Foam core board is a lightweight, sturdy board made by adhering two sheets of paper to either side of a foam core. It is easy to cut and customise, and suited for indoor mounting applications. Often, it is clay-coated for an even smoother finish, although companies are now producing foam core boards with textured finishes as well.
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The original white foam core board was made by Monsanto Company in 1957, under the name Fome-Cor. It was made to 1/8-inch (3 mm) and 3/16-inch (5 mm) thicknesses and sold primarily to graphic arts companies. In 1993, Monsanto sold the business to International Paper. As of 2010, Alcan Composites operates the business and the thickness of foam core board ranges from 1/16 inch to 1/2 inch.
The main material used in foam core boards is polystyrene, which forms the centre core of the board. Like all basic plastics, polystyrene is made from petroleum and can be produced in its expanded state, which creates the little cells in the centre foam layer.
There are two different types of paper used for foam core boards. The first is clay-coated paper, which is simply normal paper coated in a very thin layer of china clay. This type of clay is preferred because it has a low capacity for shrinking and expanding. The other paper commonly used is Kraft paper, which is rougher and often used for paper grocery bags. It can be dyed or bleached white.
Foam core boards are used primarily by artists to mount images, but are also used to produce architectural models, prototypes of small objects and scenery for games and dioramas. Photographers use foam core board as a reflector. It can also be used as a backing material for picture framing. According to FoamCoreBoard.net, artists may sometimes prefer to use black foam core board, which is more rarely made and often more expensive.
The surface of the regular board is slightly acidic. Alcan produces a neutral, acid-free version for archival picture framing and art purposes. Some boards are now available with solid styrene and other rigid plastic sheeting. Color and texture may vary, although it is worth noting that these are more expensive as well.
Foam core board does not hold up well to some glues and certain paints, as the foam will melt away and dissolve. Elmer's white glue, for example, can warp the fibres in the outer layers due to the water content. Best results are obtained with a spray-on mount adhesive or with a hot glue gun, though the latter can sometimes result in the board warping. Currently on the market are self-adhesive foam boards, but the glue sets extremely quickly, making them difficult to use.
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