Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Na on Oct 02, 2011
I am writing up an article on what types of foam to use (not just for muppet-types so if you have other suggestions, let me know!). However, I'm really confused on "reticulated" vs "polyfoam". It seems they are two different things, based on the conversation on this site; but when I checked my enquiries to a foam supplier, they used "reticulated" to refer to EVA foam, when some people use EVA foam to refer to polyfoam.

Can someone please give me a succinct explanation as to what they are called by the manufacturer and what the differences between the two are?


PS. Continually amazed at the amount of info that is here for all to find.
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Shawn on Oct 02, 2011
I don't think you are going to get a solid answer on this one.   Seems as if ever seller has different names.  Here is how I see it.

Polyfoam is what I use when I am refering to the foam sheets you get at hobby and craft stores. As a rule it is what you find in chair cushions.

Reticulated foam looks a bit like air conditioning filter in that it is very open almost like a sea sponge.

EVA foam is very dense foam and most commonly used to make cushions on boats and docks because it is "water proof". It is often refereed to as close celled foam.

I think really that they all kind of fall under the heading of Polyfoam but that each is a different process and I am sure mix of chemicals and agents.
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Oct 02, 2011
I ordered some foam that was close to reticulated from Albany foam http://albanyfoam.com/ It was called E-Z dry and is used for cushions in outdoor furniture. As Shawn said the reticulated I think is primarily used to make filters in air conditioning and heating systems. There are some craft products made from eva foam as well.

Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Shawn on Oct 02, 2011
Good link Billy!  The "Closed Cell Foam" that is shown on that page is what my supplier calls EVA foam.
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Andrew on Oct 02, 2011
This confused me for years, but after learning from some chemists and talking to companies that actually manufacture foam, I think I can give you a pretty definitive answer. Really, there are only two types of foam - open cell foam and closed cell foam. Every type and brand of foam fits under one of those two categories.

Open cell foam has an "open" structure and is usually very soft and pliable. One characteristic of it is that it contains pores that can be filled with a liquid (like water) or gas (like air). For example, synthetic dish sponges are made from open cell foam, which is why they can absorb water. Open cell foams are reticulated, which just means they are structured like a web or a net. What is commonly called "reticulated foam" in puppet building circles is actually industrial filter foam that is usually manufactured to make filters for air conditioners as mentioned above. What's often called "Polyfoam" (short for polyurethane foam) is the type of foam rubber that couch cushions and mattresses get made from. Technically speaking they are both open cell foam and therefore reticulated foam.

Closed cell foam does not have pores and is usually stronger and harder than open cell foam. An example of a closed cell foam is L200/400/600 foam, which is known to many people as "craft foam" or "Foamie" when it's sold in thin sheets. As I think Shawn mentioned, closed cell foams are typically used for marine applications because it floats and does not absorb water because of it's "closed cell" structure. Pool noodles are manufactured from closed cell foam and it's also used to make life jackets.

EVA stands for Ethylene-vinyl acetate, which is used to make lots of things like wetsuits, hot glue, and even body bags. It's a type of polymer (technically, it's a copolymer) that can be used to make foam, so all "EVA foam" means is that it's a foam made from EVA. All of the EVA foams I've ever seen are closed cell foams, although it's probably possible to manufacture an open cell foam using EVA, which might explain the confusion.

Does that make sense?
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Puppetainer on Oct 03, 2011
Is it possible that we can award Andrew an honorary doctorate in Puppetry? I know this could lead to some confusion what with Jay already having the tag of Dr. Puppet but I just feel like Andrew deserves a PHD after his name. I know we have a great many experts with so much knowledge that contribute regularly here and I appreciate you all. I'm just always amazed by Andrew's breadth and depth of knowledge and the scholarly approach he uses.

I'm seriously considering just following you around Andrew to learn just a tiny bit of what you know and thus greatly expanding my knowledge. Of course I'd have to move to Canada and I don't think my wife will let me take her much farther north than we already are. Ah well, I suppose I'll have to content myself with the bits of knowledge I pick up from you (and all my other "teachers") via the interwebs.
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Na on Oct 03, 2011
Thank you SO MUCH Andrew. It all makes sense now. I think actually the article will just be made up of your answer in the form of a quote. I do wish you'd come here more often and leave comments, because they're always extremely useful.

On a related question: what do people use when making marionettes out of foam? And are the above foams also used for other types of puppets, like rod puppets, etc?
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by CJ Puppets on Oct 03, 2011
that was an AWESOME description Andrew!

Speaking of L200... does anyone know of a craft store that sells it in thick pieces or blocks? I've looked at Joanns, Michaels & AC Moore but then again, maybe I'm not looking in the right spot.   Would I have better luck at a hobby store?
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Shawn on Oct 03, 2011
I agree with the above folks... Andrews answer really hits it on the nose.  Wish I had that talent for explaining things.

@Goochman I doubt you are going to be able to find the close cell or L200 foam in a craft or hobby store.  I imagine you are going to have to get it on-line in less you are lucky enough like me to have a company in town that sells it. The company here in Kansas City is called Comfort Felt and Foam and it sell to manufactures of furniture, pillows, boating goods ect. Luckily they have been very kind to the theater community in town and let us walk in off the streets to get foam. Granted you have to buy at least a full sheet of the foam but that is not really a bad thing. Also they have a "trash" bin that you can look through and get scraps for cheap or even sometimes free when you buy other stock.

@Na  I use the close cell foam to make the upper torso of my marionettes some time but that is about it.  I do know that some of the members here have been using the regular open cell foam to sculpt body parts and heads even for rod puppets and marionettes. Most of them seem to use a structure under the foam like wood or something though.
Re: Polyfoam/reticulated foam Posted by Na on Oct 03, 2011
Thanks Shawn. I recall Fratello Marionettes uses floral styrofoam, I did a workshop with him at the puppetry festival in Atlanta. Interesting how there are so many different options for one product.

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