Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017 - 10

COLUMN BY | CHRIS MONTOUCHET

B UY AMERICAN

S U P P LY C H A I N

One mistake comes from the belief
that generic tools for CNC routers are
capable of cutting all types of foam,
regardless of density. Such approaches can be and have been costly much
to the chagrin of the shipper and customer because the foam inside was
improperly cut and failed to protect
the merchandise.
All foams are not the same; neither are the tools and knives that cut
them. For that reason, shippers need
to understand both tooling and router design to assure product safety and
customer satisfaction.

Foam Differentiation

Shipping Standards
choosing the right router and
tools for foam packaging

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Foam packaging is a shipping necessity that should never be
taken for granted. In that respect, manufacturers and subcontractors have always understood the importance of shock-proof
foam packaging for protecting the high-value or technical
product inside. Yet, issues with foam, if not fully addressed
during the packaging process, are likely to negatively impact
the quality of the product by the time of its arrival.
10

manufacturing-today.com NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

The most common types of foam used
in packaging - polyurethane and polyethylene (PE) - are diametrically opposite in density and weight. In most
cases a rotary tool such as a router will
be insufficient for cutting both. Unfortunately, some manufacturers and
suppliers have tried the "one tool cuts
all" approach. It doesn't work.
If the foam is hard and high density,
as is the case with some polyurethane
foams, a router cutter will do the job.
PE is another matter. It is a light and
rather cushy type of foam. Routing
cutters will tear into it, but not cut it
satisfactorily. Why is that a problem?
Because foam that provides a close
fit through proper cutting is the only
way to ensure the integrity of the
shipment. PE and other light foams
require a specific tool. Often, it is a
knife blade that cuts accurately and
effectively with an oscillating motion
programmed on the CNC.
Router cutters do not have enough
of an edge to cut the PE cleanly. The
process is completely counterproductive, much like using a hacksaw to
cut a sponge - an analogy that is not
an overstatement. Cutting light foam
with a router bit will generally yield


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017

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Manufacturing Today - November/December 2017 - 1
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