What Is Shore Hardness & Why Does It Matter?

Posted on: May 29th, 2024 by mandig

What is Shore Hardness & Why Does It Matter?

Shore hardness is a property that determines how hard a material is, or rather, its resistance to indentation when force is applied. When talked about in the polymer manufacturing industry, you’ll often hear people say, “what durometer are you using?” Durometer is the tool used to test hardness and is done on an A or D scale, as the hardness of one material is compared to that of other materials using the same scale.

Shore hardness is an essential property to know because it helps users determine which material will work best for their application. Volatile Free, Inc.’s on-site lab staff tests the durometer of all our products using Shore hardness scales, so you know a material’s capabilities by looking at its properties.

Types of Shore Hardness Scales

In 1920, Alfred Shore invented a device similar to a tire pressure gauge to determine material hardness. With this tool, different Shore hardness scales were developed to group and test materials with similar characteristics. Determining which scale to use depends on whether you’re looking at a flexible and soft or stiff and hard product.

Though there are many types of durometer scales, the ones commonly used for polymers are Shore A and Shore D. They use a standard test method called the ASTM D2240. Each scale ranges between 0 and 100, but materials are tested using a different combination of force and indenter shapes. Regardless of the scale, lower numbers mean the material is softer and has less resistance to indentation. Higher numbers mean the material is more rigid and has higher resistance to indentation.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) does not recommend using data outside the 20-90 range for each scale because that data may not be accurate. If a hardness is determined to be outside this range, you might be using the wrong scale. Even though the data from one scale may overlap with data from another, they should not be compared.

The numbers on these scales are typically categorized as extra soft, soft, medium soft, medium hard, hard, or extra hard. Shore A is best utilized for softer materials, while Shore D is best utilized for hard materials. Also, be aware that the scales do not predict other properties, such as tensile strength, elongation, and resistance to scratching, abrasion, or wear.

What is the Shore A Scale?

Shore A is one of the scales used to test the durometer of softer materials. It is widely used in the polymer industry for rubbers, elastomers, rubber-like coatings, and other flexible materials. If the material is extra soft and gel-like, it may be measured on the Shore OO scale rather than the A scale to get the most accurate reading.

This scale uses a hardened steel rod with a blunt, truncated 35° indenter cone. The tip diameter is 0.79 mm, and the applied spring force is 8.05 N (822 g). When the force is applied, softer materials will have deeper indents from the presser foot than harder materials.

What is the Shore D Scale?

The Shore D scale compares the hardness of semi-rigid to very hard materials such as plastics, rigid rubbers, or plastic-like hard coatings. Though the Shore A scale can be used for some of these materials, it’s recommended to use the Shore D Scale when the tested material passes 90 A for accuracy. Shore D hardness is good to know for part making and hard coating, as it factors into whether the material will have the durability and longevity needed for a specific application.

This scale uses a hardened steel rod with a sharp 30° indenter cone. The tip diameter is 0.1 mm, and the applied spring force is 44.45 N (4536 g).

How is Durometer Tested?

To test for hardness, a set of conditions must be met to get a proper reading. The test material has to be at least ¼ of an inch thick with a smooth surface. Ensure your sample surface and the indenter tip are clean. The test material must be in a climate-controlled environment of about 73.4°F (23°C), as temperature and humidity can affect the reading. Some materials may provide lower readings at higher temperatures and high readings at lower temperatures.

The process of testing is as follows, regardless of which scale you are using:

  • Place the test material on a hard, flat, consistent surface.
  • Place the presser foot against the test material so it is flat and in full contact with the surface. The calibrated spring within the device will apply the necessary pressure for an accurate reading.
    • Optionally, there are stands that will be perfectly perpendicular and will press at a controlled weight for the best repeatable results.
  • The final reading depends on the indenter depth after pressure has been applied for 15 seconds. Record the value found by looking at the gauge on the tool.
  • Repeat this process a minimum of 5 times in different places on the test material to minimize errors caused by external factors. Each spot tested must be a minimum of ½ an inch from each edge on the sample. Calculate the average to determine the Shore hardness.

Note: Always note where in the cure cycle you are when testing the hardness of the material, because the hardness will continue to change until full hardness is reached.

Importance of Durometer for Rubbers, Plastics, and Coatings

Comparing products using Shore hardness scales will allow you to identify if a material is suitable for your application. Manufacturers like VFI can also customize formulas to accommodate a specific hardness based on the needs of the user.

If you are working with molding rubber, you should ask yourself how flexible the mold needs to be to easily demold from the model. If you have a very delicate model, you will want to use a softer rubber (20-30 A). A softer material will release more easily from delicate pieces, undercuts, and extreme details without breaking the model. These lower hardness rubbers will be great for making cast stone and manufactured stone molds. On the other hand, you probably want a harder material if undercuts and flexibility are no longer a concern. For example, rubber formliners are typically between 50-90 A. Higher durometer rubbers also have better abrasion resistance, which is necessary when dealing with an abrasive material like concrete.

If you are in the part making industry, you will want to look at materials on the Shore D scale or the higher end of the Shore A scale. These products typically provide the necessary rigidity to make long-lasting parts or, in specific applications, provide rigidity with enough flexibility to not break, crack, or tear. Harder plastics will have more strength and can be machinable, while softer plastics or rubbers will provide more impact resistance.

Coatings are also tested under these hardness scales. They are desirable when they are hard but flexible enough to resist cracking or tearing, which could expose the underlying substrate. Many thick film coatings will fall into the Shore D hardness range. Hard coatings with Shore hardnesses of 65 D or higher will feel very plastic-like after curing and are best for hardening foam and other fragile surfaces. On the other hand, coatings around 50 D and under will have more flex for protecting firmer surfaces like metal, wood, and concrete. However, some coatings are rated on the Shore A scale because they feel rubber-like after they cure.

Contact VFI if you need help figuring out whether a material has the hardness you need for your project.

How to Seal Styrofoam for Outdoor Use

Posted on: May 20th, 2024 by mandig

How to Seal Styrofoam for Outdoor Use

There are several ways to seal styrofoam for outdoor use. You should prioritize weather-resistant materials to seal the foam, ensuring the longevity of your piece. Whether it’s rain, sun, impact, or other outdoor factors, styrofoam requires extra protection to maintain its structural integrity, especially if it will be placed in storefronts, public spaces, or outdoor events.

Protection is important, not just for styrofoam, but other foams too. Most foam sculptors in the industry are actually using expanded polystyrene (EPS) over styrofoam (the brand name for extruded polystyrene (XPS)). This is because EPS is made in large blocks, and XPS is made in sheets.

Regardless of which styrene foam you use, both are inexpensive and easy to work with but can become damaged if not protected with a durable hard shell.

Does Foam Last Outside?

Styrene foam is not designed to withstand extended outdoor conditions. One reason foam should be sealed is because it is highly sensitive to UV rays. The plastic material will break down into a discolored powdery substance or become brittle upon long-term exposure. It can fully break down in a few years, which is bad for the environment if not disposed of properly.

In addition to this degradation, excessively heating the material can break down its chemical structure, causing it to leach. Small amounts of styrene will seep out and contaminate surrounding surfaces, which means if your foam piece is within reach of people, it’s not safe. The foam may also lose its thickness during this process.

While it is water resistant, it’s not waterproof. Over time, it will absorb moisture from rain, snow, or spills. Extra water may also be stored causing mold and mildew growth. In addition, there are also a handful of solvents that can melt or break down polystyrene . Impacts from various environmental conditions can also damage uncovered foam. If you want to protect it from damage, it is crucial to apply some sort of coating or sealant.

Options for Sealing Styrofoam

When you seal styrofoam for outdoor use, the material you choose will depend on how long you need the piece protected. While many people use DIY methods because they’re more cost-effective, there are specialized hard coats for styrofoam that lengthen the life of your project.

Polyurethane is the top suggestion for sealing styrofoam. These coatings are two component, semi-rigid materials that are plastic-like and impact resistant when they harden. When applied, they provide the durability and flexibility needed to protect the surface underneath without cracking. Most are applied by high pressure spray equipment, but there are also brushable options, such as VFI-2519 75 D Brushable Hard Coat, for smaller projects. For lower cost spray options, there are even coatings in a cartridge format, such as VFI-6171 70 D Qwik Spray Hard Coat.

Polyurea coatings are a similar alternative but come with premium properties at a lower hardness in comparison. These properties will make the cost slightly higher, but they do offer more in the way of protection in the form of impact and thermocycling. They are usually fast setting and they’re also a great alternative if you work in environments where moisture is an issue. One downside to a polyurea material is that it is normally harder to sand, because they tend to be softer than a urethane hardcoat.

Epoxy is a coating with similar characteristics to polyurethane and polyurea. It acts as a protective barrier for any type of foam but is applied in several thinner coats. Epoxy is also mostly brush-applied or roll-applied, which makes it time-consuming to work with, so it’s typically used for smaller projects. If you plan to sand the material, particles get into the air and can create toxic dust, so an approved respirator should always be used. The main benefit is the ability to work on large projects without the need for a full spray booth.

Fiberglass has a more time-intensive application process, but it is an effective way to protect an outdoor foam piece. Layers of the material are placed over the foam with intermittent applications of epoxy or polyester resin that will impregnate the fiberglass fabric/fibers. These layers are applied until the desired thickness is achieved providing strong impact resistance that is reinforced by layers of fabric. Resins that are not a full 100% solids will melt the foam, so you must be careful in choosing the right one.

Benefits of Sealing Styrofoam for Outdoor Use

  • Protection – There are several things a hard coating can protect outdoor styrofoam projects from. The coatings resist moisture and water damage, UV radiation (when a compatible paint or topcoat is applied), and other weather conditions. They also resist impact and abrasion from people sitting on, climbing up, or touching these structures. Some coatings can also provide fire retardant characteristics to meet fire safety requirements where necessary.
  • Long-term durability – Because a coating can offer incredible protection, it keeps your foam piece in good condition, especially outside. If you were to just paint your foam piece and call it a day, there’s no doubt that it would deteriorate quickly and not look very smooth. When your project is resistant to external factors, it lasts longer and saves you money in the long run.
  • Versatility – There’s no limit to the shapes and projects you can use a hard coat for. Because spray coatings are the most used and recommended application option, the coating gets into all the curves and crevices on a piece. These coatings adhere well to all types of foams, so you gain protection no matter what material you use.
  • Easy to apply & work with – Most hard coatings are relatively easy to work with, as long as you have experience with high pressure spray equipment. Most formulas also come in 1:1 mix ratios for ease of setup. If spraying is not your thing, brush and roller applications are also available. After application, coatings are easy to post work. Fast setting coatings can leave a smooth surface perfect for top coating or painting, especially when spray applied.

Outdoor Applications for Sealed Styrofoam

Due to the adaptability of sealed foam, a handful of outdoor applications benefit by using these materials. These materials are used to fabricate signs for outdoor store displays, theme park rides, restaurants, and more to enhance brand recognition and draw customers in. Nothing elevates an aesthetic like a custom sign that stands out from less creative materials.

Companies may also use foam to create large-scale 3D figures or characters to attract visitors and create magical environments. They can be seen at outdoor festivals, concerts, parks, gardens, etc. With a hard coat, your creations will be protected for years.

Sometimes, these materials are used for realistic outdoor hardscaping, such as stones, edging, boulders, rocks, and more. Foam hardscape objects can be more cost-effective since natural materials are more expensive and difficult to install. Heavy machinery is typically not required when installing hard-coated foam pieces, reducing labor costs.

Outdoor amusement parks rely heavily on custom props to immerse customers and enhance their experience. Hardened foam can be used as themed elements in ride queues, in the rides themselves, or throughout the park. The protection these hard coats offer keeps your projects in good shape for a long time.

Contact VFI today to see if you could benefit from using a hard coat on your next foam project.

How to Use a Form Coat Epoxy

Posted on: May 16th, 2024 by mandig

How to Use a Form Coat Epoxy

Learning how to use a form coat epoxy is important for generating multiple quality castings when using abrasive casting materials. Creating a stable surface to pour concrete will help control and shape it as it cures. These qualities help ensure that the material will set properly and maintain its strength, durability, and longevity when transported and installed at building sites.

However, bare wood, foam, and metal surfaces will not last long without a form coating, so it’s crucial to protect your investment with a strong barrier. Using an appropriate coating will ensure that the surface can withstand the weight of rough casting materials for multiple uses without becoming damaged.

What Is a Form Coat Epoxy?

Form coat epoxies are also called mold coats or bed coats in the precast industry. This is due to their versatility, as they are used to protect large formwork, casting beds, or molds for precast, tilt-up, slip form, and cast-in-place applications. The castings produced from these forms include beams, columns, walls, etc., made of cementitious materials.

A form coating creates a tough, rigid surface that adheres well to wood, steel, and even EPS foam. It acts as a barrier to protect these expensive molding forms from the abrasive effects of various casting materials. The coating will act as a shell over the surface to prevent it from absorbing the casting material, which would otherwise have a hard time releasing from the form or surface. The smooth coated surface is then used to create multiple identical and flat building materials for parking structures, bridges, highway walls, retail shopping centers, and more.

Specially formulated epoxy coatings work well for this application. They are rigid but are formulated to also have the flexibility to resist cracking or deforming from regular use. Because these coatings have outstanding properties that make them strong, they become almost unbreakable, reducing the risk of damage to the underlying surface. Epoxy coatings require minimal maintenance and will endure heavy wear and tear before they need to be recoated.

Importance of Surface Preparation

For excellent adhesion to the following surfaces, you must ensure they are free of dirt, debris, and other foreign materials.

  • Wood forms – Sand new wood panels for good mechanical adhesion of the coating. Clean off the sawdust with a vacuum. Though the coating is moisture insensitive, ensure the surface is relatively dry before application.
  • Steel forms – If the metal contains rust, mill scale, dirt, and other contaminants, you will want to conduct abrasive blast preparation by sandblasting to SP6. Once finished, clean the metal shavings off the surface with a vacuum or broom.
  • EPS forms – While EPS is typically not used for large-scale production, it can be used for casting smaller pieces. The foam must be aged at least 30 days to allow any gas to escape. The higher the density of the foam, the nicer the finish, but any foam between 1-3 PCF is acceptable. The foam should be clean and dry before applying the coating. The coating will not deform the mold shape.

The Form Coating Epoxy Application Process

Materials needed: VFI-4385 82 D Form Coating Epoxy, nap roller, wet film thickness mil gauge, large industrial orbital or rotary sander

Because epoxy can be toxic when inhaled, swallowed, or in contact with skin, use the material in a well-ventilated area. Wear the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid exposure.

It is always recommended to work with the material at temperatures between 60-80°F. Remember, you will have a shorter working time when the temperature is higher. After preparing your casting surface, follow the steps below to create a protective barrier on your molding surfaces.

  • Once you have mixed the components together, pour the material onto the surface.
    • Note: Leaving it in a mixing container can cause it to over-generate heat, which causes the material to thicken faster and cure faster. Do not leave material in a mass to cure. Mix up only what is needed to prevent excess.
  • Begin rolling the material evenly at a rate of about 20 mil passes. It can be back-rolled to help achieve a uniform thickness. Coverage will vary in the first application due to the porosity of the surface.
  • Check the thickness with a wet film thickness mil gauge. The coating should self-level.
  • Allow it to cure overnight (minimum of 16 hours).
  • Once cured, power sand the surface to smooth out imperfections or bubbles. Clean the surface of dust and debris from sanding.
  • Apply a second coat following the same instructions. Repeat the process until the overall desired thickness is achieved.
    • Note: Total thickness should not be thicker than 250 mils.
  • Before casting, spray a release agent to prevent unwanted adhesion between the form coat and casting material.
  • Pour the casting material into the coated form and allow it to harden until it can be removed, typically after 24 hours. The surface can then be reused for future castings if the surface is clean, free of dust, and dry.

Once the original form coat becomes worn, a new coat can be applied. All you need to do is sand down the existing coating to remove any previous casting residue and improve surface adhesion for the new coat.

VFI Compatible Products

VFI-4385 82 D Form Coating Epoxy is VFI’s exclusive product for precast manufacturing purposes. It has a convenient 2A:1B by volume mix ratio for easy application with a roller. It is moisture-insensitive, so it can be applied to damp surfaces with no effect. At 82 D Shore hardness, the cured coating will produce a highly rigid yet flexible surface perfect for repeated concrete casting. Contact VFI if you are interested in protecting your wood, steel, or foam surfaces.

Volatile Free, Inc. Releases Form Coat Epoxy for the Protection of Precast Forms

Posted on: May 16th, 2024 by mandig

Volatile Free, Inc. Releases Form Coat Epoxy for the Protection of Precast Forms

Form coat epoxy material in buckets

Brookfield, Wisconsin – (May 16, 2024) – Volatile Free, Inc. announced the addition of a new form coating epoxy to its molding and casting line today. The Midwest-based company said this product adds long-lasting protection to the expensive steel and wood surfaces used to make precast concrete products. Because the coating acts as a barrier on these forms, it takes on the abrasive damage caused by concrete in the molding process. As an epoxy, the product is highly rigid and moisture-insensitive, making it strong and capable of being applied over damp surfaces. Once it is worn, it can be sanded and reapplied for consistent protection over molding surfaces.

Michael Sullivan, the Technical Director at Volatile Free, Inc., said, “Our intent was to create a product that would support our existing polyurethane formliner material and EPS form coats, but as we began to talk to different customers, we realized the need for something different than the available options. The performance characteristics of the epoxy being reported during field testing is telling us we’re on the right path.”

Volatile Free, Inc. also manufactures polyurethane rubbers and plastics used by concrete producers across North America. Learn more about their product lines at https://volatilefree.com.

Contact Information:
Volatile Free, Inc.
(800) 307-9218
Info@volatilefree.com

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Fire Tested Foam Hard Coat for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Posted on: May 15th, 2024 by mandig

Fire Tested Foam Hard Coat for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Fire tested foam hard coats are designed to protect and harden foam sculptures, parts, and components against external impacts and environmental elements. There have always been strict building code requirements, so it is important to protect foam projects that will be used indoors with a hard coating that will pass Class A fire testing.

While these requirements are essential inside buildings, they are slowly beginning to expand to outdoor areas as well. So, it’s best to make sure your foam project is compliant with safety standards by using a fire tested foam hard coat, no matter where you plan on placing it.

What Is the Difference Between Retardant and Resistant?

Many people don’t realize that there is a big difference between fire retardant and resistant coatings. Though both are considered passive fire protection, they will respond very differently when exposed to heat and flames, so it’s important to know which one your project requires.

A fire retardant coating’s job is to reduce the rate of flame spread and smoke over combustible materials such as wood, plastic, and foam. They are not used for structural protection, which is why they’ve found a place in the theming industry for foam projects. Fire retardant coatings can be applied by brush, roller, or spray and are formulated to look similar to paint. The standard test these coatings must pass is known as the ASTM E84, which tests for a much shorter time frame than ASTM E119. Most of these coatings are only rated based on their ability to not contribute to a fire. Others may provide some resistance to prevent the flames from reaching the substrate or keep it contained in one area for a longer period.

Fire resistant coatings are materials that resist catching fire or are self-extinguishing. When exposed to extreme heat and flames, they will not drip or melt but form a char layer that acts as a barrier. It takes much longer for these types of coatings to burn. Their thickness varies to meet certain requirements, and they are either brushed, sprayed, or troweled onto load-bearing surfaces like walls, columns, floors, and beams. The standard test for these coatings is the ASTM E119. Their rating is determined by how long they offer protection before they ignite, usually tested up to 2 hours. Adhesion, char integrity, and char growth are closely observed. Because they offer greater protection than retardant coatings, they typically contain more ingredients, making them more expensive.

Neither coating type is fireproof, as they will burn once they reach a certain temperature. Another important note is that fire and flame are interchangeable. So, if you hear these coatings referred to as flame retardant or flame resistant, they will mean the same thing.

What Is the ASTM E84 Test?

The ASTM E84 is a standard fire testing method developed by the American Society of Testing and Materials and applies to many industrial and commercial projects. It assesses the surface burning behavior of a material by observing flame spread and smoke emission.

Flame Spread Index (FSI) and Smoke Developed Index (SDI) metrics are evaluated to help rank and determine a material’s fire retardant classification. FSI is determined by the speed at which the flames progress across a surface. SDI is calculated similarly and measures the amount of smoke the material emits as it burns.

The test runs for 10 minutes, and within that time, the FSI and SDI are measured and compared to a standard. Fire retardant materials can fall into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A is the highest classification a material can achieve, with an FSI under 25 and an SDI under 450.

Types of Fire Tested Hard Coats for Foam

Fire tested coatings are used because they do not contribute to making a fire worse. There are several types of coatings formulated to do this, including oil-based, two-part mixes, epoxy solvent-based, and water-based. However, if you are specifically hard coating foam, we recommend using a two component polyurethane that is Class A fire tested. A unique coating like this complies with indoor and outdoor safety codes, providing flame-spread protection.

Why Is It Important to Use a Fire tested Foam Hard Coat?

Many building codes require materials used in public areas to meet fire safety standards. A coating’s retardant properties allow you to comply with these codes and ensure they pass inspection.

By definition, they are designed to “delay or hold back” flames. When a fire retardant coating is applied to foam projects in theme parks, theaters, venues, and more, it is less likely to ignite or spread fire. Since the spread is slowed, this provides people with more time to leave unsafe areas and reduces the risk of accidents and injuries.

Apart from protecting people, another benefit of these coatings is that they help protect your property. By slowing the flame spread, the coating can minimize the destruction caused by fire to a smaller area.

These hard and durable coatings do more than enhance the fire safety of a foam project. They also become seamless barriers that prevent damage from physical impact, weathering, moisture, etc., to extend the life of the entire structure.

VFI Fire Tested Foam Hard Coats

VFI was the first in the industry to formulate an ASTM E84 Class A fire retardant polyurethane hard coat in a cartridge based format (VFI-6171 70 D Qwik Spray Hard Coat). The hard coat is also available in a high pressure format (VFI-6170 70 D Spray Hard Coat) for larger spray jobs. Contact VFI if you need assistance finding a coating that meets indoor or outdoor safety requirements.

What Is a Brushable Hard Coat for Foam?

Posted on: May 8th, 2024 by mandig

What Is a Brushable Hard Coat for Foam?

A brushable hard coat for foam is a coating formulated to be applied by brush or trowel rather than through spray equipment. These coatings are used to protect fragile surfaces such as Styrofoam, EPS, and XPS.

Using a brushable hard coat heavily depends on your unique project. If you’re a sculptor who works on small EPS foam projects for theme parks, film and theater, or art exhibits, you probably don’t require large, expensive spray equipment. A brushable coating can be much more effective for these applications because, as the name suggests, all that’s needed is a paintbrush.

Types of Brushable Hard Coatings

While various hard coatings exist, most are not formulated for brush application. This is because most hard coatings are fast curing, meaning they dry or become tack-free in under a minute. Due to this speed, a spray method is the best approach. A brushable coating has a slowed pot life with good hang to allow applicators ample time to apply it to foam and other surfaces.

Two specific formulas of brushable hard coats for foam that will provide the best protection are polyurethane and epoxy. The material you choose will depend on the surface you’re protecting, the shape of the structure, the required finish, budget, environment, and turnaround time.

Urethane

Urethane brushable hard coats for foam feel almost like smooth plastic when they cure and are generally tougher than epoxies. Similar to sprayable hard coats, they encapsulate the entire foam piece, making it water and impact resistant. It’s recommended to apply these coatings a bit thicker for thorough protection. With a high thickness, the coating will hang vertically in up to 40 mil passes without sagging. The longer you’re working with the material, the more it will thicken as well.

While they are not UV color stable, this isn’t normally an issue since they are typically top coated with primers and paints in the finishing process. Once cured, they can also be sanded if the surface is not as smooth as desired from brush application.

When using a polyurethane brushable hard coat, a big limit compared to sprayable coatings is it has a longer cure time. Sprayable coatings can cure in a few hours while a brushable urethane can take a minimum of 8 hours.

VFI offers two different formulas for brush application:

  • VFI-2519 75 D Brushable Hard Coat. At 75 D hardness, it’s about 10 D durometer higher than VFI-2626. As a harder and stronger polyurethane coating, this material offers higher tensile and tear strength for extended protection from impacts. This coating is not fire tested and has no fire retardant or resistant properties.
  • VFI-2626 65 D Brushable Hard Coat. While this material has similar qualities to VFI-2519, it has slightly lower tensile and tear strength at a lower durometer. The coating is recommended over its counterpart in indoor applications, as it is capable of passing the UL 94 V-0 combustion test.

When applying one of these hard coats, you can mix up the material in smaller quantities, so you won’t overuse material. Mixing smaller quantities also helps extend the pot life.

Epoxy

Epoxy brushable hard coats form a solid, plastic-like surface over foam to protect it from impact and weathering effects. Because epoxies can be hazardous when sprayed, they are usually only applied by brush or roller. They’re also applied in thin layers, so they won’t always provide as much protection as urethane coatings.

It’s recommended to use them on projects that are kept out of reach and won’t endure heavy impact. Too much impact can make these coatings crack or break. However, they are a more desirable option if you are working in environments where moisture and humidity are a concern. Their neutral-colored surface can easily be sanded, primed, and painted over.

Like all brushable hard coats, epoxy cures slowly. It’s even slower than urethane brushable hard coats and can take almost double the time to cure at about a 16-hour minimum.

Why Use a Brush Method Over Spraying?

The choice between using a brush on or spray on coating will depend on your project’s needs, including your budget, the size of your project, the surface texture you desire, and turnaround time requirements.

  • Cost-effective – High pressure spray equipment can cost thousands of dollars, so buying brushes is an inexpensive option. While it can be labor-intensive to use a brush, it is recommended for small projects, so material and time waste is not an issue. However, if you consistently work on larger projects, spraying may be the more desirable method. To achieve the effects of spraying at a lower cost, there are quick spray alternatives, such as VFI-6171 70 D Qwik Spray Hard Coat.
  • Excellent control – Spraying can be great for larger projects, as it covers them quickly and evenly, but it’s not always suitable for small pieces. It can hinder details, whereas a brushable coating would be better for small corners, intricate designs, and specific curves. Because you don’t have much control over where the material goes when spraying, you must mask and prepare adjacent surfaces to protect them from overspray. Also, more material is used due to overspray, but brush application allows you efficient control over material used.
  • Even, uniform coverage – Those with limited experience using spray equipment may encounter overspray, drips, runs, and uneven spots where material is too heavily built up or too thin, offering little protection. Brush application is much more straightforward, so you achieve consistent coverage for long lasting protection. Brushes are also better at getting into hard-to-reach, tight corners where spray coatings can’t.
  • Easier application and cleanup – Applying coatings with spray equipment requires training, so you know how to spray at a consistent distance for smooth application. When brushing, you don’t have to be concerned with spray techniques, chances of overspray, or cleaning spray lines once you’re finished. Cleanup is even more effective if you use disposable paintbrushes. Also, if the coating cures with any brush marks, the surface can be sanded before it is primed or painted.

Applications for Brushable Hard Coats

When protecting foam, a brushable coating is most advantageous for smaller, delicate, and detailed projects. We’ve seen our polyurethane coatings used on custom signs, film and theater props, holiday décor, art sculptures, and more because of their strength and durability. Even when working on larger projects, you can brush the hardcoats onto smaller pieces before assembling them into the final structure.

Brushable hard coats for foam also work as a good repair material. While these coatings are durable, they aren’t foolproof. Before extensive damage can happen to the foam being protected, it’s best to patch up areas as quickly as possible. Rather than spraying a new coating layer, brushing material onto small cracks and punctures is easier and saves material. Material can be mixed in small batches, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning spray lines.

Contact VFI if you need assistance finding the best hard coat material for your foam project.

VFI Styrofoam Hard Coating to Protect Against Elements

Posted on: May 1st, 2024 by mandig

VFI Styrofoam Hard Coating to Protect Against Elements

Volatile Free, Inc. has been manufacturing styrofoam hard coatings since the start of the company almost 30 years ago. We manufacture these products on site at our Brookfield, Wisconsin facility, and distribute them to theming professionals across the United States.

These sprayable plastic coatings form durable “shells” on various surfaces, but most popularly over lightweight foams. Other than providing a durable surface, they are fast curing, so you’ll be able to sand and paint over them shortly after application. Depending on the formula, they can be applied by brush, quick spray, or high pressure spray.

Brushable Hard Coats for Smaller Projects

A hard coat that can be applied with paint brushes or trowels, like VFI-2519 75 D Brushable Hard Coat, is a go-to when working on small custom projects or repairs. Unlike spray coatings, this polyurethane material cures slower, so you have more time to work with it. Due to its thixotropic nature, it can hang vertically in up to 40 mil passes. The further into the working time you get, the better it is able to hang without sagging as well.

The best way to use this product is in small batches to extend the material’s pot life. A full mix of the material will yield a pot life of about 8 minutes, but if you mix 200 g batches, the pot life can be extended to 15-20 minutes. It’s also crucial that you use exact proportions; otherwise, the material may not set up correctly.

Using the brushable coating can be more time-consuming than spray materials since it’s more labor-intensive. Because it’s slower, it’s also not immediately ready for post-work after application. Depending on coating thickness, temperature, and other factors, it may not be ready for sanding or painting until the next day.

Convenient Qwik Spray Cartridges for Hard Coating

If working with a brushable hard coat is not your forte but you don’t want to invest in high pressure spray equipment, VFI has just the alternative. We manufacture a urethane styrofoam hard coating for convenient spraying in a cartridge format known as VFI-6171 70 D Qwik Spray Hard Coat.

The Qwik Spray System allows for hassle-free setup and is desirable for its low startup cost and portability. It utilizes 750 mL dual cartridges of the material with the VFI-7500 Qwik Spray Gun to make spray coatings more accessible to smaller companies and applicators. To run the equipment, it requires 10 CFM of dry air at 100 psi of constant pressure. The gun comes with all the other accessories needed to spray, including static mix tips. The standard tip size for this product is GS-15, but other spray tips are available upon request.

Another benefit of the Qwik Spray System is how easy it is to clean up after using it. The cartridges and static mix tips can be thrown away once you have finished spraying for a completely disposable process without additional cleanup.

High Pressure for Big Jobs

For those who spray larger pieces and/or at a higher frequency, the quick spray hard coat also comes in a high pressure formula, VFI-6170 70 D Spray Hard Coat. The coating is sprayed using a high pressure, plural component spray rig at a recommended pressure of 2,500 psi.

However, the difference in application methods does not change the physical properties of either material. Both have consistent tensile, tear, and elongation. The only property that differs between the two is that the cartridge version sets a bit slower in comparison.

Applications for Styrofoam Hard Coating

There’s not much of a limit to what kind of projects can benefit from a hard coating. Foam is the main surface these coatings are applied to because it applies rigidity to an otherwise fragile surface making the foam itself more versatile. Due to their high versatility, we’ve seen creatives use them for:

  • Prop making & set design – A low-cost way to make realistic props and set pieces for theater, movie, and television productions is using a lightweight foam that is then hard coated. Hard coats not only make these creations durable but they can be painted to help increase the realism of the prop or set. You can protect handheld objects all the way to large set pieces.
  • Custom signs – An effective alternative to plastic, wood, and stone signs is EPS foam with a hard coat. These signs will be just as durable but are much easier to transport to final destinations because of their lightweight nature. Regardless of where they will be placed, they are able to endure both indoor and outdoor conditions.
  • EPS theming hardcoats – Just like how they can be utilized for set design, museums, art shows, and amusement park rides can benefit from using these coatings to protect displays, models, and themed environments. They are especially helpful if the piece will be within the reach of people and children who may touch, step on, or sit on them. As fire tested formulas, they can be used in indoor and outdoor environments without deteriorating.
  • Architectural shapes – While many outdoor architectural pieces tend to be made of stone, there’s a cost-effective alternative way to make them. Foam is shaped to look like faux window shutters, columns, arches, crown molding, etc., and then hard coated for protection. Because the hard coat is durable, it can withstand outdoor conditions similar to stone materials.
  • Hard coat repairs – Hard coat is incredibly durable, but wear and tear can happen over time or in production. The best solution for fixing damaged areas is to use a brushable hard coat. You save money on material, and it should easily blend in with the rest of the coating that is intact so you can sand and paint over it.

Why Choose VFI Hard Coatings?

There are several benefits to choosing VFI hard coat products. The main objective of these coatings is to harden styrofoam because it requires added strength for protection against various variables. As it encapsulates the piece, it protects against moisture, impact, and other environmental factors.

Because some of the pieces that theming professionals create are placed indoors, the coatings must pass certain fire regulations. We have several sprayable hard coat options that are capable of passing the ASTM E84 Class A test or have passed it for fire retardance. Having this certification allows the coated material to be placed indoors and outdoors where strict fire safety is essential.

Because these coatings are typically painted over, they are protected from UV rays. This protection then allows them to be used indoors and outdoors without worry of yellowing or color change. They also boast good weathering characteristics, which also makes them desirable for outdoor placement.

Contact VFI if you need assistance figuring out which styrofoam hard coating would work best for your project.

Why is UV Stability Important for Spray-in Bed Liner?

Posted on: April 4th, 2024 by mandig

Why Is UV Stability Important for Spray-in Bed liner?

UV stability is important to prevent your spray-in bed liner from deteriorating. Spray-in bed liners provide a durable, sealed surface that prevents damage from dirt, moisture, chemicals, and other debris. They also protect against abrasion and impact damage from heavy loads and weathering effects.

What Do UV Rays Do to Bed Liner?

Ultraviolet light can be produced by high temperatures from various sources but most commonly comes from the sun. Though only a small percentage of UV rays make it to the earth’s surface, they are still harmful to non-UV stable objects. When the weather changes, the sun’s rays might be the last thing on your mind, but UV rays are damaging to humans, objects, and materials all year round, even if you can’t see it happening.

With too much exposure, non-UV stable bed liners can fade, change color, chalk, and yellow. In some cases, they may begin to lose strength, become less flexible, warp, crack, and deteriorate over time.

The molecular makeup of the material is what becomes damaged or affected by UV rays. The chains of molecules will begin to break down, which ultimately causes both physical and chemical property changes.

Whether the liner is made of a coating, plastic, or rubber, if it cracks, moisture penetration can occur and cause rust. Drop-in bed liners and bed mats especially encounter issues because they aren’t UV stable, and it is not easy to add UV stability to them. Unlike with spray-in coatings, there’s no solid solution to fix the UV stability problem for drop-in liners and bed mats.

What Is UV Stability?

UV stability refers to the ability of a material to resist the effects of ultraviolet light from the sun. In certain coatings, it is a feature that prevents degeneration, and it provides more than just retention of color over time.

UV-stable coatings prevent UV rays from breaking down the material’s composition. They are able to do this because of the UV stabilizers added to them. UV stabilizers are chemical compounds that improve a polymer’s resistance to degradation. Sunlight can break down polymer chains, but these stabilizers absorb UV light, reducing the amount that reaches the material. This helps extend the life of the coating and prevents its color from changing or dulling until the UV absorbers are fully used up.

What Are Aliphatic Spray-in Bed liners?

These coatings can be polyurea, polyurea hybrid, or polyurethanes in chemical makeup and use an aliphatic isocyanate. They are a premium product due to their use of higher quality raw materials. The property that makes these coatings so desirable is their UV color stability. They exhibit great weathering characteristics and block harmful rays to prevent fading and color change.

They are used either as a whole system or to top coat aromatic bedliners. In the case that they are used to top coat an existing coating, they are applied thinner in a clear or black coat to preserve the layer below.

While aliphatic coatings provide the extra longevity and protection many truck owners desire, those qualities lead to higher prices. They are also more toxic and require more safety procedures during use. These reasons ultimately make applicators and truck owners turn to aromatic spray-in bed liners.

What Are Aromatic Spray-in Bed liners?

These coatings can be a polyurea, polyurea hybrid, or polyurethane in chemical makeup and use an aromatic isocyanate. They are seen as a workhorse in the coatings industry because they perform extremely well and are more affordable than aliphatic coatings. However, because they contain aromatic rings that UV light can attack unlike the linear chains of aliphatics, they are affected by UV rays.

Spray-on bedliners can come in a variety of colors, the most common being black. For aromatic coatings, black will have the least notable fade when exposed to sunlight. Other brighter colors will fade much more noticeably to a yellow shade unless they are protected.

To remedy the lack of UV color stability, aromatic coatings are applied as a base coat in a thick, durable layer. Then, a thin layer of a clear or tinted aliphatic top coat is added to protect them from sunlight. The combination of the two coatings makes a durable system that is UV-stable, chemically resistant, and long-lasting.

How to Protect Them From UV Rays

If you don’t want to pay for a premium aliphatic bedliner, the next best option is using a UV-stable top coat. Aliphatic top coats are essentially like permanent sunscreen for bed liners. VFI offers an exclusive coating called VFI-2580 Aliphatic Top Coat. Our top coat is chemically UV stable to protect and extend the life of existing polyurea and polyurea hybrid coatings. It preserves the original coating’s color and gloss, so you can be confident in the coating’s appearance as the years pass.

If you’re unsure whether you have an aliphatic or aromatic bedliner, store your truck out of direct sunlight. Because the truck bed is flat, sunlight radiates directly on it when there is no coverage. This may help for a little while, but over time, you still may see fading if it’s not covered while in use. An alternative is getting a tonneau cover, which would also shield it from the sun.

You should also regularly clean your truck bed when it gets dirty. If you’re actively using it to haul and transport various items, it can accumulate a lot of grime. Cleaning with soap, water, and a stiff bristle brush is the best option. Be careful bringing your truck to commercial car washes, as they may be bad for your bed liner since the wax they sometimes spray can build up and also cause chalking and fading.

VFI Compatible Products

VFI-2580 Aliphatic Top Coat can be applied to various polyurea and polyurea hybrid coatings to protect them from UV rays. This includes our VFI-542 High Pressure Bedliner, VFI-543 Low Pressure Bedliner, and VFI-544 Qwik Spray Bedliner. If you’re worried about UV color stability, contact VFI to see if using an aliphatic top coat is the best solution for you.

How to Repair Spray-in Truck Bedliner

Posted on: March 20th, 2024 by mandig

How to Repair Spray-in Truck Bedliner

Spray-in truck bedliner is a useful accessory for protecting pickup truck beds, work trucks, and recreational vehicles from damage caused by weather, cargo, employees, or daily use. However, they aren’t made to last forever, and while it is a rare occurrence, they can experience damage over time.

The good news is that spray-on bedliner can be repaired. Since most are made from polyurea, polyurea hybrid, or polyurethane, repair materials are made of the same materials to bond with the original liner. VFI specifically offers VFI-520 QS Bedliner Repair to repair scratched, cracked, or gouged spray-in truck bedliner. The material blends in to make it seem like the damage was never even there in the first place. With proper surface preparation, it will adhere to existing polyurea or hybrid coatings.

You’ll only need a minimal amount of material to patch up small, damaged spots, as long as the integrity of the liner isn’t compromised. If the damage is too extensive, which isn’t usually the case, you can always restore the old liner by applying a completely new layer of material or tearing out the old material.

How Does Bedliner Damage Occur?

While bedliner is a tough, long-lasting material, it is not invincible. Regular maintenance can help prevent damage from occurring, but there are many things that can cause damage. Specific causes include:

  • Weather & UV exposure: If you’re using and storing your truck outside, both hot and cold temperatures can have a negative effect on the bedliner. You may notice cracks start to form from extreme weather, which could warrant repair. The material is also consistently exposed to direct sunlight. UV radiation is actually harmful to most truck bed liners because they are aromatic, which means they are sensitive to sunlight. Over time, you’ll start to see your truck bedliner’s color fade and degrade if it isn’t UV-stable.
  • Daily wear: Depending on what you’re hauling in your truck, heavy loads can tear or gouge the liner. Different types of cargo have a chance of getting caught and puncturing it. This can cause impact and abrasive damage, depending on how gentle you are when loading and unloading. Cracks or tears can also cause bigger structural issues if moisture or debris slips beneath.
  • Incorrect installation: Depending on who installed your liner, they may not have taken the appropriate care to install it properly. If the surface is not thoroughly prepared, the bedliner can experience adhesion issues that lead to damage. Signs of an incorrectly installed bedliner can include bubbling, flaking, peeling, cracking, and uneven application.
  • Liquid spills: If water, grease, oil, or other harsh chemicals spill and are left to fester in the truck bed, they can cause stains on the bedliner. While most bedliners are made to withstand chemical exposure, they don’t hold up against all harmful chemicals and can begin to wear if not cleaned.

To ensure your truck bed liner continues to provide long-term protection, you’ll have to decide whether to repair, recoat, or replace it when damaged. If you decide to completely recoat the liner, hire a professional to ensure the new material is properly applied.

Importance of Surface Preparation

While polyurea and polyurea hybrid coatings bond to themselves, it’s still wise to thoroughly prepare the surface before making any repairs. Doing so will ensure the repair material will bond to the existing coating.

Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and use proper personal protective equipment when working with chemicals. Read the manufacturer’s safety data sheet for hazards and precautions before using the material.

The truck bed should be cleaned to remove debris, oil, detergents, or other grime. Clean the surface around the damaged spots with acetone. Sand and rough up the area with a wire cup brush sander, 40-grit sandpaper, or steel wool to create proper adhesion. Cut out blisters or other unadhered, damaged material.

The Bedliner Repair Process

Materials needed: VFI-520 QS Bedliner Repair, paint brushes or VFI-7500 Qwik Spray Gun, wire cup brush sander or 40-grit sandpaper, acetone, and texture mats

Prepare the surface as mentioned above. The temperature should be above 50°F. Small repairs do not require spray equipment. When using VFI-520, there are two different application methods.

Brush Application:

  • If you are applying the repair by brush, combine 1A:1B of the material by volume in a disposable cup.
  • Mix the material until it turns into a thick paste that is capable of hanging on vertical surfaces.
  • Using a chip brush, work quickly to apply the repair material to all damaged areas. A wide wooden popsicle stick can also be used to spread and flatten the material.
  • Apply texture to the repair areas using a texture mat. Add pressure to ensure the texture imprints into the repair material. This will ensure a consistent finish with the rest of the surface.

Qwik Spray Application:

  • When using the cartridge version of the repair material, it does not need to be mixed. Only shake the cartridge if there is visible separation.
  • When loading the material into the application gun, keep the cartridge vertical with the label facing up.
  • The material is shot as a stream. Apply it to all damaged areas in need of repair.
  • Place a texture mat over the material to achieve a consistent finish with the rest of the surface. Add pressure to ensure the texture imprints into the repair material.

How to Prevent Future Damage From Occurring

Proper care and maintenance should be given to your spray-in truck bed liner to prevent damage from occurring. Regularly remove dirt, debris, and grime buildup, as not doing so can lead to the degradation of the protective layer. You can use a hose or pressure washer to wash the liner, and soap and water can clean rougher areas. Avoid using harsh chemicals that may damage the material.

Also, conduct inspections every so often as the liner can become worn and damaged from extended or heavy use. Inspections should help you catch small cracks, chips, and gouges from turning into bigger issues. Be careful when loading and unloading sharp and heavy objects, as they can leave behind unwanted damage. If you notice any damage, repair it quickly so your bed liner remains intact and continues to perform as it should.

Ensure your bedliner was applied correctly to begin with. Rigorous surface preparation before application can ensure the liner won’t develop bubbles or detach from the OEM surface. You should also ensure that the liner was applied evenly at a high enough thickness across the entire bed. This makes it so the liner isn’t easily cut or gouged.

Applying a UV-stable topcoat is the best way to ensure your bedliner is sealed from fading or discoloration over time. This will keep the material looking great for longer, so you don’t have to worry about applying a whole new coat of bedliner. Make sure the topcoat you use is made to go over polyurea and hybrid coatings to ensure adhesion between the two layers.

VFI Bedliner Repair and Other Materials

VFI-520 QS Bedliner Repair works incredibly well with our polyurea hybrid coatings: VFI-542 High Pressure Spray Bedliner, VFI-543 Low Pressure Spray Bedliner, and VFI-544 Qwik Spray Bedliner. Once repairs are complete, we also recommend applying a UV stable top coat such as VFI-2580 Aliphatic Top Coat to prevent the repair patches from fading.

Differences Between Spray-on Bedliners

Posted on: March 14th, 2024 by mandig

Differences Between Spray-on Bedliners

Understanding the differences between spray-on bed liners is important to determine the best protection for your truck. No matter the type, a good bedliner should provide the durability and toughness needed to extend the life of the truck bed. They come in different formulas with processing methods to suit the needs of all truck owners. They can be altered to accommodate price, properties, texture, colors, and convenience.

  • Cost – Price will depend on the application method and coating formula. Compared to all other bedliner options, spray-on liners are expensive upfront but more cost-effective over time. They offer better protection and aesthetic.
  • Durability – One formula may be stronger than another based on properties such as hardness, tensile strength, and elongation. A softer bedliner is going to handle impact better. Coatings with high tensile strength and elongation will also endure high impact before deteriorating.
  • Appearance – Depending on the application method, you could have a smooth or heavily textured finish. High-pressure sprays have a more uniform texture than low pressure. More texture can also be added if desired.
  • Ease of application – Some formulas require professional installation using specialized equipment, whereas some can be applied by applicants relatively new to spraying. Depending on the equipment used, there are also slight speed differences that can make one easier to use than another.

What Is Bedliner?

Bedliner is a popular truck accessory that acts as an extra layer of protection for truck beds. A typical bedliner will cover the floor and sides of the cargo area, safeguarding the original metal surface from scratches, dents, and abrasive damage. It also offers protection from weathering, moisture, rust, and corrosion.

Apart from spray-on coatings, other common materials used are plastic coverings or rubber mats that offer similar protection at a lower cost. All these materials can revitalize old metal truck beds that are scratched and worn. They also provide a textured or gripped surface to prevent cargo from sliding around.

What Types Are There?

  • A spray-on liner is a protective coating that you can apply with pressurized spray equipment. As a spray, it will adhere to every contour of the truck bed. It forms an air and watertight seal to reduce maintenance. It is the only material that will provide long-term protection.
  • A roll-on liner is a protective coating that you can apply using rollers. While it is a good method for DIYers and those on a budget, the application process is much more time-consuming. Roll-on bedliners will typically have to be applied in more than one coat for optimal protection, and the cure time is longer. You may also notice roller marks in your textured finish.
  • A drop-in liner is a cost-effective sheet of plastic cut to the size of a truck bed. It usually covers both the sides and floor, much like spray coatings. However, drop-ins do not provide the same seal that spray-ons do. Debris and moisture can still get trapped underneath, which makes maintenance excessive. It’s not the recommended method for long-term protection and should be chosen by truck owners who use their beds sparingly to prevent frequent replacement.
  • A bed mat is a simple, soft rubber mat that only covers the floor of the truck bed but is the cheapest alternative for protection. These mats reduce damage from impact due to their softer quality. Like drop-ins, water and other debris can easily get underneath, which could cause rust and other damage. It is easy to clean but will require constant maintenance to remove buildup.

What Are Spray-on Bedliners Made Of?

Most industrial bedliners are aromatic. Aromatic means that the coating is sensitive to UV light and will fade over time, but it is more cost-effective than aliphatic. Various manufacturers offer multiple formulas to provide variations in 3 main material properties: hardness, tensile strength, and elongation.

  • Polyurea hybrid is a polymer formula that is a mix of polyurea and polyurethane. A cheaper and effective alternative to the higher cost of polyurea, which can have higher properties and lower moisture sensitivity. It creates a secure and durable coat of material designed to last for years.
  • Polyurea is another polymer formula that creates a rigid, strong coating resistant to abrasion and impact damage. It provides truck beds with high tear strength, tensile strength, and elongation. The tear strength contributes to its strength, while tensile strength and elongation makes it more resistant to abrasion and tearing. It’s the most expensive coating formula because it uses high-quality raw materials and specialized application equipment.
  • Polyurethane is a two-component polymer formula that is the most sensitive to moisture and UV degradation. It is able to maintain 1 or 2 properties that are high but does not have the all-around property strength of a polyurea hybrid or polyurea. It still offers tough and long-lasting protective properties.

What Are the Application Methods?

Apart from chemical makeup, bedliner variations also center around the application process. All are based on two-component materials that undergo an irreversible exothermic reaction when spraying.

1. High Pressure

Some bedliner formulas require high pressure and temperature to spray and are the superior choice for most applications. They are applied using a spray rig capable of pressure of at least 2000 psi and temperatures up to 145°F.

The material is extremely fast, setting within 3-5 seconds of application, and should be sprayed by professionals. Coatings produce an ultra-tough sealed liner with a fine, uniform texture resistant to dents and dings.

The high-pressure system is recommended for businesses that spray a lot of bedliner. Upgrading to high pressure can help increase profits and expand your business.

2. Low Pressure

Using similar equipment to high-pressure systems, low-pressure bedliner is applied with less pressure and at lower temperatures. The equipment needs to be capable of between 500-700 psi and is typically more affordable than high-pressure rigs. Due to this low pressure, the coating flows and takes longer to set.

You can typically tell the difference between low- and high-pressure bedliners by texture and appearance. Low-pressure texture is less consistent and a bit larger, but some of this can be mitigated with different tip sizes. Some people appreciate this texture because it provides a softer, rubbery grip for better skid resistance. The friction will keep cargo from sliding around as much.

The low-pressure spray system is recommended when an applicator/company is not ready for the full investment into high pressure machine. Despite its longer cure, it will still provide great protection for your truck bed.

3. Cartridge System

A newer method of spraying bedliner is using an air-driven cartridge-based spray system. An applicator gun attached to an air compressor that can maintain 100 psi and 10 CFM of pressure and can hold 1500 mL cartridges is used to spray. Like the other spray bed liners, this is a two-component system that combines the material in a static mix tip as it is sprayed. It is a continuous spray process that cannot be stopped until the cartridge is empty, or it will clog the tip.

Cartridges are easy to remove and dispose of, so no material goes to waste. There’s also no need to replace equipment parts due to material setting in the gun or spray lines like in heavy-duty rigs.

Spray-on bedliner is ideal for mobile applications where large equipment can’t go and for those looking to ease into spraying bedliner. It is a cost-effective system that produces results just as good as high- and low-pressure systems.

Comparing VFI Bedliners

Below are some notable differences between our polyurea hybrid spray-on bed liners. We offer low-pressure, high-pressure, and cartridge-based formulas. Contact VFI for help choosing the best one for your truck bed.

Features

VFI-542 VFI-543 VFI-544

Application Method

High-pressure spray rig Low-pressure spray rig Cartridge-based gun and air compressor

Hardness

57 D 40 D 40 D

Tensile Strength

2410 psi 2200 psi 2182 psi

Tear Strength

80% 140% 110%

Elongation

241 pli 210 pli 187 pli

Gel time

4 seconds 10 seconds 4 seconds

Other features

More rigid and stronger in higher temperatures In between More flexible and able to take more impact

VFI Is More Than Just Spray in Truck Bedliner

Posted on: March 4th, 2024 by mandig

VFI Is More Than Just Spray in Truck Bedliner

Volatile Free, Inc. has been manufacturing polyurea hybrid spray in truck bedliner since our beginning—which was almost 30 years ago. This material is manufactured onsite at our Midwestern facility, where our team takes time to ensure quality in every batch. While you may not have heard our name before, that may be because we have primarily sold private-label products to distributors around the US. So, it’s very likely you have seen or used our product before.

These polyurea hybrid coatings are most known for protecting truck beds, but they can also be used for a handful of other applications. They offer durability, anti-slip protection, and resistance to chemicals, rust, and corrosion over various surfaces, including metal, wood, and concrete. These coatings come in 3 different versions for various processing needs: high-pressure, low-pressure, and Qwik Spray.

Convenient Qwik Spray Cartridges for Spray on Bed Liner

Did you know that VFI developed a spray on bed liner in a convenient quick spray cartridge format? In fact, we were one of the first, if not the first, to take cartridge-based spray bed liner to market. It typically only takes one full case (6 cartridges) to completely cover and protect a truck bed.

The cartridge-based system was created based on the desire for small-scale spraying with low startup costs. Using the VFI-7500 Qwik Spray Gun, users now have an easy, portable method for spraying truck bedliner. The spray gun only requires 10 cfm of dry air at 100 psi of constant pressure to operate, which is much less than a high- or low-pressure system requires. It comes with static mix tips and all the gun accessories needed to spray.

A perk about this product is that it doesn’t sacrifice the quality of a traditional high-pressure, spray in truck bedliner. It has all the same benefits, including durable watertight protection from rust, corrosion, impact, and abrasion. Another perk is how easy cleanup is. Since the material comes in disposable cartridges, all you have to do is throw them away when you’re finished spraying.

Because polyurea hybrid coatings are so versatile, these QS cartridges are used for:

  • Low-cost bedliner applications. Coatings are used to protect truck beds from damage for an extended lifespan and increased resale value. Due to a spray-on application method, they are versatile for sealing truck beds of any make or model. Unlike drop in bedliner, there’s no shifting or rubbing that causes noise. Also, dirt, moisture, or debris do not accumulate underneath.
  • Speaker box coatings. They are used to protect speakers from abrasion and impact damage that can occur from indoor or outdoor use. The textured surface adds a unique visual appeal, improving not just aesthetics but functionality of the equipment.
  • Recreational coatings. They are a great option when your ATV, UTV, boat, or other recreational vehicle is expected to navigate through rough terrain. Polyurea hybrid coatings provide long-term protection from abrasion and impact caused by mud, dirt, debris, rocks, and more.
  • Theming and attractions projects. While polyurea hybrid coatings are not the first choice for most of these projects, they can serve as a cost-effective alternative to polyurea or polyurethane. These coatings work for many applications if a textured, black, paintable surface is desired.
  • Work trucks. These coatings can be used on a handful of utility vehicles and commercial fleets. They rely on polyurea and polyurea hybrid coatings to protect them against extreme weather and rough road conditions during transport. They also use this protection to prevent heavy loads from causing impact, abrasion, or chemical damage as they move around, rub against surfaces, or leak.

VFI Also Makes Polyurea Coatings

While polyurea hybrid coatings are extremely versatile materials, there are applications where pure polyurea might work better. Polyurea is a premium product due to its higher properties, better chemical resistance, and improved moisture resistance. Our general-purpose option is VFI-201, with VFI-200 and VFI-202 being slow and fast versions, respectively. These coatings are used in applications such as:

  • Secondary containment. This is an application that requires the use of polyurea coatings as temporary containment for chemical, oil, and other liquid spills that break through primary containment. Polyurea’s robust properties and fast setting abilities support their use in various settings.
  • Sacrificial coatings. They are used as temporary protection where mechanical abrasion is present. Our general-purpose polyurea is best utilized for these applications. It creates a barrier between abrasive materials and the substrate and is reapplied as it wears away.
  • Kennel floor coatings. They protect not only the surfaces they’re applied to but also the safety of pets. They are durable, slip-resistant, and prevent bacterial growth. With a seamless surface, there’s no way for moisture or other debris to accumulate beneath the material.

What Makes VFI Different Than the Competition?

1. Accurate Properties

Publishing accurate, comprehensive physical properties for products plays a vital role in the customer experience. Your polyurea or polyurea hybrid coating is expected to perform the way it is supposed to according to its properties, and it can be a nuisance when it doesn’t.

This is why our products go through in-house and third-party testing to ensure physical properties are posted correctly. Our lab staff uses industry-trusted ASTM testing methods to determine the physical properties of each product. We then post technical data sheets with this information, which go through multiple reviews before they are published.

Some important physical properties we list for spray in truck bedliner and polyurea coatings include hardness, tensile strength, tear strength, elongation, elastic modulus, permanent set, and adhesion strength. We also list liquid properties for gel, tack-free, recoat, and full cure so you know the material working time and when your project will be ready for service.

2. Continuous Batching

Large companies tend to make big batches of material in which one product is made in a single production run. The material is then stored until it’s ordered, and another product goes into the production process. This can typically cause longer lead times for setup and production, which can slow down the time the product gets to customers, especially if the stock runs out and another batch isn’t scheduled for production soon after.

A benefit of working with VFI is that we do continuous batching. This process allows us to consistently make smaller batches, so you not only get fresher material, but you also get products delivered to you faster. Having more control over inventory and flexibility with the batching process allows for higher customization in our materials as well. We are also capable of making larger batches if needed.

3. Technical Insight

We have an onsite lab, staffed with knowledgeable chemists as well as field technicians who are able to talk customers through their problems. Both teams work together to come up with valuable solutions. With years of experience, our chemists research and evaluate the coatings market to determine customer needs before they occur. They are consistently developing new, innovative formulas that benefit unique projects. And when needed, you’ll have access to direct technical support.

4. Customized formulas

When you need a nonstandard polyurea or polyurea hybrid coating with specific properties to meet your own specifications, the VFI team can provide unique solutions. We work with you to create a formula with the properties you desire for improved performance. We start by asking you questions to understand your situation so we are better equipped to get you what you need.

If there is a polyurea or polyurea hybrid coating that we offer that is close to what you’re looking for, we will work from that formula to develop something that matches your requirements. With a custom formula, we can adjust cure speed, coating texture and finish, or other properties for extreme conditions. It’s also always possible that you may be looking at the wrong product entirely, and we’ll be able to guide you towards one of our available solutions.

5. Customer-driven

Above everything else, we take pride in servicing our customers with a personalized approach. We’re dedicated to getting you answers quickly when you need help finding a specific product, placing an order, or using our coatings for the first time. Our staff is always happy to troubleshoot issues that customers run into when using our products.

We take time to evaluate the feedback we get from customers and aim to improve existing products or create new ones based on it. We want to lead you to a solution that will be the best for your project. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, we’ll work with you to develop a custom formula.

Volatile Free, Inc. Releases New Polyurethane Rubber Line with Best-In-Class Release Characteristics

Posted on: February 13th, 2024 by mandig

Volatile Free, Inc. Releases New Polyurethane Rubber Line with Best-In-Class Release Characteristics

infoBrookfield, Wisconsin–(Newsfile Corp. – January 18, 2024) – Volatile Free, Inc. today announced a new addition to its liquid polyurethane rubber line. The Midwest-based company said its product line addition is the best-releasing polyurethane rubber in its class with premium properties. The easier demolding characteristics will put less stress on the casting, resulting in a much lower breakage rate. Typical companies that manufacture cast stone and manufactured stone veneer can experience a production breakage rate of 8-10%. Initial field testing indicates an 80% reduction.

“There haven’t really been many changes or improvements to the urethane rubber market since its creation. We feel that this is the first significant improvement in the industry. Testing has shown a substantially lower breakage rate on casted parts in the field, which equates to less material waste and longer-lasting molds,” stated Michael Sullivan, Technical Director of Volatile Free, Inc. He added that “This is the closest you can get to the release characteristics of silicone in a polyurethane.”

Volatile Free, Inc. manufactures polyurethane rubbers and plastics, epoxies, and silicones that are used by concrete producers across North America. To learn more, visit https://volatilefree.com.

Contact Information:
Volatile Free, Inc.
(800) 307-9218
Info@volatilefree.com

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Vacuum Degassing vs Pressure Potting: Are They Necessary?

Posted on: February 13th, 2024 by mandig

Vacuum Degassing vs Pressure Potting: Are They Necessary?

Vacuum degassing and pressure potting are techniques professionals use to get clear, bubble-free molds and castings. Either process removes or reduces these weak spots and imperfections from liquid materials that would otherwise affect the look and durability of the final product.

Many new casters use an open pour method that involves mixing A & B components together, pouring them into a mold, and then allowing them to cure at room temperature. The issue is that hundreds of tiny air bubbles are introduced into the material and will be visible in the final casting.

While using a vacuum chamber or pressure pot may seem unnecessary or costly, for those who create molds and parts regularly, it is almost essential to achieve professional results. If you are in a situation where it is critical to make bubble-free castings, using both will ensure a clean mold and part. Various industries use these processes to ensure purity, structural integrity, and performance.

What Causes Bubbles in Liquid Materials?

Air or gas becomes trapped in liquid resins and creates nodules, cavities, and hollow parts in the finished cast for several reasons:

1. Mixing two components (resins and hardeners) together quickly can introduce air into the material. While mixing faster may save time during the rest of your molding process, it can produce voids in your final product. Use a gentle folding method to prevent air from getting trapped during this process.

2. Depending on what they’re made of, mixing sticks and mixing containers can play a part in introducing moisture and air into your material. It’s best to use plastic and metal mixing tools, especially with polyurethane rubber or plastic.

3. Air can also become trapped due to improper casting techniques. If you pour your material too quickly or in thick streams, it can lead to bubble formation. To combat this, pour the material into the mold or form in a high, thin stream. Trapped air escapes more easily when the material is poured this way.

4. If the material or environment is too cold, it can increase the viscosity of the resin. Thicker viscosity materials with high surface tension have a harder time releasing trapped air since they have more resistance to flow. Using thinner viscosity and warmer materials is generally recommended. Warming the material can reduce the viscosity, making it easier to mix without introducing extra air.

5. Over-applying a release agent in your mold box or mold can also cause champagne bubbles or pinholes in your cured material. Be sure to let your release dry before casting, or use one that you can gently brush onto the surface.

What Is Vacuum Degassing?

Vacuum degassing is a process that uses a vacuum pump to pull air out of a closed chamber to reduce and remove trapped air in materials for a higher-quality product. In the controlled environment, the air pressure is reduced, which pulls the bubbles in the material to the surface, where they foam over and pop or release. For the best results, the vacuum pump should be capable of pulling up to 29 inches of mercury (Hg).

The vacuum chamber is usually a steel container with a clear lid for visibility while vacuuming. These chambers can come in various sizes and designs to accommodate a range of projects.

How It Works

Degassing is done after mixing and before pouring the material into a mold. Some casters choose to degas individual components after dispensing the amount needed and then also degas the combined mixture.

The container placed in the chamber should be large enough to allow for as much as five times the expansion of the material. If this space is not supplied, the material may spill over, leaving the mold or container only partly filled. While stopping and starting the chamber can prevent this, you would have to pay close attention during the degassing process.

The speed of this technique and how easily air escapes will depend on the viscosity of the material used. High-viscosity materials take longer for all bubbles to release. Vacuum degassing can also be more time-consuming, which is why certain fast-cure resins cannot be degassed traditionally before pouring.
Since degassing happens before you pour the material into a mold, you must be careful not to introduce air back in. If you are worried about bubbles forming in the pouring process, a pressure pot may be used instead or after degassing.

When to Use and Not Use

This method is best for materials with longer pot lives because quicker setting materials may cure with a foamy texture if they start curing while degassing. It also works well for materials with high viscosities and high surface tension. Even if the material is thick, if it has a long pot life, there should be enough time for the bubbles to rise and escape.

It’s an effective way to remove air bubbles from hard and flexible rubber materials. It’s also good for materials that must form intricate designs and complex shapes on the surface.

An important note is that materials that have a flash point under 200°C are prone to flashing off during the degassing process. This causes the product to be inconsistent and can release harmful vapors. So, any materials that contain solvents are not recommended for degassing.

Materials that can be degassed: silicone rubber, urethane rubber, urethane resins, epoxy resins, etc.

What Is Pressure Potting?

Pressure potting is a process that uses an air compressor to push air into a concealed chamber to create bubble-free molds and castings with liquid rubber and plastics. Depending on the material, the amount of pressure added is between 40-60 psi and should not exceed the pressure limit of the pot to prevent safety hazards from occurring.

Adding pressure will alter the viscosity and flow characteristics of the material. The pressure forces the material into tight spaces, ensuring cavities are filled and minimizing surface imperfections. Unlike degassing, the pressure pot will not completely remove the trapped air but shrinks it, so bubbles are invisible to the naked eye.

How It Works

Pressure potting must be done after mixing, degassing, and pouring the material into a mold. Most people will fill the mold outside the pressure pot before they transfer it. The lid is then tightened on the chamber, and air is slowly introduced through the attached air compressor line. The material and mold will sit in the pressure pot to cure before the pressure is released. If the pressure is removed before full cure, it will not work and may increase the number of imperfections.

Note: Ensure your air compressor line is dry. Bubbling or foaming may occur if there is moisture in your line, especially if you are using urethane resins or rubbers. Also, molds must be made under the same conditions, including pressure, as the casting material or deformation may occur.

A way to combat spillage is to fill your mold outside the chamber about ¾ of the way. Fill it the rest of the way once it is transferred into the pot. You’ll also want to make sure the mold fits inside the container before you start pouring. A pressure pot can also be used on its side, depending on manufacturer’s specifications.

When to Use and Not Use

A pressure pot should be used if you need a perfectly clear, bubble-free casting. Materials that can be pressure potted are those that cure to a solid or hard state.

Pressure pots can remove bubbles from materials that have either a long or short pot life. Using materials with short pot lives is better since they must cure while still in the pressure chamber, so you can process your parts faster than if you used a vacuum chamber.

When using a silicone mold, a pressure pot is almost mandatory for urethane parts. This is due to the surface tension on the silicone causing bubbles in the urethane. Additionally, urethane will cure better when pressure potted.

It typically does not work as well for materials with thicker viscosities. When a material has a low viscosity, bubbles are able to rise faster. Some liquid resins have relatively low viscosities, which makes them ideal for pressure potting.

Benefits of the Equipment

  • Bubble reduction: Either method will eliminate bubbles from your castings. This is especially helpful for clear, transparent materials that must be perfect or nearly there throughout.
  • Improved surface finish: By eliminating any bubbles in opaque materials, you gain parts and castings with smooth finishes and zero to minimal imperfections on the surface.
  • Enhanced material quality: Both methods are crucial to achieve high-quality castings. They will reduce defects like porosity, voids, and other surface imperfections for better reliability of your finished products.
  • Enhanced material properties: The material properties may be slightly modified as pressure potting occurs. The castings exhibit better performance characteristics as the material is better fused together with minimal voids, if any.
  • Extended lifespan: When materials don’t have trapped air, gases, or impurities, they are less susceptible to degradation over time.

VFI Molding Rubbers and Plastics

VFI has various molding and casting materials that can be degassed, pressure potted, or both. We recommend using either or both of these methods with our materials if you want a bubble-free cast. Our VFI-4580, 4581, and 4582 clear plastics require you to degas and pressure pot to achieve perfect castings. If you have any questions about these processes, reach out to VFI today.

Why Is My Urethane Rubber Mold Shrinking?

Posted on: January 22nd, 2024 by mandig

Why Is My Urethane Rubber Mold Shrinking?

Urethane rubber is often called an elastomer because it comes with elastic properties. These properties can be very beneficial, especially when casting and demolding concrete. However, they also come with downsides. One of these downsides is that it is susceptible to shrinking if you’re working in a cooler temperature.

All of VFI’s polyurethane rubbers have a dimensional stability of under 0.001 in/in at 77°F, which is the percentage of linear shrinkage when subject to changes in temperature or humidity during cure. This is tested using the ASTM D2566 method for thermoset casting systems.

With temperatures dropping rapidly across the US, more users may begin to have a temporary shrinkage problem due to the weather.

Testing for Rubber Shrinkage

We conducted a series of tests in our on-site lab to further prove our hypothesis that shrinkage happens due to the weather. We cast, cured, and demolded our own samples of pourable rubber along with competitors’ and observed what happened when we adjusted the room temperature.

First, we stuck the samples in a freezer at 20°F for 2 hours. Once they sat for the allotted time, we measured them and noticed that they shrunk 1-3% on each side.

We then pulled them out of the freezer and allowed them to sit for 2 hours at room temperature (77°F). We measured the samples again and noticed that they returned back to approximately the exact size of the molds they were cast in.

Results of our testing: If your mold or form has shrunk due to a temperature change, it should return to its original size once it is brought back to room temperature.

Solutions

Regardless of the temperature you plan to operate at, you’ll need to cast the liquid rubber in the same conditions. This works for people who cast urethane in warmer conditions, but if you’re someone who works in a colder climate, you may run into some issues. Urethane must reach a certain temperature for it to cure, so we do not recommend casting or using it in cooler conditions if you want to prevent shrinkage.

All VFI urethane molding rubbers, and most urethane rubbers on the market, must be allowed to sit at room temperature for 16-24 hours before demolding. A minimum of 3 days at room temperature is required before use. A full cure typically occurs after 7 days, and the rubber will develop full physical properties.

Another solution to prevent shrinkage from occurring if you can’t get around working in cold temperatures is casting the rubber on a rigid backing material. We typically recommend casting over some type of wood, like plywood. Urethane can form strong bonds with most surfaces, so it should have no trouble adhering to the wood.

When casting over a backing material, we recommend pouring it over the lip of the surface, allowing the urethane to grip onto it. Because the material has formed around the edges of the surface, it will have a much harder time shrinking. The plywood would have to break in order for any substantial shrinkage to occur.

Contact VFI if you have more questions on urethane rubber or need help finding the best material for your project.

What Is Polyurethane?

Posted on: January 16th, 2024 by mandig

What Is Polyurethane?

polyurethane

Since the 1930s, polyurethane has become a popular material used in a handful of applications. Polyurethane is chains of urethane linkages called monomers that make larger polymers. Polyurethane starts as two components that need to be combined to form a new solid full of polymers. The new polyurethane polymer will have properties varying in strength and elongation that come from the base monomers to provide a custom fit for an application.

Urethane linkages form with the reaction of two components: a poly (B side), an alcohol group and an isocyanate (A side), the backbone of the material. Based on the type of compound used, which will typically be polyol, you will be able to determine the properties of the final product. The polyol’s relative molecular mass, number of reactive functional groups per molecule, and molecular structure contribute to the formed material. The isocyanate is extremely reactive but becomes stable after the reaction has occurred.

Due to its flexible yet tough nature, it has been called plastic and rubber but is neither. More accurately, it is capable of having both elastic properties and high rigidity based on its formulation and final end use. It can be molded into various shapes and enhances surfaces with wear resistance, strength, and protection. Hardness, cure time, and physical properties can all vary to fit a specific need.

What Is Thermoset?

Thermoset urethanes are polymers that start as two-component liquids, and once combined, they cure into a solid. Due to cross-linking, additional heat will cause them to soften, not melt or reform, so they cannot be recycled. Thermosets are a good alternative to thermoplastics when you are unable to invest in high-end molding equipment, have an uncontrolled environment, or need alternative processing methods.

What Is Thermoplastic?

Thermoplastic urethanes are polymers that begin as a solid bead but, when heated, can be melted and molded into a specific shape. Since they have no additional cross-links, with the addition of more heat, they can be reformed into new shapes or recycled. Thermoplastics are great for repeated high-volume applications and do not require another reaction that could affect their final properties. However, they do require advanced molding processes and techniques that limit their use and in-field functionality.

Types of Polyurethane Materials

1. Elastomers

Polyurethane, when made as an elastomer, is best used in places where natural rubber would fail. It has great rebound that allows it to return to its original shape after being bent, stretched, or compressed. Compared to silicone, it is a cost-effective mold-making option for advanced part making. It captures extreme detail that will transfer to each casting for repeatable use. Other benefits the rubber can provide include resistance to impact, shock, cuts and tears, and bacteria.

2. Coatings

When formulated into a coating material, it is typically sprayed onto surfaces for protection. The coating will resist harsh chemicals, corrosion, abrasion, and impact. It can also be used for weathering protection, antibacterial properties, and many other purposes. With the ability to adhere to many surfaces, it offers flexibility and tough, long-lasting protection.

3. Foams

Thermoset polyurethanes are one of the only alternatives to expanded or extruded polystyrene foam. Using a chemical blowing agent or water, a polyurethane foam can produce a wide variety of options. Depending on the needed application, they can be rigid, semi-flexible, or flexible and have high impact strength. These two-component foams begin expanding once combined and cure to the predetermined weight and density. They are best used in void-filling applications to reduce the material costs of parts and structures. They’re also a great material for the protection of products during transit and can also be used as insulation foam.

4. Plastics

Polyurethanes, when made into a plastic, are rigid and smooth and are a good option if high strength and durability are important for the part being made. The plastic can take on extreme details of the mold it is poured into. Whether the surface is smooth, glossy, or matte, it will take on those exact qualities. As a thermoset material, it can be formulated with high heat deflection for use in high-temperature environments. It is also useful for prototyping parts and industrial part-making and can be made to be user-friendly without the need for high-end equipment.

Benefits of Polyurethane

  • It is a very versatile material since it can be manufactured as an elastomer, coating, foam, or plastic. These materials can be soft and flexible or tough and rigid. With flexibility in design, manufacturing one-off parts, prototypes, and high-volume runs is convenient. You also gain versatility that can be used in various indoor or outdoor applications and produced on job sites.
  • Unlike other rigid materials, it has high elasticity and easy moldability when needed. This molding quality allows you to create complex shapes at relatively low tooling costs.
  • It possesses high properties such as high tear resistance and high tensile strength for optimal protection. When sprayed onto surfaces, it offers protection against scratches, scrapes, and other damages that occur over time. It also resists abrasion, has substantial impact tolerance, and does not support fungal growth.
  • Compared to thermoplastic materials, it has a relatively short cure time. Most types are fast curing, which allows for increased part production and quick return to service. You’ll be able to sand, machine, and paint a lot faster than you would with other materials.

Alternative Materials

Polyurethane is commonly used for its low cost, but this low cost comes with downsides. When applying polyurethane, it is unsuitable for areas with high levels of moisture or humidity since it is sensitive to moisture. The material will bubble and leave a flawed surface. Some polyurethanes are not UV Stable, meaning UV rays can also cause degradation, so it must be protected with paint or a topcoat for indoor or outdoor use.

An alternative for coating applications would be to use polyurea. This material is much better in environments where moisture is an issue. It has improved properties that polyurethane may lack but uses high-end raw materials that make it more expensive.

An alternative to polyurea is polyurea hybrid. The hybrid material is a mix of polyurea and polyurethane. It has the benefit of being less expensive than polyurea, with better moisture resistance than urethane.

VFI High-Performance Polymers

VFI manufactures various polyurethane-based materials for various applications. Our casting rubbers and plastics are great for part-making. With different chemistries, our molding rubbers are great for making molds and forms. We’ve seen our hard coats and spray coatings used in various theming and industrial applications. Our foams can be formulated into rigid or semi-flexible structures for void-filling and high-end packaging, among other applications. Contact VFI today if you’d like to learn more about all our high-performance polymer products.

What Is Polyurea?

Posted on: December 18th, 2023 by mandig

What Is Polyurea?

polyurea

Polyurea is a two-component polymer produced through a process known as step-growth polymerization. This process is the chemical reaction between an isocyanate (A side) and a resin compound (polyamine, B side). The polyamine causes it to produce urea linkages.

Not many other materials can combine polyurea’s mechanical, physical, and chemical properties. Many industries use it as a protective coating, casting, or sealing material. As a coating, it is applied as a liquid and can conform to any shape or texture. It produces a strong yet flexible shell over many surfaces, including concrete, metal, and wood. The material can also be applied in a range of temperatures and environments. The primary use is in aromatic nonlight stable version, but color-stable versions are available in the form of an aliphatic.

What Is an Aromatic?

This material is a type of polyurea based on an aromatic iso. It is a workhorse in many industries when used as a base coat. It offers high properties at a low cost compared to aliphatics. Aromatics are also more chemically resistant.

One disadvantage is that it is not UV stable, which means it will change color from extended exposure to sunlight. However, the discoloration and loss of shine does not indicate a loss of properties or mechanical strength.

What Is an Aliphatic?

This material is a type of polyurea based on an aliphatic iso. Due to high-cost raw materials and complicated processing, it is a more expensive, premium product. It is UV stable, so it won’t change color when exposed to sunlight, and UV will not degrade its properties.

It can be used as a topcoat in indoor and outdoor applications to improve aesthetics and endure weathering. It can also be applied over aromatic polyurea at lower film thicknesses, so you use less of the high-cost material during application.

Aliphatic materials require advanced safety procedures above and beyond the aromatic polyureas, because the molecule is smaller and more toxic than an aromatic compound. An aliphatic molecule is a linear molecule while an aromatic molecule has a ring structure, making it much larger and less toxic than a similar sized aliphatic material.

What Are the Advantages of Polyurea?

Based on application needs, it can be formulated to achieve a range of properties.

  • Depending on whether a hard or soft material is needed, the hardness can vary by changing the durometer. Most range from Shore 80 A to Shore 80 D, with the A scale classifying the hardness of flexible to somewhat harder materials and the D scale classifying hard and rigid materials. The higher the durometer gets on each scale, the harder the material.
  • It is known for its durability and resilience as it protects against abrasion, chemicals, and other damaging effects.
  • A unique feature is that it sets within 5-15 seconds of application. Its molecular structure makes it less sensitive to moisture, so it does not react with water in the environment. Because it makes a urea linkage, the isocyanate targets and reacts with the amine groups first, generally before it can even get to the OH (hydrogen/water) groups, as the chemical reaction occurs.
  • It doesn’t degrade easily, even in the harshest conditions, so your surfaces remain protected. With a high-end combination of tensile strength and elongation, it is less likely to crack under pressure from flexing and movement.

How Is It Applied?

Surface preparation is critical to the material’s success in adhering to the surface. Oily contaminants and dirt affect the coating’s durability and longevity, so they must be removed first. A proper surface profile and/or primer are required to ensure long term adhesion and prevent expensive failures.

Polyurea is fast-reacting, so it needs to be applied with equipment that can handle its unique features. The application process uses high-pressure at a minimum of 2500 psi with heated, plural component spray equipment. The fast-setting speed requires advanced operating techniques, so applicators also must be trained to use the spray rigs.

Alternative applications are available for areas that are not able to be sprayed. A roller method is popular for industrial and residential application, because of the ease of application and limited access restrictions. Polyurea can also be mixed with a static mix tip to fill cracks and voids or applied with a brush for repairs or extremely small sections.

Where Is Polyurea Used?

Polyurea has properties that make it useful in applications where protection and strength are fundamental to the life of the surface. It is adaptable for use in a variety of applications, including:

  • Mining & excavation. Mining and construction equipment encounter abrasive materials like coal, stone, and metallic ore. It can be used to protect conveyors and rollers that transport or come into contact with these materials. Coatings allow the equipment to survive harsh working conditions.
  • Work and utility vehicles. It’s a great material for protecting and extending the life of work and utility vehicles. Coatings can be applied anywhere on these vehicles, from bumpers to truck beds, so they’re able to endure road wear. Choosing the best protective spray coating can help maximize the longevity of vehicles and their accessories. As a waterproof barrier, it can also protect metal parts from corrosion.
  • Commercial flooring. Polyureas can be used in flooring in two different ways. It can be formulated into a multi-purpose joint filling material. A joint filler creates a flexible, durable, and water-tight seal for various building joints. Its elasticity allows it to remain intact even during expansion and contraction between joints. It also can be used as a finish coating on a concrete floor to provide long-term protection and aesthetics. The polyurea’s flexible nature and high elongation allow for a continuous monolithic layer that is not prone to chipping.
  • Oil & gas. Fossil fuels and chemicals can be dangerous to the environment, so setting up proper containment is important. Many industries have turned to polyurea for primary and secondary containment in sensitive areas. This includes spraying over tank pads and geotextile fabric in containment fields to protect against leaks and spills. It has excellent chemical resistance, protects against corrosion, and withstands daily wear and tear.

Alternatives to Polyurea

No coating system can replace polyurea in all respects due to its unique physical properties and durability. While there are alternatives, some will not provide the same protection. They may also cause additional downtime during application.

1. Polyurethane

Polyurethane is closely related to polyurea, their main difference being in their resin sides. Urethane uses polyol and a catalyst rather than an amine. Without the amine acting as a curing agent, polyurethane is more versatile and can have specific high properties depending on the application.

While it can be less expensive than its counterpart, it doesn’t provide the same combination of high properties. It is sensitive to moisture and may cause foaming and/or pinholing when applied to damp surfaces. Because polyurethane is more sensitive to the environment and curing conditions, it is not recommended for sensitive environments.

2. Polyurea Hybrid

A Hybrid combines isocyanate, an amine, and polyol. The polyol contributes to its urethane component while the amine contributes to its polyurea component. It is a cost-effective solution but won’t obtain all high properties (elongation, tensile strength, tear strength). However, it provides a more polyurea like cure and less sensitivity to moisture compared to urethane.

3. Epoxy

Epoxy is a material that can be used for similar applications, such as floor coating. Spraying is not the preferred application of epoxy, as it is normally rolled or brushed on to a surface. Compared to polyurea, it is not flexible, takes longer to cure, but is more chemically stable. An epoxy’s adhesion is very dependent on surface profile, so it will cause continuous issues if not prepared properly.

VFI High-Performance Polymers

VFI is a 25+ year-old manufacturer of high-performance polymers for coating and joint-filling applications. Check out our high-pressure polyurea coatings, VFI-200, 201, 202, and 270, for optimal protection from chemicals, abrasion, and impact. Contact VFI for assistance in finding the right material for you.

Spray-On vs Drop-In Bedliner: Which is Better?

Posted on: December 6th, 2023 by mandig

Spray-on vs Drop-in Bedliner: Which Is Better?

polyurea hybrid spray bedliner

Spray-on and drop-in bedliners offer truck beds extra protection from daily use and abuse. Whether you’re using your truck for work hauls or just moving equipment around for a friend, it pays to keep every part of the vehicle in tip-top shape. Great truck bed liners will preserve the truck bed for the entire life of the vehicle.

Now the question is, which type is best for you: spray-on or drop-in? While each comes with pros and cons, which one you choose will ultimately depend on how you use your truck bed, how often, and how much you’re willing to pay for protection.

What Is Spray-on Bedliner?

It is a paint-like protective coating, generally made from polyurea, polyurethane, or hybrid chemistry. These coatings are sprayed on the truck bed using high-pressure, low-pressure, or cartridge-driven spray equipment. Most coatings are fast curing for a quick return to service in as little as one day. Polyurea coatings come with excellent physical properties that make them the premium product for spray on bedliners.

Benefits:

1. One and Done Solution

Coatings are a simple and mostly permanent solution to protect your truck bed. When sprayed, they adhere directly to the metal, forming an airtight bond. They won’t slip, shift, fall out, or cause damage to the truck bed from an improper fit. They should last the entire life of the truck when applied correctly.

2. Durability

They offer excellent protection from daily wear and extreme temperatures with impact resistance and abrasion resistance. Since the surface is sealed, moisture and other debris cannot get beneath the liner to the bare metal, reducing the risk of rust and corrosion. They also have excellent chemical resistance. They keep the truck bed looking new without warping, cracking, or breaking.

3. Aesthetically Appealing

If you’re concerned about the appearance of your truck, not only does the spray-on bedliner provide protection, but it also looks great doing it. Coatings mold to the contours of the bed without looking bulky, and very minimal maintenance goes into keeping them looking great for years.

Texture can also be applied for a finish that suits your needs. A grittier texture can provide traction to prevent cargo from sliding around the truck bed.

4. Versatility

Applied by spray, these coatings fit all-size truck beds with no custom fitting needed. They are also not limited to just truck beds as they can also offer protection to a handful of other industrial applications. You can cover bumpers, fenders, trims, and entire vehicles with spray-on liners. We have also seen them used on ATVs, emergency vehicles, utility vehicles, boats, and more.

5. Increased Value

Your truck starts depreciating the second you take it off the lot, so why not protect it with the best? Spray-on liners are a worthy investment and offer better value for your money. Since they don’t need to be replaced, the one-time installation costs are paid off in the long term. This added protection keeps the truck bed in great condition, increasing the value when it is time to sell.

Disadvantages:

While durable, these coatings can be expensive and time-consuming to apply. Most require expensive spray equipment and special training to use. They also rely heavily on surface preparation, which can be a meticulous process. You must make sure the truck bed surface is thoroughly scuffed, cleaned, and taped up to avoid overspray and adhesion issues. However, if you can get past the initial costs, they are more cost-effective in the long run.

Also, you must be aware that these coatings may fade depending on the chemistry. Colors fade much faster, which is why black is popular since the fade isn’t as noticeable. Consider applying a UV-stable topcoat for optimal protection.

What Is Drop-in Bedliner?

It is a plastic or rubber sheet that you “drop into” the truck bed. The best-installed drop-ins are custom-designed to fit the make and model of the truck. Some offer a universal fit, which means they’re made for a wide variety of truck beds. While this may be appealing, it may cause issues later.

Benefits:

1. Cost-effective

They are more affordable because of the materials they are made of and the do-it-yourself installation. They are a great option for truck owners who use their truck beds sparingly since they likely won’t offer the long-term protection desired.

2. Easy Installation

Unlike spray coatings, you don’t have to worry about a full cure time. They are easy to install from home without the help of a trained professional. Extensive prep work is not required, so your truck bed gains an extra layer of protection in under 30 minutes.

3. Removable

If you’re looking for a temporary solution, drop-in liners are the perfect option since they just sit in your truck bed. Some require you to drill holes to secure them down, but for the most part, they should be custom-made to fit securely in the vehicle. When it’s time to sell your truck, it can be easily removed and transferred to a vehicle with similar dimensions.

4. Covers Previous Damages

Coatings conform to every curve of a truck bed, so prior damage to the metal is more visible. Drop-ins hide the damage that the truck bed accumulated before installation. Since most are made of hard plastic, they are resistant to impacts, so you can load large objects into the bed without damaging them.

Disadvantages:

While the price may be lower, it typically means the material is of lower quality and looks like it too. Frequent replacement is more likely to occur when using a plastic drop-in liner. It is vulnerable to cracking, breaking, and warping over time. You’ll have to replace it several times across the lifespan of your truck because they don’t last as long as spray-ons.

If it’s not custom-fit, it can scuff the paint and cause dents on the metal bed. There is also the potential for water and other debris to slip under gaps and get trapped. Moisture and dirt on the bare metal will allow rust and corrosion to form.

When driving at high speeds, wind can get under the plastic and cause it to vibrate. The vibration causes it to hit the sides and floor of the truck bed, creating a lot of noise. Constant rattling from a loose bedliner could become quite annoying and it may cause cracking to occur.

It doesn’t have the same traction support as spray bed liner, especially when wet. The surface can be slippery, which makes sliding equipment into the truck a breeze, but you should also expect cargo to slide around while driving. A slippery surface can cause damage to the truck bed and its contents.

Bed Mats & DIY Bedliners

Bed mats are a type of drop-in liner that only covers the floor of the bed. They’re usually made of rubber and fit specific truck makes or models. They are preferred when truck owners want a soft material that provides shock absorption and impact protection. They require more maintenance as you’ll need to remove them often to clear the debris or moisture that builds up over time.

Aerosol sprays or roll-on coatings are more affordable and appeal to do-it-yourselfers who want a quick and easy solution from home. While you get a low-cost product, you also sacrifice quality. These products aren’t as thick, so they may need to be applied a few times for damage protection. Using a DIY product can also be much more labor-intensive since they take longer to apply.

VFI Coating Solutions

VFI’s protective spray materials are time-tested for quality assurance. We offer solutions from high and low-pressure formulas to our patented Qwik Spray System for low-volume application and those new to the industrial coating industry. Contact VFI today about any of our spray-on bedliner products.

What Can You Spray on Styrofoam to Make It Hard?

Posted on: November 7th, 2023 by mandig

What Can You Spray on Styrofoam to Make It Hard?

hardening styrofoam with hard coat

There are plenty of sprayable materials you can use to harden Styrofoam. Styrofoam is a lightweight material that is easy to CNC and create custom shapes, but it does not provide any strength or rigidity for long-term use. Using a sprayable hardcoat to make the Styrofoam “hard” and durable for use in almost any environment is a necessity. A hardcoat will solve your impact and environmental problems by encapsulating the Styrofoam, leaving only a paintable surface.

These coatings are designed to protect against impacts as well as wind, moisture, sunlight, or anything that may degrade the foam structure. They will not erase any details carved into the foam, as they tend to be applied in multiple coats to build protection.

What is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a brand name for closed-cell extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam used in a variety of industries. It’s commonly confused with EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam since people use the brand name to generalize all polystyrene foam. Both types of foam are lightweight yet sturdy and easy to sculpt or carve, making them desired for architectural and theming applications.

Styrene foam is also cost-effective compared to other materials like wood or metal. There’s not a project too big that foam isn’t able to handle since you can carve a single piece or assemble multiple pieces together. Once a three-dimensional object is completely carved, it’s hard-coated to provide a desired finish that is paintable and durable in any environment.

Types of Foam Hardening Materials

The type of method you choose to harden foam will depend on the shape of the structure, the needed finish, budget, and turnaround time. These are typically not the best methods for crafty DIYers who use Mod Podge, PVA glue, adhesives, and paint to protect their smaller projects. If you want your project to last, the following materials are your best bet:

1. Polyurea Coating

Polyurea coatings are durable and flexible coatings with premium properties, allowing you to have great tear strength, tensile strength, and elongation. They are extremely fast setting for quick turnarounds on your foam projects. If you want a foam structure that can be placed indoors or outdoors and withstands abrasion, chemicals, and impact, this is the ideal option. It also provides substantial moisture resistance for use in moisture sensitive environments.

Polyurea coatings must be sprayed through plural component equipment since they cure quickly. Their speed can also make them a little tricky to work with, so special training and equipment are required.

2. Polyurea Hybrid Coating

Polyurea hybrid coatings are made of both polyurea and polyurethane to be strong yet maintain flexibility when applied to foam surfaces. They cure rapidly, so the surface is sandable and paintable within a day. They can also be sprayed over plastic, cardboard, wood, cement, metal, and other prepared surfaces. They are most recommended for indoor and outdoor use, spraying large areas, or use in areas with a lot of traffic. Some coatings can also be fire retardant to meet safety requirements when needed.

These coatings also must be sprayed through plural component spray equipment, which requires training to use. However, they allow you to cover large surfaces quickly compared to other techniques that are more labor-intensive, such as fiberglass.

3. Polyurethane Coating

Polyurethane coatings are also strong, durable, and watertight when applied to various surfaces. They can be applied directly to foam, and unlike polyester resin or other solvent-based materials, they will not melt it. They’ve been used in a variety of foam projects, from architecture to theming and art. Other than foam, they can also be sprayed over fabric, metal, plastic, wood, etc.
They are a bit slower than polyurea hybrid coatings but still cure within hours for sanding and painting the next day. Like polyurea hybrid coatings, they also must be sprayed through plural component sprayers. However, some are offered as a cartridge-based spray system for ease of spraying and low-volume applications. Their chemistry makes them the more cost-effective option compared to hybrids.

4. Epoxy Coating

Like the aforementioned coatings, epoxy coatings form durable, hard-shell finishes over EPS foam. Most of these coatings, however, are not sprayed but brushed or rolled onto the surface. This can make the application process more labor-intensive. Epoxy is also applied in thinner coats, which makes it a bit more fragile than other coatings. Heavy impact could break or crack the coating, but it is a more economical solution.

Epoxy coatings also typically need to be sanded after they cure to create a smoother texture for priming and painting. They are most recommended for limited outdoor use or short-term applications over foam signs, logos, and props.

5. Fiberglass

Fiberglass is a process where once the foam is carved, successive layers of fiberglass mats are laid over the surface and wet out with resin until the desired thickness and strength are reached. This process can be messy and labor-intensive but makes the surface strong and durable as the fiberglass will bond to it.

Using polyester resin with fiberglass mats will melt Styrofoam, so the surface will either need to be covered with something else first, or a different resin will have to be used. Epoxy is the resin typically used in place of polyester. Polyurethane foam can handle either epoxy or polyester resins.

Examples of Hard Coating Foam

  • Theming – Polyurea or polyurethane hard coats can protect foam sculptures, props, sets, and signs for amusement parks, movie sets, or art shows. These coatings must be able to endure a lot since people will probably put their hands on them, children might play on them, and the weather might affect them if they’re placed outside.
  • Construction – Replacing stone architecture with foam is a possibility, but the foam must be hard-coated to withstand the molding process and additional weight.
  • Decorative Accents – Foam hard coats can be used for decorative purposes to mimic crown molding, trim, window shutters, pillars, columns, and more. They can also be used as garden décor for faux boulders, stones, tree bark, and more.
  • Transportation – Depending on the hardness, polyurea hybrid and polyurethane coatings can be made more flexible for seat cushion covers for aircraft, boats, and automobiles. They can also be used as covers for pads on amusement park rides for safety as well as comfort.

VFI Hard Coat Products

VFI manufactures a line of hard coat products for foam applications. These polyurea hybrid and urethane coatings range in hardness from 70 to 95 A and 50 to 75 D, making them durable for indoor and outdoor environments. As a premium option, some of our hard coats will pass Class A fire testing for optimal safety in any application. While most of these are meant to be sprayed, we also offer a brushable hardcoat option.

Contact VFI to learn more about protecting your foam project with a hard coat.

How to Use the Qwik Spray System (W/ Pictures)

Posted on: October 30th, 2023 by mandig

How to Use the Qwik Spray System (W/ Pictures)

The Qwik Spray System is VFI’s exclusive applicator gun and cartridge system used to help businesses with entry-level or low-volume applications of polyurea hybrid and polyurethane coatings. It is a cost-effective option that provides the same quality finish as high- or low-pressure spray equipment.

The gun is easier to operate than other systems as it requires no special training to use. It also automatically mixes the material in the static mix tip during the spray process and offers increased portability. There is minimal overall equipment maintenance, and cleaning after use is easy since cartridges can be thrown away once they are fully used.

Importance of Surface Preparation

All surfaces to be sprayed must be properly prepared beforehand to ensure coating adhesion. Remove debris, oil films, or detergents, and make sure the surface is dry before spraying. Some surfaces should be sanded and primed to create proper adhesion. Cover surrounding areas you’re not spraying to ensure there is no chance of overspray.

How to Set up the Applicator Gun

qwik spray gun and accessories

Equipment needed: VFI-7500 Qwik Spray Gun, air regulator kit with air supply hose, and air compressor (not included, must be capable of 10 CFM at 90 psi)

Qwik spray gun

1. Remove the VFI Qwik Spray Gun from the box and plastic bag. Remove the air regulator and air supply hose from the smaller box.

Qwik spray gun parts

2. Screw the quick-connect hose coupling (included with the gun) onto the bottom of the T-fitting to the right of the air regulator. Then, screw the top of the T-fitting onto the compressed air connection below the trigger handle of the spray gun.

air regulator on qwik spray gun

3. Insert the air supply hose into the push-to-connect fitting on the left side of the regulator.

air regulator hose

Note: When disconnecting, press the push-to-connect fitting to release the hose.

qwik spray gun handle

4. Attach the provided handle to the blue front plate of the spray gun. There are six different spots to screw the handle into for optimal comfort when spraying.

air compressor

5. Connect an air compressor hose to the quick-connect hose coupling.

air pressure regulator knob

6. On the rear of the gun, you will find the air pressure regulator that controls the coating flow. Adjust by twisting the knob clockwise for increased flow or counterclockwise for decreased flow.

qwik spray gun plungers

7. The brass forward/reverse rod near the regulator allows you to move the plungers forward while spraying and backward to remove empty cartridges.

How to Use the Qwik Spray System

qwik spray cartridges

Equipment needed: VFI-7500, 750×750 ml disposable cartridges, and static mix tips

1. Remove the cartridge from the box and plastic bag. If material separation occurs, shake the cartridge until uniform. Heat material slowly to at least 75°F. It should be elevated slowly to operating temperatures. Do not microwave.

Note: Do not store the cartridge nose up for long term periods to prevent leaking from the plunger seals.

VFI-6171 cartridge in plastic page

2. Keep the cartridge nose up to prevent the components from mixing.

cartridge with red safety cap

3. Remove the red safety cap from the threading.

removing anti-separation cap from cartridge

4. Slowly remove the white anti-separation cap. (The material may come out if the product is too warm or heated unevenly.)

spray nozzle on cartridge

5. Place the provided static mix tip on the plastic threading and hand-tighten the attached nut to the base.

spray nozzle tightened on cartridge

6. The static mix tip should sit snug on the threading with no gaps and without cross threading.

loading cartridge into qwik spray gun

7. Load the cartridge into the gun frame label side up by placing the rear of the cartridges over the plungers and lowering the front of the cartridges into the front plate.

cartridge loaded into qwik spray gun

8. Keep the cartridge and applicator nose up so the static mix tip stays vertical to prevent the A and B side material from crossing and flowing in the static mix tip. (If using joint filler material such as VFI-5011, skip steps 8-10.)

spray nozzle and air hose connect

9. Connect the elbow push-to-connect fitting on the air supply hose to the static mix tip for atomization during application.

Note: When disconnecting, press the push-to-connect fitting to release the static mix tip.

air regulator switch

10. Turn on the atomizer by opening the ball valve.

regulator knob for adjusting texture

11. Twist knob on the regulator to adjust for the desired texture. VFI recommends starting between 60-90 psi, but the psi can be increased based on the texture you desire. You can leave the setting for spraying future tubes.

Now, you can begin spraying by pulling the trigger on the handle.

Tips for Spraying

  • Use proper personal protective equipment (PPE). We recommend using a full-face mask/supplied air respirator, coverall suit or equivalent, and chemically resistant gloves.
  • The application area must be well-ventilated, like an approved spray booth, as these materials are hazardous to ingest, inhale, or come into physical contact with.
  • Consider your spray pattern before you start spraying. Once you begin, the entire cartridge must be fully discharged to keep the static mix tip from clogging.
  • Start spraying off the surface onto a disposable area to ensure the material is fully mixed. Monitor the level of material in the cartridges as you’re spraying. When the cartridge is nearly empty, spray off the surface to prevent off-ratio material.
  • Begin spraying within the recoat window of the product where you previously stopped to maintain uniform coverage across the entire surface.
  • You may apply texture by spraying over but not directly onto the surface until a desired finish is achieved.
  • Clean the gun of all coating residue after use with MEK or xylene, and do not soak it in solvent.

Compatible VFI Materials

The VFI-7500 Qwik Spray Gun works incredibly well with the VFI-6171 70 D Qwik Spray Hard Coat and provides the same quality as any low- or high-pressure system. It is also compatible with VFI’s other cartridge-based systems, including VFI-544 Qwik Spray Bedliner, VFI-5011 80 A Expansion Joint Filler, and VFI-2538 QS 70 D EPS Form Hard Coat. Contact VFI today if you are interested in getting started with our portable, easy-to-use spray system. You can also check out our Qwik Spray instructions in video format by clicking here.

Is Polyurethane Rubber or Plastic?

Posted on: October 24th, 2023 by mandig

Is Polyurethane Rubber or Plastic?

is polyurethane rubber or plastic

While there has been some confusion on the matter, polyurethane is neither rubber nor plastic. It often looks and feels like either material, which is why people often ask for polyurethane rubber or plastic. It also has properties that make it behave like a strong, rigid plastic with the elasticity of a rubber.

Polyurethane is strong and more durable than natural rubbers or thermoplastics, and it outperforms in highly abusive environments. It is a more cost-effective material in the long run for its long-lasting capabilities. The material is cast as a liquid, so production prices are lower than heat and pressure-molded materials. Being a liquid at the start also allows it to bond well to other materials when needed.

What is Urethane?

It is categorized as a polymer used to produce materials that behave like plastics and rubbers. Polymers are made of long, repeating chains of monomers. These highly cross-linked structures produce a thermosetting material. Thermoset polyurethanes, once hardened, cannot be melted or reformed.

While one polyurethane may look and feel different from another, they all essentially have the same chemistry. The material is made by mixing two or more liquid chemicals to produce a reaction. In this case, it is the reaction of a monomer and an isocyanate. Urethane has to be an isocyanate reaction with an alcohol functional group (OH). The choice of iso and monomer is how the properties of the material can be altered. Using different compounds is also how polyurethane is able to imitate other materials. Its range of durability, flexibility, and resilience make it highly valued across industries.

The material first became a replacement for rubber during WWII. Since then, many industries have preferred to use it in place of wood, metal, thermoplastic, and rubber. It offers many advantages and embodies aspects of each material. Based on its chemical structure, it can be a coating, adhesive, foam, or molding and casting material, making it versatile for a wide range of applications.

Benefits Compared to Rubber

There are two distinct types of rubbers: natural, harvested from the latex of rubber plants, and synthetic, made of petroleum byproducts. They are classified as elastomers as they are moldable and flexible, like polyurethane. There are several advantages to using urethane over rubber:

  •  It has notable resistance to abrasion, impact, and scratches. It’s best used when a material needs plenty of strength and resilience to endure continual stress and stretching.
  • While rubber is cheaper, polyurethane has more affordable tooling costs as it is easier to produce complex parts. It’s also more cost-effective in the long term since it is made to outlast rubber.
  • It excels at resisting cuts and tears better than rubber. It also has great load-bearing capacity to handle more weight without breaking, resulting in longer product life.
  • No matter the hardness range, it maintains its properties, whereas rubbers will have limited properties. It also maintains its properties over a wide range of temperatures and other conditions. Whether hot or cold, it stays flexible and functional. Rubber will typically become brittle and lose its elasticity over time due to these stresses.
  • It can be used for a handful of applications, as different formulas offer a broad range of properties, durometers, and colors, whereas rubber is more limited.

Benefits Compared to Thermoplastic

Thermoplastics have chain-like polymer molecules and can be made of various chemical compositions. Standard thermoplastics include polyethylene, PVC, nylon, and ABS. There are several reasons polyurethane would be used in place of these materials:

  • It is an ideal material for products that are subject to high impact or sudden forces and shocks. Thermoplastic is unable to handle repetitive impact, and it is more likely to break, abrade, or degrade.
  • It outperforms thermoplastic because of its durability, abrasion resistance, and wear resistance. This makes it a suitable material for applications that experience constant friction.
  • It maintains its strength, even at higher hardnesses. Thermoplastics are more limited in their durometers and properties, which makes them crack and break under heavy loads and stress.
  • You have more freedom in your production process when using the material, especially when making complex shapes. Thermoplastics are usually heated and injected into a mold, while polyurethane can be cast or reaction injection molded at both room and high temperatures.

Benefits Compared to Metal

Polyurethane has often been used in place of metal for its unique properties and advantages such as:

  • It has better shock absorption and noise reduction abilities. This is important for applications where a quieter environment is required.
  • It is a lightweight material, which is an advantage for applications where reducing the weight of parts is essential. Its lower weight also makes it easier to work with and handle.
  • It’s the preferred material when exposure to moisture or chemicals is possible. It can handle abrasive and corrosive environments, so you get more life out of your parts. Metal may rapidly break down when exposed to certain chemicals and moisture, making the life of parts much shorter.
  • It offers reduced tooling costs, as it is typically less expensive to machine, cast, and mold into complex shapes. This allows for custom designs that are difficult to achieve with metal. There’s also no need for expensive welding or machining processes, as it cures at room temperature.
  • Metal does not have the ability to flex under stress, but urethane can be compressed and still rebound to its original shape and size.

VFI Polyurethane Materials

VFI is experienced in the manufacture of various polyurethane products. We offer coatings, foams, rubbers, and plastics for a vast number of markets. Depending on the material, they can be sprayed, injected, or poured and customized to your specifications. There’s no limit to what they can be used for, as they are very versatile and adaptable. If you need help finding a solution for your project, VFI is happy to help. Contact us today for assistance with your urethane needs.

Polyurea vs Polyurea Hybrid: How to Tell the Difference

Posted on: October 17th, 2023 by mandig

Polyurea vs Polyurea Hybrid: How to Tell the Difference

polyurea vs polyurea hybrid coatings

Polyurea and polyurea hybrids are used for a similar purpose, as they are both sprayable coatings that form seamless, protective barriers on virtually any surface. Once cured, they have excellent resistance to abrasion, corrosion, and impact damage. They can also be sprayed through the same type of high- or low-pressure equipment.

Polyurea is considered a premium product due to its higher properties and chemical resistance, whereas hybrids are a cost-effective option with qualities of both polyureas and polyurethanes. The one big difference between these coatings is moisture resistance, as it does not react with water like a urethane or hybrid would. This allows it to be used in extremely sensitive conditions.

A common misconception in the industrial coatings market is that some products claim to be “pure” polyurea, but do not reflect it in cost or properties. These coatings may also boast a high percentage of polyurea content to make them seem superior to typical hybrids. It’s believed that the higher the content, the better the product. Due to this, many applicators ask for the polyurea content in any given product.

However, percentages mean nothing if they are not verified by a third-party testing agency. The truth of what the product is lies within the physical properties. If you look at the properties, you’ll usually be able to determine where the material falls on the polyurea to hybrid spectrum.

The Truth Is in the Physical Properties

To determine if a polyurea is “pure” or a hybrid, you’ll want to look at three main properties: tensile strength, elongation, and tear strength. It is a combination of the three that allows you to tell the difference between the coating types. These three properties will typically all be high for polyurea, but you will see variations for hybrids. Only one or two may be on the higher end for a hybrid while the other(s) are relatively lower, which is how you’re able to decipher its polyurea content.

Note: these properties are averages for 50-60 D materials. Properties will change if the durometer is increased or decreased.

Tensile strength is the strength of a material (in this case, the coating) to withstand pulling force tension before it fails. It is usually listed as the pound-force per square inch (psi) at which the material fails on average. This is determined using standardized mechanical testing.

  • What to expect for polyurea tensile strength: Typically, above 2,500 psi

Elongation is the maximum strain or stretch a material (the coating) can withstand before it fails. It is listed as a percentage found by comparing the final and original length of the tested material. Elongation is tested using the same standardized mechanical testing as tensile strength. It is important to know the relationship between tensile strength and elongation to understand the point at which failure or deformation may occur.

  • What to expect for polyurea elongation: Typically, above 300%

Tear strength is the amount of force required to rip a material (the coating) or continue tearing it along the vertical axis. It is usually listed as the average tested force in pounds per linear inch (pli) needed to rip the material. If the material was cut or punctured, the value represents how much force along the axis is needed to continue the tear. These values are based on a standard ASTM test method and die shape (ASTM D624, Die C).

  • What to expect for polyurea tear strength: Typically, above 350 pli

Tensile Strength vs Elongation vs Tear Strength

Let’s compare the properties of VFI-201 vs VFI-206 and VFI-542. Other people in the industry would potentially consider VFI-206 a pure polyurea, but its properties show that it has just enough urethane content to make it a hybrid (shown in its lower elongation).

Properties VFI-201 50 D Polyurea Coating VFI-206 60 D Polyurea Hybrid Coating VFI-542 High Pressure Spray Bedliner
Tensile Strength 2880 psi 3000 psi 2410 psi
Elongation 448% 250% 80%
Tear Strength 387 pli 480 pli 241 pli

How to Choose Between a Polyurea and a Hybrid

Knowing the difference between a true polyurea and a hybrid will help you choose the best coating for your application. Your choice will depend on the intended use and potential exposure to the elements.

While polyurea coatings are the premium option, you should determine if you actually need one. Its moisture resistance makes it the common choice, but it is misconceived that a hybrid needs more moisture resistance than required. If you have a moisture problem during application, you may be looking for an entirely different product.

It is also important to know the differences in setting speed for successful application. Polyureas tend to be rapid curing with about 4-6-second gel times, while hybrids gel at about 8-10 seconds. A polyurea’s faster setting abilities can make it tricky to work with and ensure adhesion.

Polyurea hybrids are super versatile, providing a good balance between properties, moisture insensitivity, and price. VFI recommends our hybrid solutions as they are cost-effective and can be custom-formulated to fit your needs. Contact us today to find the right coating for you.

Thermoset vs Thermoplastic: Which is Better?

Posted on: September 26th, 2023 by mandig

Thermoset vs Thermoplastic: Which is Better?

Thermoset vs thermoplastic

When looking at thermoset vs thermoplastic, choosing the best material for your project will highly depend on the application, needed properties, and your overall budget. Both materials have been used to create products for everyday use and even specific purposes. There are many applications where either material will work, but some require the use of one over the other.

The main difference between thermosets and thermoplastics is what happens in the curing process and how they behave when heat is applied. They are also different regarding their properties, applications, and how they’re manufactured or processed.

Thermosets handle heat incredibly well after curing, as they do not melt when exposed to additional heat.

Thermoplastics begin as solids and are then heated and melted to be formed into new solid shapes once cooled. Unlike thermosets, if heat is applied to the material after it has cured, it will melt back to its liquid state.

What Is a Thermoset?

A thermoset is a high-performance polymer that cross-links during its curing process to form irreversible chemical bonds. At room temperature, it is a liquid and then hardens when heat and/or pressure is applied to make the material undergo a chemical reaction. The chemical change prevents the material from returning to a liquid state, making it impossible to reshape, recycle, or remold.

The chemical bonds also make the material stronger and more heat-resistant than its thermoplastic counterpart. The higher the cross-link density, the better the heat and chemical resistance they have. They can also be more rigid or flexible depending on the length and number of cross-link chains.

The main molding process used to make thermosets is reaction injection molding (RIM). Some materials can also be poured or sprayed. True to their name, they are set with permanent physical properties after the initial cure.

Common materials: epoxy, polyurethane, polyurea, polyaspartic, silicone

Advantages & Weaknesses

Advantages: 

  • Durable. Thermosets are a good choice for parts that require dimensional stability and structural integrity at various temperatures. Due to their strong chemical bonds, they retain their strength, form, and shape in any condition, which makes them more durable.
  • On-site uses. Thermosets can be applied to be cured on site without heating and/or can be retrofitted once they are in the field. They can also be sprayed through a plural component machine or injected while in the field. With easy molding characteristics, you can create large shapes, complex parts, or multipart components.
  • Cost-effective. Setup and tooling costs tend to be lower. They can be molded at different tolerances, allowing for flexible product designs. Surface finishing is not required, which makes the process even more cost and time efficient.
  • Versatile. There are a wide range of industries that use thermosets due to their chemical and thermal stability, as well as their various hardnesses. They have the unique advantage of being used as plastic, rubber, or foam. For example, you can make a thermoset elastomeric, but thermoplastics are incapable of achieving the same flexibility, so you would have to use a material like natural rubber. They have excellent flowability as a liquid, which allows them to fill all voids in a mold to copy small details that can’t be made with metal or thermoplastics.

Weaknesses: They might not be used over thermoplastics in instances where a recyclable or remoldable material is desired since they cannot be melted down to their original liquid state. Even though they have high strength, their rigidity can lead to reduced hardness at high temperatures. If they are overheated, they may begin to degrade but will not melt. This makes picking the correct thermoset product and the relevant HDT or heat cycling numbers important for your application.

Where Are They Used?

With good chemical resistance and thermal stability, they meet a variety of conditions for a range of applications. Their properties make them an excellent choice for high-heat applications or situations where heat is a factor. They are widely used in the aerospace, defense, electrical, automotive, and construction industries. They are a great alternative to metals and other plastics when complex, detailed parts and components are needed. Easy molding characteristics and on-site use get around many issues that you would encounter with thermoplastic materials.

What Is a Thermoplastic?

A thermoplastic is a solid polymer at room temperature (commonly stored as pellets) but becomes soft and pliable once heat is applied. There is no chemical bonding that occurs during the curing process, which means that it is reversible and only a physical change. Parts and products are made from this material by the processes of extrusion, thermoforming, or injection molding. Since they have a low melting point, they soften and deform when exposed to heat after curing, but their properties remain unaffected once the heat is removed.

Common materials: ABS, acrylic, nylon, polystyrene

Advantages & Weaknesses

Advantages: 

  • Reusable. They are best known for their recyclability, as they can be melted down and molded into a new shape for reuse. Even after the material has been reshaped, its physical properties will not be negatively affected.
  • Durable. They have great impact resistance and high strength while also being lightweight. They also resist shrinking as they offer good elasticity and flexibility. Since they are known for being versatile, they work well in both high and low-stress applications.
  • Chemically resistant. They are desirable for their resistance to chemicals, detergents, and corrosion. They are the perfect material for applications that need protection from highly corrosive environments. While thermosets also have decent chemical resistance, it doesn’t compare to thermoplastics.

Weaknesses: Thermoplastics are not always the best or most cost-effective option, especially for low-volume or custom part production. The production process usually requires high heat and pressure, which can be more costly.

When exposed to heat and sunlight for extended periods, they experience UV degradation and soften or deform. They can’t handle heavy loads because they will stretch and weaken, which makes them more susceptible to creep and fractures.

They also struggle with application or retrofitting in the field. Primarily all work is done in the manufacturing setting and the original part may not be able to be modified in the field.

Where Are They Used?

Thermoplastics are ideal for applications that require recyclable and reusable materials. They are a good substitute for metal, as they can withstand corrosive conditions, though they are limited in high-temperature environments. They’ve also found use in the construction, electronics, medical, food and beverage, chemical, and automotive industries. They can be used to encapsulate rigid objects in electrical equipment or rope and belt production.

VFI Thermosetting Polymers

VFI has been manufacturing thermosetting polymers for almost 30 years. Our products have been used in a vast number of markets and industries. Most of our materials are two component liquids that become solid from a chemical reaction once combined and allowed to cure. They are strong, long-lasting, and third-party tested for quality assurance. If you have specifications for a needed material or questions on if you should be using a thermosetting polymer, contact VFI today.

The Benefits of a Reusable Concrete Formliner

Posted on: September 19th, 2023 by mandig

The Benefits of a Reusable Concrete Formliner

Reusable concrete formliner

Learning more about reusable concrete formliner materials may help you decide if your project can benefit from using them. These tools are used in the construction industry to mold plain concrete into decorative concrete pieces. They are a cost-effective way to mimic expensive materials, such as brick, stone, and wood, using concrete. They can be used in a variety of cast-in-place, precast, and tilt-up jobs to enhance bridges, parks, residential areas, and other architectural concrete projects.

When choosing the best form liner material, you’ll want to consider how many times you want to use it. The types of materials used to make them play a big part in their longevity. Some materials are made to withstand hundreds of pulls, but others are only good for one use.

What Is a Reusable Concrete Formliner?

What separates reusable liners from single-use ones is their ability to generate multiple pulls before they wear down. Reusable formliners are made of stronger, more durable materials that last longer as long as they are properly cared for between uses.

What Is It Made Of?

No matter what material you choose, a good way to preserve a formliner for reuse is by applying a release agent before each use to limit adhesion to the concrete. The 4 main materials used include:

1. Urethane Rubber

Among all the materials used to make concrete formliners, urethane is the best option for reuse. It is a very high-quality, durable, and flexible material that is poured over a master to create panels of various shapes and sizes. It is the only material with multi-reuse potential, as a single liner can achieve as many as 100 pulls.

Urethane is great for custom patterns with high detail and depth, custom panel sizes, and, most importantly, large projects that require high reuse. Also, when it is bonded to a plywood backing, it makes it easier to move and work with.

2. Foam

As a lightweight material, polystyrene foam is easy to use and trim to the size you desire. It can be either hot wire cut or molded to generate a smooth finish on concrete, but it is generally limited in the shapes it can create if you intend to reuse the mold more than once.

It is a decent alternative to urethane rubber, but it must be coated with a 2-part urethane encapsulant of some kind, or it will be destroyed in the stripping process after one use. For this purpose, VFI offers VFI-2538 70 D EPS Form Hard Coat, which creates a uniform and releasable surface when casting concrete. When coated, foam liners can be reused if maintained, but they will not produce nearly as many castings as urethane rubber.

3. Plastic

The number of uses you’ll get from plastic will depend on the type of plastic used and its thickness. Plastics such as styrene and ABS are used in form lining, but only ABS is capable of multiple uses (usually up to 5). While it’s more cost-effective, it won’t provide nearly as many pulls as urethane.

Plastic formliners also provide concrete with a subtle, less detailed finish since they are made using a vacuum-forming process. Plastic is a desired material if you’re working on smaller projects where only basic patterns are needed and high reuse is unnecessary.

4. Fiberglass

Concrete formliners were once made of fiberglass sheets fastened to a form to create basic ribbed patterns. As new materials and techniques emerged, fiberglass took a backseat in the industry since it was much more time-consuming to use. Urethane rubber is easier to work with and produces results just as good in most applications. If more than 3 inches of relief is needed, fiberglass is preferred, though urethane is capable of high reliefs as well.

Benefits of Urethane Rubber

  • Cost efficiency – While urethane rubber is a more costly material, its reuse potential more than makes up for the initial cost. With proper cleaning and storage, you’ll be able to maximize the life of your reusable concrete formliner.
  • Durability – Most urethane formliners are made of solid rubber, so they have the strength to endure multiple pulls. The best reusable ones use higher durometer urethanes, typically between 70A – 90A. The harder the material, the more capable it is of maintaining its strength over time.
  • Flexibility – Urethane can be more flexible or rigid depending on what kind of incuts you require in the design of your formliner. This increases the design potential you have while the material maintains its reusable nature.
  • Versatility – Unlike other materials, urethane can copy extreme detail from a master and transfer those details onto wet concrete. You’re then left with concrete pieces that have the realistic finish you desire. There’s no limit to the concrete textures, patterns, or designs you can create with urethane. It is also capable of creating reusable concrete formliners of any shape or size needed.
  • Consistency – Because urethane concrete formliners have such high reuse potential, they produce repeatable, uniform patterns after each use. Urethane reflects the same amount of detail in every cast, so large projects are desirable and seamless.

VFI Urethane Rubbers

VFI manufactures various urethane rubbers for the creation of reusable concrete formliners. Depending on the detail desired, we generally recommend the 50A-90A rubbers in our 2100 series. Our VFI-3170 and VFI-3180 rubbers are also excellent materials but must be used in controlled, high-production environments. If you’re interested in either product line, contact VFI today for more information.

Why Polyurethane Formliners Are the Best for Concrete Projects

Posted on: September 11th, 2023 by mandig

Why Polyurethane Formliners Are the Best for Concrete Projects

polyurethane formliner for concrete

Unlike traditional materials such as plastic or foam, polyurethane formliners offer a unique blend of qualities that make them the superior choice for concrete projects. One of urethane’s most remarkable characteristics is its flexibility. Due to its flexible nature, it can replicate complex patterns and intricate designs, including incuts, curves, and irregular shapes. It has unlimited design potential for replicating natural materials, pushing boundaries with abstract patterns, and even incorporating logos into architecture.

Other, more rigid materials can’t achieve the same highly realistic detail and definition on concrete surfaces. Urethane is also much more durable than any other material. With its resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and excessive wear, a single liner withstands multiple uses.

How are Urethane Formliners Made and Used?

Polyurethane formliners are made of a high quality, two-component material that combines isocyanate and polyol, which forms a liquid rubber that is poured into a mold and over a master. The liquid flows into all voids and contours every line to pick up every minor detail, including the porous nature of rocks, creating a perfect replica. Urethane cures at room temperature and comes in a range of hardnesses to fit a variety of application needs.

Before casting concrete into the new mold, it’s recommended that an acceptable release agent be used on the face, edges, and ends before each cast. Do not over-apply, as this may create pooling in the mold that will cause surface voids or bug holes. These voids prevent the concrete from copying all the details from the urethane.

The formliners are generally placed inside formwork before the concrete is poured. They must be properly aligned and secured for the best results. Large liners are usually attached to plywood backing since they weigh more and are less flexible. Plywood allows for attachment points in order to pick up the liners with machinery for precise placement and increased size. Using larger liners this way also allows for a quicker set-up and application on larger projects.

Once the concrete hardens, the formliner is removed, and all the details are transferred onto the surface. Urethane’s elasticity simplifies the stripping process, allowing it to easily release from intricate details and undercuts in the concrete for damage-free demolding. These formliners can also be inverted to generate different, less predictable patterns on the concrete. When using urethane, it’s much easier to avoid noticeable seams in the design as well, especially if you’re using large panels of the material. When plastic is used, more effort goes into making larger forms, as an adhesive must be used to glue several pieces together.

Where Are They Used?

Polyurethane form liners see the most use in large projects and areas with a lot of square footage to cover. If you need long spans or a seamless appearance in the concrete, urethane is the best option capable of fulfilling these requirements. It is a cost effective choice for any project that requires a high number of reuses.

Urethane is the best material for producing high detail and relief for projects, especially when a certain level of realism is needed. There’s almost no limit to where urethane can be used, including tilt-up, cast-in-place, and precast applications. Other instances where urethane makes a great form lining material include:

  • Architectural facades. Add depth and character to flat, plain concrete surfaces on the exterior of buildings and give them a new identity.
  • Landscaping. Craft inviting outdoor spaces such as charming pathways with natural rock formations in retaining walls to connect with surrounding landscapes.
  • Interior design. Enhance plain walls and columns and turn them into a stunning focal point for indoor spaces such as hotels, residences, and shopping centers.
  • Infrastructure. Beautify utilitarian structures such as bridges, tunnels, and public spaces with artistic, textured elements.

How to Take Care of Your Formliners

A urethane formliner’s reusability will depend on how it’s used, how it’s cared for, how detailed it is, and the job site conditions. Key steps to preserve the life and quality of the liners include:

  • A release agent should be applied before each use for easier demolding and to prolong the life of the liner. Cleaning the release agent off after use is also essential, as some release agents can be reactive and degrade the material over time.
  • A clean liner will last longer and produce excellent results each time. Proper cleaning after each use removes concrete dust and buildup, preventing debris from affecting the detail of subsequent pours. Clean with hot water, soap, and a natural bristle brush. Never use a wire brush or harsh chemicals that might damage the urethane.
  • Be careful and gently pry the formliner from the concrete in the stripping process. Peeling it back can create additional stress, reducing its usefulness over time.
  • The form should be removed within 24 hours after the concrete has cured, or stripping may be difficult. While urethane is durable, you want demolding to be easy to keep the detail intact.
  • Proper storage is also required to maintain its usability. Store it flat and in a clean, temperature-controlled environment. Do not let it sit face up in the sun for long durations of time. UV rays deteriorate urethane and may cause it to expand and fall apart.

VFI Polyurethane for Concrete Projects

VFI manufactures several lines of urethane products not just for use in form lining. The type of rubber you choose for your project will depend on your production process and the detail you require. Our 2100 series 55A-70A rubbers can produce advanced detail for highly aesthetic concrete pieces. Our 2100 series 70A-90A rubbers are also great for concrete projects but offer basic detail at lower pour thickness minimums. If you’re interested in these materials or softer rubbers for cast and manufactured stone applications, contact us today.

Six Benefits of Precast Concrete Products

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Six Benefits of Precast Concrete Products

precast concrete

The construction industry is becoming increasingly reliant on precast concrete products. According to Verified Market Research, the precast concrete market “is projected to reach $178.75 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 5.56% from 2021 to 2028.” This growth is expected to occur from rapid urbanization and industrialization, increasing investment in new construction projects, and infrastructure development.

Precast concrete is a form of concrete that is cast in a well-controlled environment or precast plant. This means the concrete is cast and cured before it is transported to the work site for installation. The concrete mix varies based on desired strength, colors, and performance features. If additional strength is required of the concrete structure, it can be reinforced by adding rebar or steel cable.

Typically, the concrete is cast into flexible, reusable molds or forms. Urethane rubber molds are highly customizable precast concrete products. The rubber comes in different hardnesses with various pot life options based on your processing needs. A wide variety of architectural and structural elements can be made with this material, including stone veneer, panels, hardscape, stamped concrete, and more.

Why Use Urethane Rubber for Precast Projects

1. Versatility

When urethane rubber is used, you can replicate concrete pieces of virtually any size, shape, or detail to fit your project requirements. It can be used in the field or in a factory setting. The molds are not limited in their design as they can be made with various curves, bends, angles, and odd designs. They also offer a variety of textures and finishes to choose from.

Making custom forms allows even the largest-scale construction projects to have unique elements. From schools and hospitals to bridges and parking garages, there’s almost no precast structure that urethane can’t be used for. These molds and form liners are great for architectural concrete, cast stone, highway barriers, retaining walls, and more.

2. Aesthetics

Precast concrete can be more than just functional; it can also be desired for its increased decorative purposes. Urethane molds and forms have been used to produce precast concrete for some of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings and structures. When the molds are made, they copy the intricate details and designs of a master and transfer those details to the concrete. The concrete can easily mimic the look of historical stone or brick for a fraction of the cost.

Other molds made from plastics, wood, or metals can’t offer the same elaborate patterns as urethane. If you’re looking for intricate and noticeable designs, the rubber will provide the high level of precision and advanced detail you desire.

3. Repeatability

Urethane forms are considered some of the finest and most durable products on the market. Their durability allows them to be used over and over to create copies of the same design, ensuring consistency in your precast concrete project.
These reusable molds can produce up to 100 castings before they lose detail and strength. High reusability and repeatability also mean you get the same level of detail in each cast until the mold needs to be replaced.

Concrete molds made of wood or plastics only get between 1-10 uses. While steel molds can produce more, they are limited in the designs that can be created. It is also cost-prohibitive to produce or to have more than one of them.

4. Cost-effective

Casting concrete in urethane molds is much more cost-effective than using natural building materials such as stone, brick, and other masonry. Since it is such a durable, long-lasting material, you save money by not having to replace your molds as much.

Urethane forms are also compatible with high-end applications, so you can make durable concrete that withstands impact, corrosion, and acid attack. Not only do your molds last a long time, so do your concrete structures.

5. Quality Control

Depending on the type of urethane rubber chosen, the material can be time and environmentally sensitive, which means it must be poured and cured under specific conditions. Because the precast process is done in a well-controlled environment, it’s the perfect place to use urethane.

Quality assurance technicians are able to assess the entire process, from making the molds to mixing, pouring, and demolding the concrete. Since the precast concrete products are tested and reviewed during each step, you’re left with superior quality and a more consistent product. In this setting, the concrete is also allowed to strengthen before it is transported to the work site.

6. Convenience

Since the forms and molds don’t need to be set up on-site, precast concrete reduces construction time and lowers labor costs as well. Molding concrete off-site also reduces the equipment and labor needed on-site. Workers can carry out other projects while the concrete is made to prevent construction delays.

VFI Urethane Rubber

VFI has noticed an increased demand for precast concrete products and offers our 2100 and 3100 series of polyurethane rubbers. These rubbers have been used in the creation of cast stone, manufactured stone, formliners, stamps, and more for the concrete construction industry. Request more information by contacting VFI today.

Determining Shore Hardness of Rubbers & Plastics

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Shore Hardness is the resistance a material has to indentation. Determining a materials Shore Hardness requires the use of a durometer, which is a device that measures the depth of an indentation in the material by creating force through a presser foot.

In order for people to have a point of reference on how hard a material is different shore hardness scales have been created. There are 12 different Shore Hardness scales depending on the type of material that is being measured.

When dealing with rubbers and plastics two scales are used. The A Shore Hardness scale is used to measure flexible rubbers commonly used in molds. Hard rubbers, semi-rigid plastics and hard plastics are measured using the D Shore Hardness Scale.

Both of these scales have ranges from 0-100. The lower the Shore Hardness is on the scale the softer and more flexible the material will be. As you increase upwards on the scale materials become stiffer and less flexible.

When selecting a rubber or plastic to use for your mold making needs there are a couple of things that should be taken into consideration.

How delicate is the item that you’re molding. 

If you’re making a mold of an item that has sharp undercuts, thin parts or protrusions it is recommended to use a material that provides greater flexibility and stretches easily. This will insure that you’re able to extract your model from the mold without it breaking.

How much detail is needed for your project.

When using rubbers and plastics detail is directly related to the hardness of the material that you’re using. The harder a material is the greater casting detail it will provide. For example, if you were making a mold for a stone back splash you would want to use a harder material to pick up textural detail within the rocks.

Abrasion Resistance

Abrasion resistance refers to a materials ability to withstand any method of wearing down or rubbing away by means of friction. This point should be taken into consideration if you are planning to use a rubber or plastic mold for construction applications. Some of these application would include architectural precast concrete, cast veneer and flexible form liners. In construction applications you want your material to provide enough flexibility, while being durable and insuring a long useful life.

Have an upcoming project? Have questions or need assistance selecting the right material for your job? Give us a call at 800-307-9218. Our team of technical experts and sales representatives are happy to help!

Different Types of Concrete Stamps Require Different Materials

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Concrete stamps can take a basic concrete project and bring it to the next level. These stamps are used to enhance a surface and make it look decorative by providing a textured detail imitating stone, brick, wood and much more. They are most often used to create decorative walkways, courtyards, patios, decks and on decorative vertical concrete applications.

Most stamps are made out of urethane rubbers as this material provides a range of Shore Hardness options, while remaining flexible and providing maximum abrasion resistance.

Producing stamps can be expensive, that’s why it’s important to understand how to pick the correct rubber for your needs. Stamps come in numerous types and flexibilities ranging from floppy to rigid. Three common types of stamps are stamp rollers, texturing skins and concrete mats.

Stamp rollers are used as imprinting tools on large scale projects, on slab corners and boarders where detail is not as critical. These stamps are popular with contractors because of their ease of use and can cover a lot of ground quickly.

It’s important to have an understanding of what to look for in regards to the type of rubber your stamp roller is made out of. Rollers work best when the concrete is still very soft. Because of the roller application, a harder durometer rubber is needed to imprint detail quickly. VFI would recommend our 3170 or 3180, for this application. This will help to insure maximum detail will be transferred to your project’s surface.

Texturing skins are used in vertical and decorative applications where flexibility would be necessary. These stamps are usually thin to reduce weight and make them more maneuverable on the job-site. Semi-rigid rubbers are used to allow the stamp to be more pliable and capture the curvature of a structure. These skins work best on surfaces with undulations, sloped areas and in flare ups like driveway aprons. VFI-3160 provide the perfect amount of flexibility for challenging applications while still providing great casting detail.

Concrete mats are rigid and extremely firm. These mats are very large, and most of the time will have handles to help contractors lift and move them into place. The rigidity of concrete mats will help to leave a highly detailed impression. The polyurethane used in these stamps will range from a Shore A Hardness of 80 or higher (VFI-3180). Interested in making your own concrete stamps? VFI has Technical Service Representatives willing to answer all of your stamping questions. Contact the VFI team at 1-800-307-9218.

The Global Precast Concrete Market is Projected to Grow at a CAGR of 5% Through 2025

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

A recent study conducted by Transparency Market Research shows the global precast concrete market growing at a healthy CAGR of 5% through 2025. Two major factors contributing to this growth are swift urbanization and high demand for commercial construction projects.

Urbanization A Driving Force Behind Global Precast Market Growth

As the global economy has become more integrated a population shift has occurred with residents leaving rural areas and moving to metropolitan hubs. Cities are catering to this demand and are utilizing precast concrete to help build needed infrastructure. Precast concrete provides many benefits such as design-build efficiency, low maintenance, reduced costs, and aesthetic versatility.

High Demand For Commercial Construction

With mass migration from rural to metropolitan areas numerous commercial structures will need to be built including malls, hotels, and offices. Architects and builders love specing precast concrete products in commercial projects as it’s cost-effective, easy to produce, less labor-intensive and reduces build time.

Highly Engineered, High-Performance Solutions Tailored To The Precast Concrete Industry

Volatile Free, Inc. (VFI) manufactures a highly engineered, high-performance line of urethane molding rubbers for the precast concrete industry. With multiple Shore Hardness and pot life options, VFI has a product for all your precast concrete needs.

To learn more about VFI’s urethane rubbers contact us at 800-307-9218.

New Fire-Retardant Hard Coat System

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

Volatile Free, Inc. formulated the industry’s first polyurethane hard coat cartridge system with fire retardant qualities. The hard coat was designed for long-lasting protection of foam sculptures, parts, and components and protects against external impacts and environmental elements. The 6170 is available for plural component spray systems and the 6171 is available in the convenient Qwik Spray System® with hassle-free cartridge sets.

VFI is Celebrating 25 Years!

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by Marc

We are excited to announce that Volatile Free is celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2020. To honor the milestone, we are unveiling a refreshed logo and new brand colors. The company is ready to continue offering the same high-quality products and exceptional customer service for the next 25 years with a more modern look and feel.

Acrylic/Silicone Hybrid System

Posted on: January 5th, 2020 by Marc

The Acrylic/Silicone Hybrid System from Volatile Free, Inc. combines the best performance characteristics of their proven acrylic and silicone liquid applied roof coating lines. VFI-640-1 acrylic gray base coat, used together with non-woven polyester fabric, offers a seamless coating with lasting adhesion and excellent waterproofing characteristics. SEALGUARD VFI-991® standard solids, silicone top coat is then applied resulting in superior protection against standing water and aging with 100% UV resistance. The Acrylic/Silicone Hybrid System is unique to the liquid applied roofing industry and is exclusive to Volatile Free, Inc. and VFI approved distributors.

What Is Silicone Roof Coating?

Posted on: January 4th, 2020 by Marc

What Is Silicone Roof Coating?

what is silicone roof coating

Silicone can be used as a liquid applied roof coating to provide waterproof characteristics and UV stability. Roof substrates of all kinds break down over time and eventually cause roof leaks. These leaks typically cause expensive damage to the building itself, as well as the contents of the building.

As roof substrates age they eventually begin to fail. When this happens, a building owner has three obvious options:

  • Repair the leaks. Repairing leaks can be very challenging. The source of the leak is often very difficult to find and the repair is simply a band-aid approach that offers a short-term solution.
  • Roof replacement. Not only are roof replacements very costly, but the material from the original roof ends up in a landfill. Many building owners are looking for more ecofriendly solutions to the maintenance of their buildings.
  • Maintenance coating. Using silicone as a maintenance coating is a way to offer a long-term solution while being much more cost efficient, and ecofriendly, than a full roof replacement. When done properly, a silicone roof coating offers a new layer of protection that can last for years.

Why does silicone work as a roof coating?

The benefit of silicone as a roof coating comes from its non-carbon nature. Silicone is inherently resistant to bacteria growth and resists degradation from ponding water while still providing breathability for the substrate. This breathability helps to protect the substrate which leads to a longer lifespan.

When is it best to use silicone?

Silicone is used when there are concerns associated with UV stability. Silicone is naturally resistant to ultraviolet rays which cause oxidation and can reduce the life of a roofing substrate. Another benefit of silicone is its ability to withstand indefinite exposure to ponding water. Proper drainage is always necessary on a low slope roof, but the risk of standing water still exists. A silicone roof coating provides a waterproof barrier that protects the roofing structure, which in turn helps to expand the lifespan. And since silicone is resistant to mold and mildew, dirt and grime build-ups can easily be washed off with water.

What are the best silicone products and why?

There are three main types of silicone for the liquid applied roofing industry:

  • High Solids Silicone is the most used silicone roof coating. With the ability to apply by spray, roller, or brush, it offers lower VOC, a glossy finish, and decreased application time due to higher volume solids.
  • Standard Solids Silicone has a higher VOC content, but gives better adhesion and a smoother finish with less roller marks and brush strokes. A lower solid content does mean a lower volume solid, but with the increased adhesion this is the preferred product for recoating other silicone.
  • Silicone Flashing Grade is an extremely thick silicone that is used for flashing or seams when combined with fabric. A high solids content in the mastic allows for minimal shrinkage while maintaining excellent adhesion and flexibility. Adhesion and flexibility are important because they allow the flashing grade to move without cracking and remain fixed to the surface.

How is silicone applied?

Silicone is extremely easy to apply. The first installation method is by brush. This is normally for silicone flashing grade or for application over seams in combination with fabric. The second method is roller applied. Roof silicone is compatible with almost all roof roller types. The third method is spray applied and is usually done with a high-pressure spray rig.

Silicone plays a large role in liquid applied roofing. The advantages as a maintenance coating far outweigh costly roof replacements. The properties of silicone are superior to other fluid applied products like acrylic. And more roofing contractors are realizing the benefit of offering application services to commercial building owners. The choice is simple. Contact us today for a free roof inspection from a VFI authorized roofing contractor in your area.

Commercial Roof Coatings: Silicone vs. Acrylic

Posted on: January 4th, 2020 by Marc

Commercial Roof Coatings: Silicone vs. Acrylic

Commercial Roof Coatings Silicone vs Acrylic

What type of commercial roof coating should you choose for your property? The biggest debate for many facility owners and managers seems to be whether they should select silicone or acrylic. What differences exist between these two options, and which one is the best solution? The problem with choosing which one is the “greatest” is that what’s best can vary from one roof and customer to the next.

You see, there are advantages and disadvantages to each of the options. Therefore, you will want to have an overview of each of these types of liquid applied roof coatings. This can allow you to choose the most suitable option for your needs. Begin with the basics.

Silicone Roof Coating

Silicone roof coatings have been around since the 1970s, and they were often used as part of spray polyurethane foam applications. As time progressed, they eventually became a good option for coating a wide range of roofing substrates including metal, built-up roofs, concrete, and more. They are common for commercial roof restoration. Silicone coating is resistant to ponding water, and it provides fantastic UV stability.

Acrylic Roof Coating

Acrylic roof coatings have existed longer than silicone, and they have been a popular option for commercial roof restoration for decades. The products can work well with a range of roofing substrates, just like silicone. These coatings are UV resistant, environmentally friendly, and are simple to work with and clean up. Acrylic coatings work well for many substrates, as mentioned, but they tend to be best-suited for sloped metal roofs, where ponding won’t be a problem.

A Closer Look at Commercial Roof Coatings

Let’s get a closer look at how these two types of products compare across a range of different factors. Understanding the differences between the products and seeing where each excels can help provide you with the information required to make an informed decision.

  • Comparing the Costs

Naturally, finances remain a concern for all business owners who are in need of a commercial roof coating. You want to get great results, but you also want to ensure you are staying within your budget. Simply put, customers attempting to save money will want to opt for acrylic if all other factors are equal. This is because acrylic roof coatings are a more affordable option.

  • Resistance to Ponding

Ponding water causes issues with flat commercial roofs, as it could mean eventual leaks. This is one of the areas where acrylic coatings have a weakness. Acrylic doesn’t hold up to ponding water nearly as readily as a silicone roof coating can do. Therefore, if you have a flat roof where ponding water could potentially become an issue, opting for silicone is the better solution.

  • Application of the Roofing Product

One of the reasons some consumers prefer silicone is because the application can be thick on the first pass. Business owners might find that they need only a single application for their roof, which could be beneficial. However, when compared with acrylic roof coatings, despite needing a second coat in many cases, silicone is simply messier, making the application of the product more difficult. If spraying the material, it requires heavy-duty machines that might not be readily available for some contractors.

On the other hand, acrylic coating applications are speedier and easier in most cases. This remains true whether the material is rolled on or sprayed onto the roof. Cleanup tends to be simpler with acrylic coatings, as well. Still, it does mean that there will need to be more than just one coat.

  • Longevity and Durability

Another commonly asked question when comparing silicone and acrylic commercial roof coating materials is which will last longer and be more durable. It’s important to keep in mind that countless factors will affect the longevity of the products. However, silicone roof coatings typically last longer than acrylics. Although both can safeguard from ultraviolet rays, silicone offers greater protection. As mentioned, it also provides better moisture resistance when dealing with problems like ponding water.

As for durability, silicone does tend to be more durable over time. Because of the longevity and durability advantage that silicone has over acrylic, it could make up for the price difference between the two. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind that acrylic roof coatings are no slouch when it comes to longevity. When applied correctly, they can last for a decade or more without trouble.

  • Thermal Reflectivity

Have you considered the thermal reflectivity of the roof coatings? Thermal reflectivity can affect how hot the roof gets and the temperature inside the building. You’ll find that both of these options can provide thermal resistance between 80% and 90%. They can both perform quite well in this regard, helping to keep it cooler inside the building. This can reduce the amount spent on keeping the building cool during hot summer months.

Of course, you’ll want to consider that silicone roofs can pick attract small amounts of dirt over time, but this doesn’t reduce the thermal reflectivity. With that said, acrylic coatings could be better in this regard since they tend to stay cleaner longer.

  • Are Commercial Roof Coatings Environmentally Friendly?

What about environmental friendliness? Which of the coatings is a better option? In the past, acrylic was the hands-down choice because it’s water-based and doesn’t have the same level of volatile organic compounds typically found with silicone. However, some of the newer silicone products on the market have low levels of volatile organic compounds, making them far more environmentally friendly than they were in the past. This is particularly true with some of the high-solids silicone coatings available today.

  • Which Looks Better?

The aesthetics of the commercial roof coating are up to you. They have a similar appearance, so the looks are not likely to be a factor in most cases. However, if you have a sloped roof on your commercial property, which is visible, you might have a preference. Acrylic roof coatings tend to have a cleaner overall appearance and they do work well for roofs with slopes. However, acrylic may fade or color shift over time. If you have a flat roof, it’s important to use silicone for its waterproof properties regardless of your viewing angle.

Get in Touch with the Professionals

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when choosing between acrylic and silicone liquid applied roofing for your commercial property. Whether you have already made your decision or you are still unsure of which option is right for you, make it a point to get in touch with us at Volatile Free, Inc. We have a wide selection of solutions that can meet your project needs and surpass your expectations. Take the time to find a solution that resonates with your preferences, your budget, and your needs.

How Long Does Silicone Roof Coating Last?

Posted on: January 2nd, 2020 by Marc

How Long Does Silicone Roof Coating Last?

how long does silicone roof coating last

When contemplating whether you should get a silicone roof coating for your commercial property, one of the biggest questions that’s likely to come up is how long it will last. After all, you want to make sure you have a roof coating that is durable and can withstand the test of time. You don’t want to have to replace the coating in two or three years.

The answer to this question can vary based on the thickness of the coating and how well you take care of the roof. Typically, moisture cure silicone roof coatings can last for about 15 years. This tends to be the average. This requires that you ensure the roof is properly cared for during that time.

The thickness of the coating will affect how long it can last. When the coating is applied at 1.5 gal/sq (20 dry mil thickness), most roofing companies will provide a 10-year material warranty. When the thickness level is increased to 2 gal/sq (32 dry mil thickness), the warranty will generally be for about 15 years. This is because the thicker coating can provide added protection.

The length of the warranty can vary based on the company you choose to apply the roofing. Naturally, you will want to check with them about their warranties before hiring them.

How to Make the Silicone Roof Coating Last Longer

If you choose quality elastomeric roof coatings for your business, you want to make sure they can last for as long as possible. You should work with a professional to provide you with the proper annual maintenance for your roof. They can let you know whether any issues need to be addressed in certain areas. Additionally, it is in your best interest to have a roof inspection after any serious weather events that could have impacted your roof surface.

The amount of foot traffic that takes place on the silicone coating could affect the longevity of the coating, as well. Therefore, if you have a roof that may see a lot of foot traffic, you should use a high-quality walk-pad capable of standing up to the use.

Remember the importance of maintenance to longevity. You or your employees can handle some of the maintenance on your own, such as hosing down the roof once a year. However, anything that goes beyond the basic maintenance of cleaning the roof should be done by a roofing contractor.

The contractor can check the roof for any signs of damage and ensure that there is no ponding water that could somehow cause a leak or show signs of a problem beneath the coating.

While silicone roof coatings are excellent at preventing leaks, if something causes damage to the coating, there is a small risk it could still allow for water to get into the building below. Scheduling an inspection annually is a good way to make sure that any potential issues are caught as soon as possible. This will help to make the repairs easier and more affordable.

If you have leaks on your existing roof, you should work with roofing companies to have those leaks repaired before you apply the coating. This helps to improve the integrity of the roof. Additionally, keep in mind that this type of coating is for low sloped roofs rather than high sloped roofs.

Let the Professionals Add the Silicone Roof Coating

If you need a new liquid applied roofing system for your commercial property with a flat roof, be sure to work with professional roofing contractors. The professionals are qualified applicators and have the tools and materials needed to coat a roof properly and quickly. Although there might be the temptation to do it on your own, it can be a lot of work, and you will need to have specialized equipment and experience to do it right.

Often, it will be easier to work with roofing companies. They know how to prepare the roof, add the coating, and make sure it is done correctly.

Use the Best Silicone Coatings

Whether you are going to coat a roof on your own or you are hiring someone to do it for you, make sure you are working with only the best products. Volatile Free Inc. provides a range of options for liquid applied roofing including those based in silicone. Get in touch today to learn more about how the company can help with your commercial roof with the right products.

Is a Silicone Roof Coating Worth It?

Posted on: January 1st, 2020 by Marc

Is a Silicone Roof Coating Worth It?

Do you have a commercial property that needs a new roof? Having a roof that can last for years and that will need minimal maintenance is important. You may be considering getting a silicone roof coating, but you still aren’t sure whether it is the right choice or not. Is a silicone roof coating worth it? Before making a decision, you should examine some of the main benefits that come from using this type of roofing. It can give you a better idea of whether a silicone roof coating is worth it for you.

The Roof Can Last a Long Time

One of the first questions that people tend to ask regarding different roofing systems is how long they will last. Typically, a silicone roof coating will last about 15 years. In most cases, it could last longer. Of course, it may last less time than this if it is not cared for properly. The better you take care of your roof the longer it can last. This means you won’t have to worry about your commercial roof surface for many years.

Maintenance Is Easy

You will also find that the maintenance of the roof tends to be easy. Most of the time, simply sweeping and hosing down the roof once a year is all you’ll need to do. You could handle this on your own, or you might want to use a roofing contractor for the job. The contractor can also look for any other potential issues that might arise with the roof surface. You can then take care of the roof repairs before the problems get worse.

Easy Installation

Another nice benefit of high solids silicone roofing that makes it worth your time and money is the ease of installation. In some cases, you might not even need to have a primer placed on the roof before the coating is applied. The coatings can be rolled on or sprayed on in most cases. Business owners can apply the coating on their own, as long as they have the tools, the material, and the time. However, it’s generally a better solution to work with a professional roofing contractor to handle it. This ensures that the coating is applied correctly and in less time.

Cures in the Outdoors

Silicone roofing systems will cure in the outdoors without the need for any special preparations. Once the coating is applied, it will start to cure quickly. The heat and moisture in the air can help it cure properly. The amount of time it takes to cure can vary based on the thickness used and the weather. Your roofing contractors can give you a better idea of how long it will take to cure before there can be foot traffic on the roof.

Protects from Leaks and Ponding Water

Flat and low sloped roofs that are often found on commercial properties will often have ponding water problems. This means that the water that hits the roof after rain finds a location to settle and sit. This could eventually cause leaks in the roof if you aren’t using a silicone roof coating. These types of coatings provide an ample amount of protection against the problem of ponding by holding it until it evaporates or drains properly.

If you don’t have one of these types of roof coatings, you will need to have someone remove the standing water each time it rains. A good silicone coating can help you save a lot of money on labor, as well as repair expenses.

Reduce Energy Expenses

This is one of the benefits that many people never even consider. The silicone coatings on commercial roofs will be white and reflective. This provides you with a “cool roof”, which means it can reflect much of the light that hits it. You will not have to use your air conditioning in the business as much because it will stay cooler.

Choose Quality Silicone Roof Coating Material

As you can see from the benefits discussed above, a silicone roof could be a fantastic idea for your commercial roof. Keep in mind that high solids silicone is the preferred maintenance material for flat and low sloped commercial roofs. Additionally, you have to make sure you are using the best silicone coatings for the job. Check out the options available from Volatile Free Inc. to find the coatings that will work well for your commercial roof.