The Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) recently resumed hosting a live meeting for its members in St. Petersburg, FL, celebrating its 40th Anniversary and a strong rebound in orders for foam products.
PFA’s two-day meeting in late May was a “hybrid,” featuring live attendance at the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel and digital streaming of its sessions to members who could not attend in person. Overall attendance was near pre-pandemic levels.
Attendees included foam manufacturers, chemical suppliers, equipment makers, and other companies supporting the industry. Discussions covered pandemic recovery, regulatory proposals, end-user markets, and technical innovations. Particular attention was focused on trends in the automotive markets and in challenges related to raw material supplies.
PFA also took the occasion to mark its 40th Anniversary, a celebration postponed from last year because of COVID-19. PFA created a video history of the association, which can be viewed at www.pfa.org/40th-anniversary.
“Our members were very happy to be back to an in-person meeting, with the ability to network and renew old friendships,” noted Chip Holton of NCFI Polyurethanes, PFA’s President. “I think everyone senses the excitement of getting back to business practices that we sometimes took for granted.”
A series of technical papers were pre-recorded and included in the meeting, with an afternoon session dedicated to their discussion. “It was very encouraging to see the quality of this Spring’s technical offering,” noted Bill Gollnitz of Plastomer, who moderated the Technical Session remotely. Topics included novel silicone surfactants, Dow Chemical’s RENUVA™ foam recycling technology, polyether polyol additives, and solid additives to increase the efficiency of flame retardant systems.
Vasilios Dounis of Repi was recognized with the Herman Stone Technical Excellence Award, as voted on by meeting attendees. His presentation was entitled “Non-FR Synergistic Additive can Reduce FR Loading and Improve FPF Physical Performance.” Finishing a very close second in voting was Melissa Kern of Momentive, who presented “Novel Silicone Surfactant With Improved Foam Properties For Conventional Foam.”
“During the pandemic, PFA worked hard to make sure its members were provided with information and tools needed to support their businesses, but it is refreshing to be able to get together once again with our friends and colleagues,” said Russ Batson, Polyurethane Foam Association Executive Director. “As we emerge from this unprecedented separation, we already see PFA members working closely together again in strong support of the flexible polyurethane foam industry.”
When asked for words of wisdom for the furniture industry about the foam shortage and its resolution, Russ responded, “That is the $64,000 question. And with inflation running high, maybe it’s now the $92,000 question.
“It’s something we discussed thoroughly at PFA’s recent meeting. Opinions vary, but estimates suggest that in three to six months, things will begin to be more normal.
“However, we also have to consider the paradox that improvements in some sectors could hurt elsewhere. For example, as challenging as the supply chain is for mattress and furniture producers, they’re not seeing materials being diverted to the auto industry, because carmakers have other shortages, like microprocessors, making a bigger impact. If the auto supply chain rights itself, demand for foam, fabrics and other materials could get tighter.”
Batson also recognized a new PFA member in attendance, Charter Next Generation of Milton, WI, a manufacturer of high performance films. Two other first-time attendees, Concentrol and Hexion, made technical presentations.
About The Polyurethane Foam Association: The Polyurethane Foam Association is a trade association founded in 1980 to help educate foam users, allied industries and other stakeholders. PFA provides facts on environmental, health and safety issues and technical information on the performance of FPF in consumer and industrial products. FPF is used as a key comfort component in most upholstered furniture and mattress products, along with automotive seating, carpet cushion, packaging, and numerous other applications. For more information, visit www.pfa.org.
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