‘Crazy-busy’ exhibitors launch ‘pocketed foam’, operator-less equipment and therapeutic fabrics
BY BETH ENGLISH AND BARBARA NELLES
April 15, 2016
The International Sleep Products association’s ISPA EXPO 2016, held March 9-12 in Orlando, Florida, broke records for attendance (an impressive 4,330) and exhibitors (a floor-filling 242)—and in superlative-laden feedback: “This is the best show ever!” “Totally spectacular!” “Great!” “Insane!” exhibitors told BedTimes.
Some credited the location as a particularly good draw. Orlando is a conveniently located air hub, as well as a tourist destination for visitors from not only North America, Central America and South America but more distant locations, too.
Others cited market conditions. For instance, countless product introductions revolved around servicing the burgeoning e-commerce segment. The many attendees shopping for roll-pack machinery, cut-and-sewn covers, foam and wrapped-coil components that compress well, easy-to-ship bed bases and complete e-commerce bedding solutions found what they were looking for at the show.
On the following pages, BedTimes gives you a glimpse into a variety of new products and some of the most interesting innovations seen throughout the EXPO show floor—everything from “pocketed foam” to operator-less equipment to therapeutic fabrics.
Boxed-bed trend continues with new turnkey services
A number of companies addressed mattress manufacturers’ demand for boxed-bed lines with new services and programs.
Industry supplier HSM Solutions, headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina, showcased the Perceptive Sleep System, a program targeted to mattress manufacturers who want to add a boxed-bed program with minimal fuss. HSM handles the entire program, from production of the 10-inch beds to threshold consumer delivery.
A display at Leggett & Platt Inc. proved the Carthage, Missouri-based supplier also has what it takes to help manufacturers create a boxed-bed program. A roll-packed mattress with a Quantum Edge innerspring core straight off a Global Systems Group Teknomac roll-pack machine sat beside an unpacked bed—a nice visual display. Next to that, the company showed the Simple Life hinged metal foundation, which folds small and flat to fit into a 26-inch by 59-inch by 7-inch box. The base assembles without tools and is described by L&P as durable and noiseless.
Other exhibitors touted their cut-and-sew services for finished mattress covers, which are another important part of the e-commerce puzzle.
MFI International, a supplier of manufacturing services in the region along the U.S.-Mexico border, announced a recent investment in CAD, high-ply cutting equipment, which allows it to cut with precision complex patterns, shapes and corners in its the production of finished covers for specialty sleep mattresses, said MFI President Lawrence Wollschlager. MFI operates two factories near its headquarters in El Paso, Texas, and two in Juarez, Mexico.
Mattress components and sewing services supplier A. Lava & Son, announced the launch of SBL (Supplied by Lava), a mattress fulfillment program that includes foam fabrication capabilities and roll packing of finished beds. The Chicago-based company expects to increase its production space to nearly 400,000 square feet by midyear, employing more than 550.
A. Lava, along with its partner Culp Inc., also announced expanded capacity—at locations in both Chicago and Stokesdale, North Carolina—of their joint cut-and-sew company, CLASS (Culp Lava Applied Sewn Solutions).
“SBL is a unique platform,” said Adam Lava, A. Lava & Son vice president. “Along with Culp and CLASS, we’re working together to help customers achieve their goals.”
The evolving foam landscape
Foam exhibitors’ approach to new products was full of holes—in a good way. In their ongoing pursuit of the perfect sleep temperature, foamers formulated new viscoelastic and other flexible polyurethane foams that are so open-cell air blows through, sound travels through and water pours through. Indeed, these “hole-y” new formulations have what it takes to aid airflow—“sleeping cool” without compromising performance. And yes, there were plenty of exhibits to illustrate all of this and more.
Bob Steelman, vice president of sales and marketing for Carpenter Co., with headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, hinted at the upcoming launch of Rely Foam, a high-resiliency conventional foam “with very open chemistry for the top layers of the bed.”
Orsa Foam S.p.A., with headquarters in Gorla Minore, Italy, introduced Breeze, a group of highly breathable, porous, high-resiliency polyurethane foams and viscoelastic foams that offer “a more restful and healthier sleep,” according to product literature. The open-cell structure was touted as allowing free airflow, while quickly dissipating heat and humidity. Tests show the foams are highly durable, with superior tensile strength and minimal compression set or dynamic fatigue, the company said. The viscoelastic version of Breeze is available with Orsa’s i-Foam Thermo technology, which uses microencapsulated phase-change material.
Tielt, Belgium-based Latexco, with a U.S. division headquartered in Lavonia, Georgia, has added three foam types to its polyurethane Fõm collection, which it introduced in 2013. PurFõm is a viscoelastic topper foam with extreme moisture-wicking properties thanks to the unique cell structure, according to the company. The foam is so permeable—yet strong—it can be machine-washed. Latexco’s new AloFõm is described as a cross between viscoelastic and traditional polyurethane foam. It also wicks moisture through its open-cell structure but, unlike standard memory foam, AloFõm is unaffected by ambient temperature. It retains its “ultra-comfortable” feel that “flows under you like water,” the company says.
At Future Foam, with headquarters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, there were three new products. Open-cell Next Foam was developed with technology partner New Wind Srl, based in Ostuni, Italy. The two companies describe Next Foam in marketing materials as a “new class of polyurethane foams with unparalleled breathability” and a comfort that remains consistent at any temperature. Next Foam’s color and density can be customized; available additives include silver, copper and graphene oxide.
In fact, many foamers added minerals to foam. For instance, graphene oxide, derived from graphite, is said to enhance foam strength and durability, while silver is intended to improve hygiene and copper promotes breathability.
FutureGel from Future Foam is a poured gel “with a difference” in that the gel layer is air-permeable, said Anshul Gupta, Future Foam director-India. “This patented technology is very durable. It won’t flake off and can be infused or integrated into the surface of any foam.” The FutureGel display showed toppers with a variety of gel applications—from zebra stripes to zoned sections.
The third innovation for Future Foam is DNA, a “foam-encased spring system” made up of 4-inch by 7-inch foam blocks poured around a plastic spring, or helix. The company says the spring improves the durability and stability of the foam—and it’s an interesting talking point for the retail sales floor. The blocks are poured in attached sections, or sets, that can be arranged in zones across the bed. Comforts range from soft to extra firm—for the softest feel, the plastic spring can be left out during the pouring process. Individual sheets can contain springs in some blocks and not in others.
If foam-encased plastic springs weren’t unusual enough, there also was “pocketed foam” available from United Textiles + Components, which has operations in Danville, Virginia, and Nowe Skalmierzyce, Poland. The Foam Pocket Spring topper is made with fabric-wrapped 2½-inch tall foam blocks; another version alternates pocketed foam with pocketed steel microcoils.
Other trending foam topics were compressibility and consistency: There was a lot of talk about foams ready for roll packing and new memory foams that retain the same comfort level at any ambient temperature.
Carpenter re-launched Serene Comfort Foam, which the company describes as a “ground-breaking” conventional polyurethane foam with “superior pressure relief” and “complete comfort consistency” at any temperature. Carpenter markets the foam with the tag line, “Memory Foam Is Obsolete.”
Jackie Hunter, commercial field marketing manager for Innocor Foam Technologies, said the company supplies foam used in six of the 10 highest-rated foam beds in the February Consumer Reports. “Our core strategy is ‘core’,” Hunter quipped. “We are here to promote our success in producing and selling excellent, high-quality compressible foams.”
Part of Innocor Inc., with headquarters in West Long Branch, New Jersey, Innocor Foam Technologies introduced the mattress industry to its flexible foam components division in a big way and also launched the division’s new website during the show. Innocor was formed in 2014 with the merger of Sleep Innovations and Flexible Foam Products.
Innocor’s booth was filled with demonstrations showcasing the company’s branded Evencor line of viscoelastic foams, which offer a range of value-added features and ingredients. To prove that Evencor’s comfort is unaffected by ambient temperature, ice cream freezers were packed with chilled foam blocks. Other product lines include latex alternative Luracor, high-resilience Hypercor and highly breathable Aerocor memory foam.
Cool new test
At the booth for Element Materials Testing, a London-based global player in mattress testing, talk revolved around the new Thermal Perspiration Transmission test for consumer mattresses.
Originally developed as a standard for the medical mattress segment because of the link between warmth/moisture and pressure sores, the test was introduced in March 2015 and is backed by the American National Standards Institute, a private nonprofit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for things like products and services, said Brent Larson, Element project manager for sleep system evaluation. “The test provides a key metric on a bed’s evaporative capacity, which relates to all of those ‘coolness’ claims. Major retailers want to see this type of third-party validation.”
Dow’s ComfortScience delivers better foams
For the first time, Dow Polyurethanes, a division of the Dow Chemical Co., headquartered in Midland, Michigan, exhibited at the show. Dow markets feedstocks for bedding foams under the new ComfortScience brand. Its products include propylene oxide, propylene glycol, polyether polyols, as well as aromatic isocyanates, such as MDI and TDI.
New MDI and TDI formulations yield viscoelastic foams with improved moisture wicking and airflow, said Alan Robinson (pictured), Dow Polyurethanes North America marketing director. “We also developed a washable memory foam for pillows that has a larger cell structure and can be washed in any nonagitator washing machine and machine dried, while keeping the superior foam mechanical properties.”
Robinson added, “There’s a lot of talk and buzz about ‘cooling’ in the (bedding) industry. We’re putting the science behind it.”
Step-ups for the well-sprung bed
Manufacturers looking to add new bounce to innerspring beds found what they needed at this show. Innovations in ever-popular wrapped coils stole the spotlight thanks to suppliers’ investments in the latest high-tech coiling machinery. In a single unit, suppliers were able to mix, match, layer, nest (and even subtract) pocket springs of varying sizes and gauges.
Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc. showcased its new and improved Quantum Edge wrapped coil collection, which provides a strong, durable seat edge by using wrapped coils in narrower widths on the border. It’s available in a range of configurations and now contains up to 18% more coils, said Mark Kinsley, staff vice president of marketing for the L&P Bedding Group.
A “good-better-best” assortment of finished mattresses demonstrated the effects of combining Quantum Edge with L&P’s NanoCoil microcoils, which now are available in two versions—the original gauge and a higher gauge wire to create a plusher feel. The “good” bed featured the Quantum Edge Bolsa unit. The “better” bed showcased Quantum Edge Bolsa Nested, with the center third of the bed incorporating a nested, zoned area with staggered coil rows to enhance back support. The “best” bed highlighted the Quantum Edge Combi-Zone unit, which used the edge coils in zones across the bed for added support of hips, back and shoulders.
All units work with adjustable bases.
“Our goal is to give the mattress a longer comfort life,” Kinsley said. “Consumers want better durability and they want mattresses to feel like they did two to three years ago, with springs that will always bounce back.”
HSM Solutions, with headquarters in Hickory, North Carolina, presented Evocoil, a panel fabric with Posturfil HD coils sewn into it. “This is the evolution of the coil,” said Tim Witherell, HSM regional director of sales for the Eastern United States. “We believe the coil needs to get closer to the surface for a variety of reasons—durability, performance, temperature, all the things that are key buzzwords of the industry right now.”
Two beds—one made with a foam core and viscoelastic on top and another with the same construction and an Evocoil panel—gave EXPO attendees a way to test the different feels. The tag line for Evocoil is “Turning Comfort Inside Out.”
Spinks Springs, which exhibited with HSM, is a division of Leeds, England-based Harrison Spinks and is HSM’s technology partner.
In 2015, Spinks introduced Posturflo 3D, the concept on which Evocoil is based, during Interzum Cologne and won an Interzum Intelligent Material & Design award for it.
At this show, Darren Marcangelo, Spinks Springs commercial director, discussed his company’s new Coils Anywhere technology. Pocketed microcoil toppers can be filled with springs in any pattern—even leaving some pockets empty—to create zoning and designs. (One topper on display left every other pocket empty in a checkerboard pattern.) The ability to customize the toppers makes adding microcoils to a bed more economical: You can add pressure-relieving loft to the mattress cushioning but use fewer springs, Marcangelo said.
Kayseri, Turkey-based Boycelik brought a range of new pocket spring units to tempt EXPO attendees.
Pencil Coil has a smaller diameter coil for a firmer feel, while the Sleep Tide wrapped coil core has springs in alternating heights. Boycelik’s DuraCoil pocket spring core creates a stronger seat edge with narrower, lower gauge coils on the perimeter. Flexifirm offers a new shape, with fewer turns at the bottom and more turns at the top.
“Flexifirm is a good alternative for ‘no-flip’ mattresses,” said Hazal Gencturk, Boycelik sales representative.
Nova Sunger, with headquarters in Adapazarı, Turkey, introduced two types of pocket springs. The Pyramid offers a softer top and bottom and more firmness in the middle; the firmer Hourglass pocket spring narrows in the middle.
Texas Pocket Springs, with headquarters in Cleburne, Texas, featured a biodegradable PLA fabric for pocket springs. (PLA is a polyester stretch fiber derived from plants, in this case, corn.)
In addition, the company has increased production of its glueless, ultrasonically welded pocket springs, which now represent about 30% of products shipped, said President Martin Wolfson. “By the end of the year, we won’t be using any glue at all.” Thus, manufacturers who want a biodegradable and recyclable product that uses no petrochemicals, can purchase glueless coils in PLA pockets, Wolfson said.
Thanks to an investment in new machinery, Texas Pocket Springs also is able to vary the length and location of the welds connecting its pocket springs, which produces different comfort feels. The spring supplier can insert different gauge coils into pockets to produce zoned cores.
Latex’s expanding influence
Judging from the offerings at this show, interest in latex as a core component and cushion layer continues to grow, as does the use of 100% natural latex.
Vita Talalay by Radium Foam made 100% natural latex a show focus. The company recently earned Cradle to Cradle Gold certification from the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, for its Natural product. This is a significant step up from its previous Cradle to Cradle Silver certification earned in 2013, according to the company, which is based in Maastricht, Netherlands. The company’s booth featured a large display of its new logo and product rebranding. (See story on page 81.)
Latex suppliers offered value-added products with multiple zoning options, different types of perforations and unusual additives.
Talalay Global, the only U.S.-based producer of Talalay latex, with headquarters in Shelton, Connecticut, has re-invented itself since ISPA EXPO 2014, with a new name, new branding and an extended lineup of Talalay latex that includes 100% natural latex and latex imbued with various minerals.
“At this show, we’re giving manufacturers the opportunity to offer something different—it’s a ‘one-stop topper,’ with a different comfort on each side,” said Ken Hinman, Talalay Global executive vice president of sales and marketing. “The two-sided Custom Topper can customize any mattress to a firmer or softer sleep surface.”
Tielt, Belgium-based Latexco, with a U.S. division headquartered in Lavonia, Georgia, displayed a unique 7-inch, 100% natural latex mattress core with top-to-bottom perforations that aid airflow and temperature regulation. The vertical coring is assisted by horizontal side-to-side channeling.
Mountain Top Foam, a latex supplier headquartered in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, promoted latex cores at this show, as well. “With the economy improving, customers who carry all-latex beds say their business is growing,” said Bob Quickstad, Mountain Top director of sales and marketing. “We want everyone to know latex is not only great for the top of the mattress, it’s a great support foam, too.”
Mountain Top Foam also showed new toppers with copper and aluminum that can be posturized with as many as seven zones. “The metals are conductive, making the toppers more breathable with better airflow,” Quickstad said. “Thermal-conductivity tests show that the metals speed heat transfer through the foam, dissipating body heat.”
Arpico, a Richard Pieris Natural Foams Ltd. company, headquartered in Maharagama, Sri Lanka, specializes in 100% natural latex and certified organic latex, meeting the Global Organic Latex Standard.
According to Januka Karunasena, Arpico chief executive officer, his company has experienced 65% year-over-year growth in the United States and has opened a distribution warehouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to accommodate existing U.S. customers. It plans to add three additional U.S. warehouses this year. “Our customers no longer need to buy full containers or fear running out of any our products,” Karunasena said. The company also has invested in a fully automated latex production line at its plant in Sri Lanka.
Lien A, a supplier of 100% natural latex with headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, enlarged its offerings with “value-added” latex made using the Vytex formula developed by Duluth, Georgia-based Vystar Corp.
“Vytex latex is for highly allergic individuals who are very sensitive,” said Nguyen Thanh Vu (Vincent), Lien A international business director. “The Vytex process removes virtually all proteins in natural latex that have been associated with allergic reactions.” Lien A also added convoluted latex pillow silhouettes, including a spikey “peanut” pillow.
Lien A’s continuous-foaming line of topper and cushion-layer latex, which launched at Interzum Cologne in 2015, has been well-received and gained broad distribution from Korea to the Middle East to the United States, Nguyen said.
Of growing importance to online mattress sellers is the ability to offer an easy-to-ship foundation.
UFP White Bear Lake LLC, a Universal Forest Products company with headquarters in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, introduced the Cinch Sleeper Bed Foundation Kit with patent-pending, tool-less assembly and Snap-Tight metal corner clips for extra stability. The bed base comes with or without a drawstring fabric cover. “Plywood is best for this type of application. There is less moisture that can cause (solid) wood to warp while sitting in the box or after assembly. The pins will always fit and they won’t pop out later,” said Ross Talbot, UFP White Bear Lake account manager.
The push-and-pull of convenience versus comfort and durability when it comes to bed-base construction was nowhere more evident than at Leggett & Platt Inc. In addition to its boxed, e-commerce-friendly Simple Life platform base, the company focused visitor attention on a display demonstrating the difference in comfort between a platform-style bed base versus a real “working” spring foundation. The latter fit well with the company’s spring training theme. A king mattress display featured a box spring with a 5½-inch Semi-Flex Performance Grid steel and wood foundation layered with L&P’s Softech encased coils on one side. It was contrasted with a platform base display, and visitors were invited to judge the difference in the comfort of the mattresses.
Possibly the ultimate working foundation could be found at Custom8 Intelligent Bedding Components. The Heverlee, Belgium-based company launched the updated—and more affordable—R-Leaf adjusting, slatted base unit. The newest version also is more modular, allowing users to select which slats in the base can adjust in comfort. The base is marketed as a mattress manufacturing research and development tool and now is targeted to retailers, as well. At retail, the R-Leaf intelligent base allows shoppers to lie down on one bed and test many different feels, explained Hans Druyts, Custom8 chief executive officer. “We can map the comfort of the retailer’s offerings and use our proprietary technology to adjust the R-Leaf to simulate the comfort of a range of mattresses.”
Transfer Master, based in Postville, Iowa, introduced the Supernal 5 adjustable bed base. It incorporates the functionality of the company’s Valiant base with a new look designed for the consumer market. With the ability to tilt up from the foot, the bed is designed for consumers with medical issues, especially heart or circulatory problems. Supernal 5 is available with a massage feature and either a wired or wireless remote.
Mattress levitation: This is no trick
Chicago-based Levitation Technologies unveiled patented LevAssist technology, which eliminates heavy lifting when rotating a mattress or making a bed. Slender bladders attached to the mattress or foundation inflate with the touch of a button, lifting the mattress up and allowing it to be maneuvered easily. Originally developed for the hospitality segment, its appeal is far broader, said Bill Scarleski, Levitation Technologies chief innovations officer. The product rolls out this year. Targets include consumers and health care providers.
The year of magical ticking
There was plenty of ticking news found everywhere from value fabrics to opulent knits and wovens—with beauty and fashion emphasized throughout the show floor. The ascendance of double knits continues as they move from panels onto borders, in designs ranging from highly sculpted to flat to even damask-like. Part of the popularity of knits on all parts of the bed is driven by the boxed-bed trend and the need for stretchy fabrics that will bounce back without wrinkles after unboxing.
Creating mattress fabrics with flexibility and breathability was front and center at Creative Ticking, a Beverly Knits company headquartered in Gastonia, North Carolina. Creative Ticking showcased the Sport Support concept bed using airy spacer fabrics, foam-conforming four-way stretch knits, and color and styling that mimicked performance clothing. Fabrics were treated with Cool Breeze, a microencapsulated phase-change material, and incorporated mini “air vents.”
Beyond the stretch and comfort of performance wear, textiles that promise to keep the doctor away were another theme.
Bekaert Textiles (now BekaertDeslee), based in Waregem, Belgium, introduced Nanobionic, a proprietary finish that the company says “transforms body heat into far infrared radiation,” reflecting it back to the body to improve temperature regulation and blood circulation and, therefore, improve sleep.
Boyteks, based in Kayseri, Turkey, debuted a line of “innovation products” for the U.S. market. They ranged from Aura Fresh, which keeps the mattress fresh and clean by preventing odor absorption, to Biorytmic, which incorporates various minerals said to improve human health.
In its booth, Istanbul-based Aydin Tekstil offered aromatherapy, anti-microbial and even anti-aging fabrics, all with promises of improved health.
Textile designers guided mattress makers in their choices with trend boards and themed collections echoing the latest fashion and home furnishings style reports.
Bekaert presented three design themes as part of a spring style report. According to Anne Bushell, design manager for BekaertDeslee in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, “Dart and Pixel is a contemporary menswear-meets-sportswear collection; Smith and Mason is a more traditional collection with ornate motifs and a warm, natural color palette; and Rose and Spade plays a little more feminine with soft neutrals and pinks, purples and blues.”
At CT Nassau, tapes, knits and wovens covered every fashion niche. The Alamance, North Carolina-based company featured a broad color palette, from bold and rich to pale neutrals. Modern geometric designs and antique ironwork motifs added more visual spice.
Some of the designs at Lava, with headquarters in Wielsbeke, Belgium, and U.S. headquarters in Waterloo, South Carolina, were reminiscent of ironwork, too. “We’ve been showing fabrics today and I keep saying a lot of these remind me of some of the ironwork you see in Charleston (South Carolina) or New Orleans, but with a modern twist,” said Ann Weaver, vice president of Lava USA. The company highlighted four main color and style trends: Timeless Simplicity, with simple, minimal designs; Delicate Disorder, a modern look; Bohemian Nomad, featuring ethnic influences; and Ancient Beauty, a modern traditional.
The designers at Global Textile Alliance Inc. did their trend research and came up with eight themes. The resulting design boards, which were a focal point of the company’s booth, incorporated looks ranging from handcrafted to luxury to retro. “We decided after the last several shows that we didn’t want to just have 500 ticking samples and ask, ‘What do you like?’ ” said Martha Williams, creative director of the company, which has headquarters in Reidsville, North Carolina. “Instead, we wanted to show more about what GTA can do.”
High Point, North Carolina-based Culp Inc. brought its trend book, which explored colors and textures from history, as well as colors and textures from locales such as Mexico and Cuba. “We try to show stronger colors,” said Steven Bond, Culp vice president of design and innovation. “People get a little scared of color, but we try to bring it out in venues like this to say, ‘This is what you can do, and this is what you should do at some point.’ ”
Jomel Seams Reasonable, a sewn cover business that is part of mattress components supplier Jomel Industries, had fun with its display of covers and point-of-purchase items. “I’m mixing a lot of things from other industries, specifically apparel or handbags, to kind of dress up and sex up my mattresses,” said Lila Walker, principal of the Hillside, New Jersey-based company.
Maxime Knitting, headquartered in Montreal, displayed a variety of unique panels, such as a large cat in the fabric of a child’s bed, as well as high-contrast textured panels and borders. “Because my background is in the apparel industry, I’m trying to bring back apparel fashion and incorporate it into the bedding world,” said Lorne Romoff, Maxime Knitting vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re taking those fabrics from 25 years ago and bringing them into bedding to make it fun and unique.”
New York City-based Elfa brought back the technique of printing. “The mattress industry used to be filled with prints,” said Elfa designer Rose Fleming. “So we are now doing printed knits.”
Springs Creative Products Group, headquartered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, showed off its digital printing capabilities, while also promoting its FR fabrics and spacer fabrics. In addition to printing on cotton, the company can print on its FR barrier border fabric called Verge. (See story on page 38.)
At Innofa, headquartered in Eden, North Carolina, new machinery has allowed the company to add intense colors and finer designs to its lineup.
Innofa designer Katie Bir noted that many customers still look primarily for fabrics in the white or beige family, but also are attracted to grays and blues. Innofa has begun to work with heathered yarns, which are a blend of blue, gray and white. “We’re finding that it’s appealing,” she said. “It has a casual look, but you can always dress it up as well.”
An important emphasis at Carpenter Co. was on temperature regulation achieved using microencapsulated phase-change material. The Richmond, Virginia-based company demonstrated the best place to use such materials in its Perfect Bed—and the simple answer was up top. In the concept bed, Carpenter put phase-change material in the topper foam, the mattress protector and the mattress pad.
Bob Steelman, Carpenter vice president of sales and marketing, explained, “At Carpenter, we’re all about microclimate. One problem we’ve seen is that many companies use PCMs, but don’t put them in the right place.”
Textile and fiber supplier Springs Creative Products Group found a unique way to show off its AirSkin line of spacer fabrics—as apparel, modeled by Caroline Reeves, the Rock Hill, South Carolina-based company’s product and account manager.
Spacer fabric, a technical textile touted for its breathability due to a layer of vertical polyester filaments sandwiched at its center, has gained broad use on beds as a decorative textile, as well. And Reeves proved that. Springs Creative offers a broad array of spacers in many colors, textures and heights, marketing them for an array of products, including mattresses.
Reeves modeled three ensembles at the show, each sewn with AirSkin—and one accessorized with a digitally printed SleepSkin pocket square. SleepSkin is the company’s athletic wear-inspired line of printable, super-stretchy polyester Spandex knits.
The chic outfits showcased the evolution of spacer fabrics’ role on beds in the last five years, Reeves said. “Once just a border fabric, now we’re seeing spacer (fabric) in just about every location on the mattress.”
She looked charming in an “all-occasion” white dress using AirSkin with a soft cotton-knit underlay. Her day-to-evening look, a belted and sleeveless dress in silvery charcoal AirSkin, had a slim fit and featured an intricately textured overlay knit. Finally, Reeves was office-ready in a soft gray pencil skirt featuring a supple AirSkin fabric with both stretch and style.
Factoring in fiber
For those attendees whose comfort quest went beyond foam and microcoil innovations and who needed FR solutions, fiber suppliers offered some new options.
Marc Dokter, chief executive officer of Volendam, Netherlands-based Enkev Natural Fibres, said his company has invested in equipment to produce thermally bonded fiber cushioning layers that provide a more resilient alternative to needlepunched pads. Samples on display included plush combinations of cotton/wool, wool/flax and wool/cotton/silk.
Another fiber supplier, Ko-Si, with headquarters in Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia, enlarged its offerings to include premium animal hair, including very fine lambs wool and alpaca. The company also added sewing capabilities and now is producing finished toppers filled with its premium fibers.
When it comes to FR fiber technology, several suppliers touted solutions that do away with older chemistries.
Tietex International, which has moved completely away from decorative nonwovens and rebranded as a technical company, introduced FR filler cloth for the bottom of the mattress and top of the foundation, using patent-pending FR rayon with silica.
“Manufacturers love that this is a barrier fabric offering phenomenal FR performance without traditional FR chemistry,” said Rhett Lancaster, vice president of sales and marketing for the Spartanburg, South Carolina-based company.
Jones Fiber Products, part of the Jones Family of Companies, which this year celebrates its 80th anniversary as a yarn producer and its 35th year in nonwovens production, showcased the company’s new umbrella branding. It also highlighted FR fiber technology that uses a new “stratified, layered system with thermally bonded cotton fiber topped with an FR barrier,” said Richard Ayers, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the Jones Family of Companies.
In addition to its FR offerings, nonwoven supplier Precision Fabrics Group introduced a super-thick filler cloth for foundation tops. The hefty nonwoven fabric does double duty as an upholstery fabric and insulator, eliminating the need to staple a layer of cardboard to an all-wood base, which can be a noisy solution, said Doug Small, business director for the Greensboro, North Carolina-based company.
Wright invests in high-precision equipment
Thanks to an investment in new equipment, industry branding and graphics supplier Wright Global Graphics now offers extremely high-definition printing services on a variety of substrates, including top-of-bed peripherals, labels and wall hangings.
The Thomasville, North Carolina-based company also has added laser-cutting capabilities, allowing it to incorporate accent details as intricate as a snowflake to top-of-bed products, labels and other items.
Machinations in machinery
Machinery suppliers plotted—with considerable success—to get sleep products makers interested in integrating new and updated equipment into their production lines. Machinery innovations on display were influenced by changing mattress construction trends and the ongoing quest for speed, efficiency and deskilling the factory floor.
Brighi Tecnologie Italia s.n.c., headquartered in Forli, Italy, announced it has added a U.S.-based technical support team to assist manufacturers with custom solutions and automation engineering. It also unveiled new branding for the U.S. market—Brighi Tech Innovation—and an accompanying website, www.brighitechinnovation.com.
The company showcased its new Easy Blow pillow line for manufacturing down, feather and fiberfill pillows. “The new system preweighs each pillow to get the perfect amount of fill in each pillow. It’s unique in the world—the fastest and totally modular. We offer everything from A to Z, from raw material processing to the finished pillow into the box,” said Brighi Tecnologie Italia President Alessio Brighi. The company also has upgraded its pillow production lines to include attachment of U.S. law labels and a full complement of popular U.S. pillow sizes, from standard to body pillow.
D.R. Cash Inc., which is based in Louisville, Kentucky, added the BT15 buildup table for popular foam-encased mattresses. The table has walls on all four sides that adjust to hold all standard-size mattresses. The table has a special release-coat paint finish that enables solvent-free cleanup of glue residue.
Due to growing interest in boxed beds, roll-pack machinery drew crowds at this show.
Major machinery supplier Atlanta Attachment Co., with headquarters in Lawrenceville, Georgia, introduced the Auto-Pac 1390HCA, an automatic mattress-packaging system with hydraulic compression. It has high throughput, a heavy-duty hydraulic press and rolls consistently, without stressing the leading edge of the mattress and preserving mattress integrity, according to the company.
Dalila Isalberti, export manager for Dolphin Pack Srl, with headquarters in Affi, Italy, said this was an especially good show for the company, which made many new “high-quality contacts.” Dolphin Pack offers a range of automatic and semi-automatic roll-pack equipment options, with its fastest system able to process three beds per minute.
C3 Corp. demonstrated its fast, high-capacity Compression Fold machine for foam and pocket spring mattresses. The machine from the Appleton, Wisconsin-based company compresses, folds, rolls and bags one mattress every 35-40 seconds. A queen mattress, when compressed, folded and rolled fits into a 15-inch by 15-inch by 40-inch box.
Elektroteks Ltd., with headquarters in Bursa, Turkey, produces a full range of manufacturing equipment. Elektroteks Vice President Orhan Guler said one of the company’s most recent innovations is the high-efficiency ET-Roll 300 roll-pack machine, which uses as many as 50 tons of compression pressure to roll and package mattresses without folding.
Deskilling manufacturing operations while improving precision and productivity is always a hot topic in machinery booths and was, not surprisingly, a main focus of the industry’s equipment majors at this show.
A case in point is the new Automatic Panel Flanger 1317A from Atlanta Attachment. “Once you load the panel, the machine runs itself,” said Atlanta Attachment President Hank Little. “A single operator can run two machines at the same time. Once the operator advances the panel for automatic sew, the result is far more consistent, with perfectly even corner radiuses.”
Another hands-free, labor saver from Atlanta Attachment is the new Rail Glue Machine 1967-AX-L. It allows manufacturers to build mattress encasements without using glue guns. The machine neatly and efficiently “paints” adhesive onto foam rails.
Global Systems Group, the machinery division of Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc., introduced the Mattress Master Optima from Gateway—one of the “hottest products in GSG’s line of equipment,” said Paul Block, GSG vice president of sales strategy and product planning. “It’s a semi-automatic tape-edge system that greatly deskills the operation at a tremendous value. This machine will help give straighter tape lines and smoother corners, while keeping the operator working at peak efficiency. We’re showing this unit with an automatic binding tape cutter and inserter that helps deskill the operation even more.”
When visitors to the GSG space looked up, they saw the Eton Mattress Production system, which “takes a firm bite out of the money wasted on nonvalue-added labor and truly helps increase profits while shortening lead times,” Block said. The overhead material handling system eliminates manual transportation of mattress panels, borders, single-sided bucket pieces throughout the sewing and assembly process. All items are tracked throughout the factory with RFID chips.
Not surprisingly, interest was high in equipment to produce pocket springs. Versatile wrapped coils increasingly are used in better beds, both in the core and cushion. In addition, pocket springs work well with adjustable bases and many units stand up to compression, folding and rolling.
Lian Rou Machinery & Equipment Co., based in Guangzhou, China, introduced several innovations in coiling machines, including the LR-PS-DL Pocket Spring Machine, a coiler capable of using ultrasonic welding to build double-layer pocket spring units containing a support core and comfort layer.
Speed was the big thing at Macau Tai Wa Machinery, headquartered in Andar, Macau. The company introduced the TWM-PS140 Pocket Spring Coiler, which produces 140 pocketed coils per minute—40% more than the company’s earlier coilers.
And the nominees for best booth design…
Creative and inviting booth designs were the rule at this show, demonstrating just how talented and fashion-forward the sleep products industry can be. Here are a few highlights:
Textile supplier Culp Inc., based in High Point, North Carolina, used nontraditional booth materials to create the feel of an artist’s studio. The company selected a textured brick with a faux finish. Walls were embellished with spools of colorful yarn, as well as a pinboard with color swatches and photos. Desk containers held colored pencils, rulers and paintbrushes. Probably the most striking aspect of the booth was the use repurposed metal screens—sourced from a metal fabrication company—lining the perimeter of the space.
Over at Global Textile Alliance Inc., visitors were greeted by a giant, metallic letter G. Martha Williams, creative director for the Reidsville, North Carolina-based company, said she wanted something with European styling. Using Williams’ sketches, a talented GTA salesman made everything, including a beautiful wood table where people gathered to chat. The overall result was an open space that combined natural notes with more industrial elements.
Several booths felt like cozy living rooms with comfortable chairs and lamps; others gave the impression of being part of a larger store.
Some exhibitors, such as Creative Ticking, with headquarters in Gastonia, North Carolina, and Innofa, based in Eden, North Carolina, used the outsides of their booths to showcase fabrics and new technologies.
Leggett & Platt Inc., based in Carthage, Missouri, had fun with its spring training theme, accenting its space with green and brown carpeting and larger-than-life baseball bobble-heads representing some key employees.