Used as mattresses, mattress toppers, pillows, and support products, memory foam and Dunlop latex foam are sometimes confused for each other or assumed to be identical because of their similar applications and superior quality. In truth, while they both make top-quality products that can reduce or eliminate issues that lesser quality materials cannot, they are structurally different, manufactured differently, and tout very different qualities.
The older of the two materials, latex foam has been in existence since the late 1920s, with the popular Dunlop manufacturing process having been invented in the late 1950s. All of Foam Factory, Inc.’s latex foam products are exclusively manufactured using the all-natural Dunlop process.
All-natural Dunlop latex foam begins as 100 percent natural latex in liquid form, similar in consistency to pancake batter. There are also other types of Dunlop latex made using synthetic ingredients. Additional food-grade ingredients are included in the all-natural mix, as is an injection of air. This blended mixture is poured into special aluminum molds with parallel vertical pins from which the dotted appearance is generated, as well as some of the material’s aerating qualities.
After the mix is poured into the mold, it is vacuum-sealed to expand the material, frozen, and carbon dioxide that “gels” the foam is added to the curing process. Once gelled, the latex is vulcanized by heating the material to temperatures above the boiling point for resiliency and durability. The product is then subjected to a soap and water cleansing to remove ingredients included only for the molding and forming of the latex and not necessary to its performance. Finally, the Dunlop latex foam undergoes an intense, forced-air drying to remove residual moisture that may still be trapped in the material and ensure its physical properties meet the Dunlop standard before being manufactured into an end product.
The more recent entrant to the world of comfort and support is memory foam. Developed by NASA in the mid-1960s and offered commercially for the first time in the 1980s, memory foam, also known as slow recovery foam or temperature-sensitive foam, has become a go-to material for premium bedding applications.
Memory foam’s structure begins as a traditional polyurethane foam mixture with visco-elastic polymers added to give the foam its unique slow recovery qualities. This thick, batter-like mixture is poured onto long-run belts, and as the foam and its chemical compounds interact, expansion occurs quickly. These belts contain sides that limit expansion to maintain a consistent shape.
Apart from the way they are made, Dunlop latex foam and memory foam also have unique physical characteristics that make them suitable for different purposes. Memory foam’s most noteworthy quality is its temperature sensitivity, which allows the foam to soften and form when in contact with the body. This cradles areas that normally receive too much pressure and bolsters areas that are often under-supported. This custom forming relieves pressure points, allows better circulation and fosters better alignment of the spine and joints. Latex foam’s most unique quality is the airflow its structure permits. Without sacrificing any firmness, air is moved through the foam from body movement, dissipating body heat to keep the user cool. The perforated design of the material also helps with cooling air movement. To the touch, latex foam feels more rubbery and almost gelatinous, while memory foam is more like what people expect out of a traditional foam texture.
A Dunlop latex mattress features immediate support of user movement with its resilient and springy structure and feel. A memory foam mattress responds more slowly to movement, but will re-form to the user’s contours without transferring movement through the product, a favorite feature of many who share their beds. Memory foam can be considered a hybrid product that blends comfort and support characteristics equally and is best suited as the layer in direct contact with the user because of its body-heat activated contouring. Dunlop latex on the other hand, is firm enough to function as a supportive base layer beneath another type of material, which often happens to be memory foam. A layer between the user and the latex foam negates its aerating properties, however. Dunlop latex foam is also anti-microbial, deterring the presence of mildew, mold, bacteria, and dust mites. There may be minor cosmetic inconsistencies in Dunlop latex foam in terms of cell size and pincore holes, but they do not affect the foam’s performance. Memory foam is typically the more consistent material of the two, batch to batch.
Foam Factory also manufactures memory foam toppers, latex toppers, memory foam pillows, and latex pillows to complement their mattress line. The Dunlop latex foam is available in medium and firm mattress densities, medium and soft densities for toppers and in a medium density pillow. Memory foam is stocked in three different densities; 3LB ViscoSAVER, 4LB ViscoPLUSH and 5LB ViscoMAX. These are used for bedding and comfort applications and are also offered in shredded form or even as filling in pet beds.