Not all mats are created equal. XPE polyethylene foam mats have unique qualities that set them apart from other major foam mats like EVA, EPE and rubber. Durable, resilient, and shock-absorbing, XPE mats are quickly becoming the gold standard in athletic training. Through the use of a technologically advanced manufacturing process, XPE mats are soft, but also resistant to the wear-and-tear of life. Boasting a unique ability to prevent moisture absorption, and being anti microbial, these mats will quickly become the favourite, go-to mat in your gym.
What Are XPE Mats?
In order to truly appreciate the quality and craftmanship that goes into XPE foam, you need to delve into the unique manufacturing process involved. XPE is a cross-linked polyethylene foam which is ideal for projects that require thick foam. Through a chemically unique process, a mutual cross-linking occurs between polyethylene particles, creating a netlike structure. As a result, once cured, the walls of the material form an embedded cellular structure. Strong, dense, and durable, XPE is a collection of fine-celled particles which have superior physical and chemical properties.
Possessing an unique thermal and insulating properties, XPE foam is used in the automotive industry in processes where friction creates high heat. Some of the best uses of XPE foam are for expansion joints and industrial gaskets.
Another added benefit of polyethylene foam is that it has strong rigidity. When an athlete steps on the mat, the mat will spring back to its original shape almost instantly. This allows for great shock absorption for athletes who land on the mat.
Because of the manufacturing process, XPE foam has a soft outer shell which is resistant to moisture. XPE mats have low moisture permeability. This means that XPE mats posses antimicrobial qualities which make them extremely useful to use in athletic training, where sweat may come into contact with the mat.
What Are EVA Mats?
EVA stands for ethylene-vinyl acetate, and is an extremely versatile and durable substance. Also a closed-cell foam, EVA is water resistant. EVA is a flexible plastic, which is used in anything from toys to puzzle piece flooring.
EVA plastic is converted to foam through either injection or compression moulding processes. In either process, bubbles and high heat are introduced into the mix, and this creates an unique closed-cell structure, which is actually quite similar to XPE. This unique process creates an easily mouldable material which is resistant to UVA radiation. A highly durable material with a rubber-like flexibility, EVA is a step up from any open-celled foam because it is firmer and allows for greater shock absorption.
EVA can also be easily cleaned and disinfected, and this allows it to be used in gyms and dance studios. Its ubiquity is because of its effectiveness and durability, and is commonly referred to as “foam rubber” even though it doesn’t contain any rubber.
Another major type of athletic mats are EPE mats. EPE foam is created when low-density polyethylene is injected with butane gas, creating a non-cross linked, closed-cell structure comprising many bubbles. EPE is the cheapest foam material and is used for packing and shipping purposes, and also flooring underlayment.
One major advantage of EPE is that it is extremely lightweight, making it easier to transport. Since its first manufacturing in the 1970s, EPE foam has quickly replaced polystyrene in impact absorption applications.
Lacking the same elasticity of EVA and the shock absorption qualities of XPE, EPE is the least durable material available on the market for athletic mats. To put things into perspective, EVA is almost five times more durable than EPE.
On the other end of the spectrum, rubber mats are the most dense athletic mats that can be purchased. Rubber mats are made from recycled tyres which have been chopped up, melted, and spread out to form a mat. Although incredible in impact resistance, rubber mats are not the softest mats to land on, and lose out to XPE, EVA, and EPE in shock absorption qualities.
What’s the difference between XPE and EVA?
The major difference between XPE and EVA mats is the manufacturing process used to create the mats. EVA is created through the use of an industrial chemical called formamide, which gives an acrid odour to the product. Although in liquid form formamide is toxic, during the manufacturing process formamide evaporates, and the small amount that is left slowly evaporates over time. Many governments agencies have done studies on formamide and found it to be harmless in the levels that are found in EVA mats. The government of Canada conducted a scientific screening to determine if there were any ill effects and found “that formamide is not harmful to human health at current levels of exposure” . Although EVA mats are not hazardous to your health, they’re produced in a much less environmentally friendly way than XPE.
As a result of the manufacturing process, EVA mats off-gas formamide which has a unique ammonia-like smell . This smell usually lingers in new EVA mats for several weeks. What sets XPE mats apart from EVA is that XPE mats are odourless, which makes a substantial difference when you regularly use the mats.
EVA foam mats have some benefits that outmatch XPE mats. For example, EVA foam has a fine outer skin which is much softer than XPE. EVA mats are also more popular than XPE because it’s much more economical to make them. The primary reason for EVA’s popularity is that it can reach 50mm in thickness without lamination, making EVA ideal in die cutting manufacturing.
Alternatively, XPE mats are produced through a continuous foaming process, which allows for the length to be much longer than EVA. This means that longer sections of XPE can be created than EVA.
XPE mats result from an innovative new manufacturing process which creates thick, durable, antibacterial athletic mats. Unlike EVA mats that have a unique smell, XPE mats are free from odours. However, EVA mats can be perfectly useful when used in 20mm or 40mm thick puzzle tiles, providing an entire space with coverage. However, the most important difference is that XPE mats are formed in a continuous foam roll of tight, cross-linked closed cells. This translates directly to you in a quality product over several metres of mat. Ultimately, the type of mat that fits your space depends entirely on what you’ll do on it, but XPE offers the best quality for the price.
2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formamide. Formamide is derived from ammonia and formic acid and has an ammonia-like smell. From all the research, it seems that ammonia is on the peripherals of the manufacturing process of EVA mats, but lends its unique smell the product.
Author: Dave Van Kooten