesota.

These strategic moves and other acquisitions and purchases such as Denmark-based Polytex in 1980, Airtex Industries, Inc. in 1983 – which later became Federal Foam – and the assets of Advanced Components Technologies, Inc. (ACT) in 2015, all helped increase the company’s market presence.

Now headquartered in the City of New Richmond, Wisconsin, Federal Foam Technologies (FFT) keeps growing, having made its most recent acquisition in 2017. The company has four locations including Ellsworth WI, Cokato MN, and Northwood IA.

FFT’s complement of 375 full-time staff in the United States and internationally includes plant personnel, office and support staff, sales and marketing, research & development and design engineers, manufacturing engineers, quality control, and maintenance workers.

At home and abroad
Federal Foam and affiliates have a total of approximately 1.1 million square feet of manufacturing space. They have innovative engineering, and research and development services, and are compliant with ISO certifications ISO 9001:2015. FFT is thus comprehensively equipped to work with agricultural and construction OEM customers, sport utility, industrial, recreational, marine, medical, packaging, fenestration (windows and doors), craft, and footwear in the U.S. and wherever else clients may operate.

“We have a sister facility in Europe, so we are able to strategize and utilize our product line for customers that want a global unit, or global platform, to be consistent across all locations,” says Todd Kidder, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing.

Investing in its people and technology, Federal Foam’s wide-ranging capabilities include everything from acoustical testing to CNC contour cutting, forming and molding, sewing, laminating, water-jet cutting, direct to retail, die-cutting, assemblies and many other valuable services.

Having been with the company for 29 years, Kidder has been witness to much of the company’s growth over the decades, most recently in the medical and consumer goods markets. Kidder says the business is also seeing growth in the customer base for its ‘form and trim’ capabilities, which occasioned capital expenditure on upgrades and new equipment.

Innovative products
In a long line of self-developed products – including SONUS®FLEX, and SONUS®FOAM, a unique sound-absorbing polyurethane foam; SONUS®TEX, and SONUS®SORB, a type of sound-absorbing laminate – the company’s latest development is FORMAlite™.

Billed by FFT as “a new foamed plastic that will reinvent rotomolded parts, injection molded parts, vacuum formed parts and blow molded parts,” FORMAlite™ is unlike any other product on the market.

This olefin foamed plastic has a uniform cell structure, is non-toxic, rigid in nature (self-supporting), durable, resistant to moisture, Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) approved and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive) approved and is 100 percent recyclable.

All this, and FORMAlite™ is considerably lighter than other plastic substrates, too.

As it is suited to many innovative uses in the automotive, off-road, truck and bus, recreational vehicle, medical, dunnage (material used during transportation to secure and cushion cargo), and power and motor sport markets, Kidder believes one of FORMAlite’s unique applications will be in HVAC, specifically as ducting.

“The foam material itself is unique in North America, and it provides properties that aren’t readily available in the standard materials that are used in the creation of air system ducts and the processes used to make those,” says Kidder of FFT’s exciting new product, a formed plastic marketed as an air-management product line for air ducts. According to FFT documentation on FORMAlite™, the product is cost competitive, and “can allow for unique and flexible geometry not obtainable in traditional ducted processing methods.”

With a range of other applications including trays, coverings, totes and partitions and general-purpose thermoforming, FORMAlite™ offers outstanding thermal conductivity properties and is available in different densities and thicknesses.

Reassuringly, FORMAlite™ has been tested for flammability, and is FMVSS302 compliant, an important consideration for industrial products.

Foam Expo
Developed and produced entirely in-house over about a year, FORMAlite™ will be released and shown at the upcoming Foam Expo North America.

Held in Novi, Michigan from March 24 to 26, the free-entry event “is the world’s largest dedicated exhibition and conference for the manufacturers and buyers of technical foam products and technologies, as well as the entire foam supply chain,” says the Expo’s website at www.foam-expo.com.

With FFT company representatives attending the event every year, and exhibiting every other year, Kidder says the Foam Expo – with over 500 exhibitors present this year – is a great place to make new industry contacts and develop relationships with suppliers attending the show. “It’s an opportunity for networking, and being able to expose ourselves to a customer base that typically seems to be localized in the upper Midwest area,” he says of the event.

Held in Michigan, a state known for its auto-manufacturing base, the 2020 show will be joined by the Adhesives and Bonding Expo and feature booths from well-known companies including 3M, BASF Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, and many others.

Additionally, speakers from corporations including the Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical will speak on subjects related to automotive, technological, and chemical interests.

Featuring panels, presentations, roundtables and more, topics packed with invaluable insiders’ information include ‘Staying Ahead of Global Regulatory Updates for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to Meet Changing Industry Standards,’ and ‘The Great Debate: Fulfilling Automotive Requirements Polyurethane vs. Expanded Polypropylene.’

A green shift
Experiencing a ‘green’ push from within both the company and its customer base, FFT is active in many environmental initiatives.

These include the use of moldable materials created from post-consumer water and pop bottles; reducing waste; reducing production noise; changing the company’s supply-chain packaging; and reducing emissions, or improving air quality, on any equipment exhausting into the atmosphere.

And with the creation of a solar panel farm within the industrial park by the community, FFT assisted the purchase of solar panels for the farm to aid in energy generation.

Federal Foam was the tenth company to join the State of Wisconsin’s DNR Green Tier program, which saw companies undertake to surpass environmental regulations. Dedicated to improving the environment, the company’s efforts to reduce waste, preserve resources, and increase recycling goes back many years to 2004 and 2006, when Federal received the Wisconsin Business ‘Friend of the Environment for Pollution Prevention’ award both years.

Continuing to receive recognition from both old and new customers in markets including bedding, healthcare, insulation, seating, safety padding, agricultural, marine, military and others, Federal Foam Technologies upholds its environmental commitment to all customers.

As the company expands, organically and through acquisitions, in its measured way, its spirit of innovation will see FFT continue to develop and introduce valuable new products and new materials not yet conceived of in the market today.

Automating Efficiency and Wellbeing

A safe workplace is one where employees can work without risk to their physical or psychological health and wellbeing. A positive safety culture in the manufacturing sector is one where training, personal protective equipment (PPE), machine guarding, and other best practices are regulated and enforced to ensure safety is foremost.

Past Issues

June 4, 2020, 9:06 PM EDT