Memory Foam

25August 2022 /
Articles

Popular for giving us a restful night’s sleep and making chairs the best for relaxation and support, memory foam is, without doubt, a great product. Whilst many of us know it for making super-comfy mattresses did you know memory foam was originally invented for aircraft seating? In this article, we look at how a request to an aeronautical engineer by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in the 1960s turned into an invention that would provide the world with a multi-use foam that took comfort to a new level.

memory foam - space technology

An invention that began a whole new industry

According to NASA, there have been a multitude of spin-off technologies from their space research programmes with many that you will be familiar with including scratch-resistant sunglasses, the global positioning system (GPS), cordless vacuums and, of course, memory foam.

In the 1960s, NASA contracted a company in Arden, North Carolina, to improve crash safety for aircraft seating and as a result, high-energy dissipation cushions were invented. One of the cushions’ co-developers, Charles A Yost, an aeronautical engineer, decided to continue the development of the product, setting up a new company called Dynamic Systems Inc. The result of Yost’s continued research was a new foam, originally called slow spring-back foam that Yost went on to call Temper Foam. Once the contract with NASA came to an end, Yost began to look at other applications for his new foam, and he saw the potential for improvements in existing medical applications, such as wheelchair seating and prosthetics. The formula was further developed and Yost’s company, Dynamic Systems is still producing high-tech cushion products. Other companies came forward with new ideas for applications for Temper foam, so Yost sold the formula. Temper foam became well-known throughout the world and is now better known as memory foam.

Memory Foam – the science bit

We’ll keep this short! Memory foam is a type of polyurethane foam that has chemicals added to it to make it denser than a general foam. Gas is pumped through to give the foam a cellular structure (giving it multitudes of tiny hollow spaces – cells). This gives it high viscosity (thickness that can also move). It, therefore, becomes viscoelastic, and it is the viscoelasticity that makes memory foam dense enough to support weight, yet elastic enough to change shape when there’s weight and heat applied to it. It is the viscoelasticity that allows the memory foam to return to its original shape once the weight has lifted.

Uses for memory foam

Memory foam has almost limitless uses. Its applications are geared towards comfort and support. When Charles A Yost researched new uses for his new foam, he looked first at medical applications. He discovered that his ‘Temper’ foam evenly distributed body weight and pressure reducing stress on pressure points. He found that the foam prevented friction between skin and prosthetics and was especially good for mattresses and wheelchair cushions. It is over fifty years since its invention, new formulas of memory foam have been developed and so too have a wide range of applications.   Here are just a few places you might find memory foam.

  • Mattresses – the ideal product. A memory foam mattress moulds itself to your body shape using weight and heat. It reduces pressure on the spine and the body’s other pressure points.
  • Pillows – superb support for your neck and head, cushions pressure points. Said to reduce snoring.
  • Seating – moulds to your body shape and springs back when not in use. Less stress on the back, hips, and spine. Memory foam is also excellent for home office chairs.
  • Car seat pads – particularly of benefit to people who drive for long periods by distributing weight
  • Cycle seats – added comfort, great for longer distances
  • Wheelchair seats and cushions – Memory foam provides great support and reduces the risk of pressure point sores
  • Footwear – found in sports shoes to give a cushioned feel and pressure relief
  • Safety equipment – Kneepads, kneelers, insoles for safety footwear and seating all benefit from memory foam
  • Headphones – a new application as more people listen to music this way. The headphones fit snugly
  • Bathmats – Whilst a luxury, memory foam bathmats are durable and comfortable
  • Bag straps – Found in handbags and backpacks memory foam straps protect shoulders and disperses weight.

Memory foam at F.C. Hancox

vasco 50 memory foam

The type of memory foam we supply at F.C. Hancox is Vasco 50. This is a great quality, durable foam with many uses. As with all our foams, we will cut the foam to the size and shape you need. We have five sheet thicknesses available 1”, 2”, 3”, 4” and 5”. Another option, particularly popular for mattresses, is a combination of foams. This is where we laminate (stick together) two different foams. For example, we might supply a reflex foam – another great mattress foam, topped with Vasco 50 memory foam. The options are endless, and our staff have years of experience in helping our customers choose the perfect foam for their needs.

Memory foam was a space-age invention that is now used in a multitude of applications. It’s amazing to know that whilst it was originally conceived as a safety product in aircraft memory foam has become a product of superior comfort available to all.

Buy Memory Foam

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