Have you ever wondered how foam is made?
You see it everywhere, your sofa, your bed, your sofa-bed, your car, your sofa-bed-car (when your wife throws you out of the house after coming home late again)… but do you know where it comes from?
Here in the Philippines the only name synonymous to foam is a brand called URATEX. We have a different type of bed at home, it’s an orthopedic type but it’s now old a little soggy already. So a ‘field trip’ to a foam making company would be a real treat for me since I can scout for a new bed there.
It’s not actually a field trip but a plant tour. Uratex officers gave us an exclusive peak on how a foam is made in their Muntinlupa plant.
The Uratex Muntinlupa plant is called Multiflex RNC Philippines and located at Km 23 East Service Rd., Bgy Cupang Muntinlupa City.
This is the briefing room and that's my bag on the picture. No one's there yet just the people from AMPR and Uratex - and me (early birdie)
How to get there: From Manila, I took a bus going to Alabang Muntinlupa via Skyway. From Alabang, I took a Jeepney going to Sucat or Bicutan via the East Service Rd. and asked the driver to drop me off at the Uratex plant. I was there in less than 45 minutes, faster than an LRT ride from Baclaran to Munumento.
In other words I was early.
After a brief orientation from plant tour organizers, AMPR and Mr. Dindo Medina of Uratex Marketing Office, we proceeded inside PLANT 1 to take a look at the first process of URATEX foam-making.
Mr. Dindo Medina
Honestly, this is the first time that I’ve ever been on an official plant tour, I never joined field trips in school and the only time I was able to go out-of-town during high school was that seniors’ retreat in Tagaytay. - So I don’t really know what to expect in a plant tour.
Our first stop, was the FOAMING AREA.
That blue stuff is the chemical that makes the foam
Once the foam formulation is finalized, it is entered into the foaming machine’s computer system. There, up to 26 streams of different chemicals are doused using computer-controlled metering pumps for precision. The liquid will turn into cream within seconds and then into solid state within 1.5-2 minutes, and where the solid foam block may be cut between 1 to 60 meters in length.
The RGC Group of Companies revolutionized foam making back in 1987 when they set up the first continuous foaming machine in the country called the “Vertifoam” process. This involves computerized metering of materials to form perfectly-shaped foam with lesser scrap that benefited both the market and the environment because of less wastage.
In 2001, the group further blazed the trail in foam-making when it installed new foaming equipment called “Hennecke.” Tagged as the “Mercedes Benz” of the foam-making industry, this German-manufactured equipment is regarded as the best in the world. On December 2009, the RGC Group invested on another Hennecke machine with the latest technological improvements to serve as back-up to the year 2001 version.
At the Muntinlupa plant, the foam is cut in 30-meter lengths. This high-tech machinery is complimented by a quality management system and ran by highly-trained personnel.
The 30-meter long blocks are then picked up by an overhead crane and transferred to the curing area. Foam is produced via an exothermic reaction where the center may reach up to 145-165 degrees Celsius within 20-30 minutes. It will not start to cool for another 3-4 hours but will reach room temperature within 24 hours and is “cured”. Curing takes about 24 hours.
FOAM BLOCK WAREHOUSE
Stacking the foam at the foam block area
This is the storage area for the foam blocks. From there, the plant’s production department will request for a specific type of block with different sizes as per orders coming from customers. These blocks are then moved to the production area where they will be cut according to the desired sizes. The Muntinlupa plant can house a block of 30 meters in length .
PRODUCTION AND CUTTING AREA
One of the many foam cutting machine
It is from this area where the Uratex products that we all see come from. The foam blocks are cut into the requested size and then “contoured” based on the type of product to be produced, whether a pillow, a mattress, or even a car seat foam. Once cut and contoured, the product goes straight to packaging under strict quality control standards, ready for delivery to the customer.
READY-WRAP CONTAINERS AREA
Multiflex RNC Philippines, Muntinlupa also houses its ready-wrap manufacturing plant.
Ready-wrap which was launched in 2001 offers a variety of smartly designed, safe and hygeinic solutions for storing, organizing, preparing, reheating, and serving food. Ready-wrap items are made from high quality virgin resin materials. The process used to make this items is called the injection process. Virgin materials undergoing the injection process. :) .. and that’s a wrap. hehe.
Uratex also started manufacturing Monoblocs since 1993. But the manufacturing plant is located in a different plant. Uratex Monobloc chairs, tables, cabinets, and other furnishings are produced through the use of plastic injection machines as well.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT LABORATORY
Just like cooking, a good foam starts with the perfect recipe, and in foam-making, the R&D facility of the RGC Foam Group, one of the country’s most advanced, is where it all starts. There, Uratex laboratory personnel develop formulations that result to certain types of foam and also conduct tests to ensure that the formulation will meet final product specifications that customers look for. Over the years, this department has developed thousands of formulations that benefited the Philippine industrial history, from the car development program of the 1970s to the footwear, garments and electronics boom in the 1980s and 1990s.
The foams are being tested for hardness, flexibility, density and breathability. Also, there are Uratex foams that are fire retardant and testing for this type of foams are also done at the R & D Laboratory.
Our last stop was the SHOWROOM. This is where all the finished products of Uratex and their subsidiaries are showcased. They also have a technology that analyzes and matches the correct type of bed for each type of individual. I forgot what it’s called but it’s really cool. The beds too.
To cap off the plant tour we got to take home some URATEX items like this cool state of the art THERAPOINT PILLOWS and some samples of Ready-Wrap items. The tour was really an enriching experience for me. And it is inspiring that an all Filipino Company and entrepreneurs like Robert G. Cheng of RGC Group of Companies can become this big in Asia.
The Therapoint Pillows and Alwin's Uratex bed
RGC Foam Group is today’s largest manufacturer of commercial and automotive polyurethane foam products in the country. Through world-class manufacturing practices and a strong culture of excellence, RGC Foam Group has become the most dominant player in the local foam industry and one of the leading foam-makers in Southeast Asia.
For more details about Uratex, visit www.uratex.com.ph.