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Polyurethane Foam History

Mankind’s curiosity, ingenuity, and needs have driven the research and development of a myriad of products.  Once the basic product has been ‘invented’,  the questions are asked, “How can it be used in other applications?” and “How can it be produced at a lower cost?”.  So it was, is, and will continue to be with polyurethane foams.

 The initial polyurethanes came from the development work of Otto Bayer in the late 1930’s.  Early in the 1940’s such prestigious companies as I.G. Farben of Germany, ICI of the United Kingdom and E.I. Dupont of the United States developed urethane systems for such applications as coatings for the Barrage balloon, synthetic bristles and submarine insulation/flotation, to name a few.

 Further development brought progress in the base products of urethanes.  The new base products greatly expanded markets for flexible, rigid and energy-absorbing foams.  This research has led us first to Poleset then on to Freon-free Poly-Set and now our newest  backfill system, Poly-Ground. 

 Forward Enterprises was the pioneer in the use of a rigid polyurethane foam to set direct-embedment utility structures.  The question “Can a rigid polyurethane foam be used as a foundation for utility structures?” needed to be answered.  Through research of products and methods the use was proven not only possible, but also cost-effective in both the short and long terms.

 Numerous companies have investigated the effectiveness of the use of foam in areas of corrosion-protection and structural integrity for direct-embedment structures.  Forward Enterprises supplied Poleset to these organizations to carry out their experiments.

 During the late 1960’s Forward Enterprises embarked on a program to market Poleset to the utility industry.   The purpose was to prove that through the use of the Poleset method, more poles could be set in a day and the structural integrity of the Poleset would keep the pole in place.  Forward Enterprises has continued to improve Poleset with the addition of water-immiscible constituents and the elimination of fluorocarbons while enhancing the products’ physical characteristics.

The long-term effectiveness of polyurethane foams has been established not only by Forward Enterprises, but also by E. I. Dupont.  Their studies show that partial embedment of foam-faced panels in soil for ten years “showed negligible deterioration of the foam and of the attached metal protected by the foam.”

Bayer has numerous case studies of urethane foam applications for protecting metal structures from chemical attack, both above and below ground level.  It also shows that urethane applications counteract the porosity of masonry structures. 

A Homer Research Laboratories report dated 1970 on behalf of Bethlehem Steel lists development and testing of buried steel structures protected by rigid polyurethane foams.  Bulletins issued by Bethlehem Steel reveal numerous applications of rigid polyurethane foam in the protection of underground steel structures for construction, refrigeration and industry.

Forward Enterprises has been setting all types of structures in the ground, from transmission poles to vertical support members in the Arctic.  We have an extensive library on the use of polyurethane foam for direct-embedment of structures.   Also, Forward Enterprises has documentation of the effectiveness of “Pour-in-Place” for any type of in-ground setting.  Our documentation starts with wood poles that have been set in the ground since 1970, with comprehensive testing done on the poles and the Poleset.  



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Site Last Modified: February 14, 2012