Lesson #4: Comparison of Insulation materials
Insulation is a critical component of a thermal system, which slows down the heat transfer between the product and the environment.
There is two main types of insulation, molded and panels (also known as cut sheets or fabricated). These types are discussed in the next lesson in the learning center.
The following are the most common types of insulation materials:
Expanded Polysterene (EPS): this material is possibly the most broadly used insulation material (“white foam”). While it is used for its insulation properties, it is also commonly used for protecting products from shock. Most applications requiring single use employ this material.
Advantages include low density/weight, low cost, flexibility (can be molded and fabricated), and broad availability as a mature technology. Some disadvantages include low insulation properties, and low recyclability (not considered environmentally friendly).
Polyurethane (PUR): also a very commonly available insulation material (“yellow foam”), PUR is most often molded, and considered to be more robust and a better insulation when compared to EPS. Most applications requiring higher performance and reusability employ this material.
Advantages include higher insulation properties and durability (it is more reusable than EPS), and broad availability as a mature technology. Some disadvantages include low recyclability (not considered environmentally friendly) and high density/weight.
The following is an example of a PUR insulated shipper:
Vacuum Panels (VIP): Vacuum insulated Panels are a relatively new entry to the insulation materials for cold chain packaging. This technology, which is mostly available in panel form (a box is made up of six (6) panels), promises much improved performance over current technology. If the average R value of EPS or Polyurethane is in the range of 4-10, VIP’s claim R values of 40.
Advantages include very high performance and collapsibility. Disadvantages are highest cost, low durability, low maturity and availability of the technology, and higher difficulty/cost in obtaining customized designs.
The following are examples of VIP panels:
Other materials, such as XPS (Extruded PolyStyrene), Polyethylene Foam (PE Foam), and others are also available, but are much less common.
The following is an example of an XPS panel:
The following is an example of PE Foam (protective application):