This final major project is concerned with creating an environment for a newborn baby to help with the transition from the womb to the cot. This product and associated technologies will culminate around an interactive multisensory mattress.
Now fast approaching the part of this project where I need to take my ideas off the page and into 3D prototypes, and after a fantastic tutorial with Dave Heaton yesterday, I feel confident to start making. Getting some foam, cutting, sticking building and ‘feeling’ the proportions and design will help me to understand the design and continue to think with my hands.
At this stage it is not important to get the right sort of foam, moreover, I just need to get my hands on some foam! In the search for this foam, I contacted a local foam supplier in Stockport called Sherlock Foams Limited.
I initially rang Sherlock foams and spoke to Leslie their in-house ‘mattress specialist’ Leslie describes to me the differences between the foam types they had available. She started by informing me that closed cell foam is most definitely not appropriate.
Close cell foam is the type of foam you would find as swimming pool floats and is not fire retardant and is in fact extremely flammable - definitely not appropriate for a newborn mattress then.
Memory foam is reactive to heat and as the foam becomes warmer it gets softer, moulding to the shape of the warm object. As it then cools off the foam gets harder and returns to the original form. Therefore Lesley felt Memory foam was also not relevant for babies, as the infant's body heats the foam, the foam holds the heat and can quite quickly overheat the infant. Also as the memory foam softens, the baby will become encased in the foam, potentially prevent any movement, counter productive to what this product intends to assist.
Open cell foam was Lesley’s recommendation, "this foam is the general foam you find in your household sofa cushions or bath sponges." Their foams are measured in kilos per Cubic Square, and come in a range of densities, Leslie, then encouraged me to come into the store so I could feel the variety that is available and feel the variation in firmness.
Later that day I went into the store and spoke to Phil. Phil showed me samples of the available foam relevant to my project, I was able to touch and feel the options as Phil explained their qualities. The first lesson was how to feel the firmness of foam. “You can not feel the difference of foams by pinching or squeezing an edge, you must do is place your hand or arm on the top of the foam and press down evenly, this defuses the pressure and gives you a more realistic feel to the difference in density.”
Having assessed the firmness of their available foams Phil recommended I used 2” thick 39/120 foam and referred me to their manufacturer (carpenters in Glossop) for further specifications and product details.
I also discussed with Phil the benefits and problems of memory foam, we concluded that a small 10mm layer of top coat would be the best solution, giving the product the sales pitch option “memory foam is an important, sales feature in the world of mattress” yet ensuring the baby A) does not over heat and B) can move around with ease.
Phil also explained the technique they use to cut forms out of foam, pointing out a foam former they use for bath supports (see image below) where a soft curve is needed. They use a relief mould, which is pressed into the foam, the raised foam section on the other side, is then cut away, leaving the other side the excess as a hole, the exact shape, size and perfectly smooth.
I left with two pieces of foam, cut to shape; Phil also generously gave me a 50% discount. Usually at retail a piece of foam 70mm x 40mm, 2” deep, would retail and £9, also for a piece of memory foam to cover the top Phil estimated around £4.50.