We like to adopt a global approach when it comes to Material Monday. Recycled car tyres from Holland; vanishing spray from Argentina, via the pitches of France; repurposed agar from Japan; each instalment shines a light on high-quality material innovation from the four corners of the world. This week, we’ve decided to keep things a little simpler – but no less effective – by selecting an instantly recognisable material, produced here in the UK, which makes clever use of one of the most earth’s most abundant substances.
Expanded polystyrene, also known as EPS, is a mouldable, lightweight – and extremely versatile – foam formed of 98 per cent air. Produced from a mixture of 90 to 95 per cent traditional polystyrene and 5 to 10 per cent gaseous blowing agent, such as pentane, it comes to life when the solid plastic is expanded using steam.
From packaging to decoration, portable furniture to large-scale construction, EPS provides high levels of support and impact resistance, as well as excellent thermal and acoustic insulation. And while it is most commonly used in a protective capacity for electronic and white goods, its uses have been extended to include small disposable cups and decorative elements, among others.
This is largely thanks to the myriad production methods for EPS foam, which can be milled and cut to size or purchased as loose fill for standards applications, and injection moulded or extruded to create customized forms. Highly colorable and easily printable, EPS can be produced in many shades for aesthetic purposes or to correspond with brand guidelines. The expansion process creates a pixelated, mottled surface that adds interest and texture, as well as an optical illusion of three-dimensionality that hides any imperfections.
Above all, EPS Foam is perfect for short- to medium-term applications that require an element of playfulness. Recyclable using code 6, its adaptability and versatility make it the ideal solution in projects requiring custom shapes and insulation.