As we shall see in this section, the range of applications of expanded polystyrene products is very wide. We are going to focus on these applications by putting them into three main categories and outlining the properties that make Expanded Polystyrene ideal for each of the applications we are going to examine:
APPLICATIONS AS A MATERIAL FOR CONSTRUCTION
APPLICATIONS FOR PACKAGING
Applications as a material for construction:
Possible applications of EPS in the field of construction are enormously varied. In fact, we can find EPS in many building requirements. What's more is that it is used in building work including large structures like roads, bridges, railway lines, public buildings or even small family residences. As we are about to see, the characteristics of EPS as a material make it ideal for use as lightweight filler, insulation, as an element for decorating or adding imaginative finishing touches, as a lightweight filling material in roads, to facilitate land drainage etc. We could visit almost any construction site or any building and find products made from EPS carrying out diverse and important functions. And as if this were not enough, we could carry out tests to see whether substituting certain "traditional" products with EPS would improve the energy performance of the buildings, their stability and safety and, of course, their environmental behavior. This, however, is not the theme of this publication and for this reason we will not consider it at length, although we would like to remind you that you can get in touch with emaill us if you require any specific information about this or any other aspect of EPS that might be of interest to you.
For these applications we highlight the following properties:
Low thermal conductivity: due to its closed air-filled cell structure which inhibits the passage of heat or cold a high capacity for thermal insulation is achieved.
Low weight: densities of between 1 and 2lbs/cu ft allow light but safe construction practices.
Mechanical resistance: although they are light, EPS products enjoy good mechanical properties which is important for certain applications which call for this property (load-bearing roof insulation, sub-pavement flooring etc., for instance).
Low water absorption: this helps in maintaining the thermal and mechanical properties which would be affected by humidity (and this is why EPS is such an excellent insulation material with much better performance than materials that do not behave in the same manner with respect to dampness).
Ease of handling and installation: the material can be worked with the usual tools and guarantees perfect finishing and adjustments. At the same time, its low weight makes it easy to transport materials to the site and provides economy of installation.
Chemical resistance: Expanded polystyrene materials are perfectly compatible with the materials usually employed in the construction industry including cements, plasters, salt or fresh water etc…
Versatility: it can come in many different shapes and sizes which meet the specific requirements of the construction.
Ageing resistance: Of all the aforementioned properties are retained over the whole of the material's lifecycle and this will be as long as the building itself where it has been used. EPS products are not altered by external agents or by fungi or parasites that will find no nutritional value whatsoever in the material.
Applications for packaging:
Any product of any shape or size may be packaged with expanded polystyrene. This is why the following range of applications might not be comprehensive enough. In the spheres of packing and packaging we can differentiate in turn between two principal fields:
PACKING OF INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS
PACKAGING OF FOODSTUFFS
PACKING OF INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS:
Imagine any industrial product and the best packaging will certainly be EPS. Completely protected and safe from risk in transport and handling, EPS provides industrial products with the ideal material for their total protection. From delicate pharmaceutical products through electronic components, electrical consumer goods and toys to horticultural or garden products, all of these products are able to arrive at their destination in perfect condition protected with EPS packaging. Moreover, it is important to highlight the fact that EPS packaging fits perfectly into automated production lines, where products come out ready packed. EPS packing adapts superbly to integrated production systems, and it embodies the best alternative in terms of cost, versatility and efficiency with ease of use for the workers or to the sophisticated machinery which handles the products until they come off the production line.
PACKAGING OF FOODSTUFFS:
Fish and shellfish, meat, fruit, ice-cream....EPS packaging is the best way of keeping foodstuffs fresh. In much the same way as in the case of industrial products where we mentioned
Perfect protection which avoids hazards, breakages and wastage in the different stages of production and transport, EPS packaging ensures that foodstuffs reach the retailer or the consumer in perfect conditions. We are dealing here with foodstuffs that can not be subject to risks, since a badly protected or poorly insulated product could arrive in substandard conditions and the subsequent risk of consuming sullied foodstuffs is truly serious. For this reason we could broaden the ecological benefits of EPS packing to its capacity for conserving food since it enables animal and vegetable products to be preserved and optimizes product life-cycles by avoiding their loss or spoiling before consumption.
Here we will make a slight aside to recall the difference already mentioned in "What is EPS": We are talking about EPS packaging which has, nothing to do with the small PSP trays which are sometimes compared or confused with our material. For these packaging applications that we have seen, it is worth detailing the following properties of EPS:
Shock absorption: the material has a high energy absorption index should it fall or be knocked and this makes it the ideal material for protecting sensitive products during transport and storage.
Thermal insulation: protecting products, especially foodstuffs, from sudden changes in temperature.
Low weight: its low density reduces the packaging weight and consequently provides savings in transport
Retention of Vitamin C: Studies have shown, when packed in EPS, fruits and vegetables maintain a higher content of vitamin C for a longer period of time.
Resistance to humidity: its excellent mechanical and thermal properties are maintained by the fact that it does not absorb water. This is very significant because climactic hostility like rain can affect other materials, but not EPS.
Compressive resistance: which allows stacking of merchandise-filled packages and packs without any difficulties in storage, transport or at point of sale.
Chemical resistance: allows many products to be packed without the goods being affected.
Display effect (promoting sales): given its appealing appearance and the ease with which it can be colored, printed on, stacked and subjected to other product dressing techniques to attract customers.
Hygienic nature: since the material is inert, inalterable and innocuous it can come into direct contact with foodstuffs complying with the laid down health and safety standards.
Adaptability: it is easy to adapt to any product or any design.
Other applications:The versatility and ease of adopting referred to when listing the material's properties mean that its sphere of uses is practically unlimited as we have seen, the uses as a material and as packaging already
make up a good number of applications, but there are many more and varied uses. Perhaps all that can be added here is all the possibilities for EPS use are limited by the Imagination alone. From stage props, models, nautical sundries, moulds for metal casting and others, the possibilities open up for the use of such a versatile material. Our imagination will never be restricted by it, rather the opposite, with it enhancing our discoveries of new and exciting possibilities. From leisure and educational fields through to industrial and commercial ones, EPS is always there, stimulating our creativity.