The history of the memory foam market begins with the NASA space program and the desire to cushion and conform the seating on space vehicles to the astronaut’s body and to especially reduce the G forces during liftoff and reentry. Memory foam as we know it today got its beginnings back in 1966 and was known as “temper” foam. Charles Yost was an engineer with North American Aviation and was tasked with improving airline seating for greater crash and vibration protection to improve the odds of surviving the massive forces involved with take off and escaping the earth’s atmosphere.
He developed a “memory” foam from a polyurethane compound that had what is now called berry unusual visco-elastic properties. Visco stands for the memory of the foam and elastic refers to its ability to mold to whatever it is touching. This new substance was adapted and incorporated into the seating for long airline flights. It created an even body distribution and equalized the pressure over all body areas in contact with the foam. The foam returned to its original shape once the pressure was removed.
Yost formed a company called Dynamic Systems to market the temper foam in 1969 and sold the rights to the product in 1974. They returned to the market offering newer iterations of the product that were more friendly for the environment and less offensive to the consumer. The manufacturing process involved many chemicals that can cause severe allergic reactions in certain individuals and the pouring process creates waste gasses that are harmful to the ozone layer.
The majority of Dynamic Systems sales currently come from the medical markets (eighty percent). They make medical cushions and seating for the severely disabled. They have developed an extremely soft version of temper foam called Pudgee that generates less friction and pressure on tender areas of skin. It is great for wound patients and patients with mostly healed burn areas. They have combined this with their Sunmate product that provides the excellent cushioning with proper stability for support. This combination product is available for wheel chairs to aid those with muscular issues or posture issues that can be aided by the additional support.
All of this from the development of a NASA memory foam mattress. The only company that even vaguely acknowledges that their business stems from the original NASA need for cushioning is Tempur-Pedic and they refer to it obliquely
Cheap Memory Foam Mattress
Cheap memory foam mattress is a phrase that is an oxymoron. For a memory foam mattress to do the job it is designed to do it must have the appropriate density and foam base for support. Higher density memory foam with higher rebound rates cost more than cheaper larger celled memory foam mattresses. What will happen is that the larger celled memory foam mattresses provide a much softer initial feeling, but you will sink farther in and feel more smothered and warmer than a better constructed memory foam mattress will.
Tempur-Pedic has been the Cadillac or Mercedes of memory foam mattresses in the United States since 1992. Tempur – the brand of memory foam designed by the Swedish foam firm that took the technology developed by NASA in the 1970s to cushion the acceleration couches for astronauts is a much more dense visco-elastic foam than any other manufacturer makes.
Compounding the issues of being too soft and breaking down earlier, many cheaper memory foam mattresses are manufactured with toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and other chemical fixers. These strong chemicals can cause allergic reactions in people prone to allergies and give off strong smells that can be similar to a vinegar odor. The majority of cheap memory foam mattresses are produced in factories in China where quality control is not as strict as at American factories. Even if your cheap mattress is labeled with a certain density you can bet that it will be less than advertised.
Another factor is that cheap memory foam mattresses are manufactured in an environment that allows the waste gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to escape into the atmosphere to damage the ozone layer. All of the memory foam mattresses made in the United States are monitored by the EPA to prevent the waste gases from being vented to the atmosphere.
There is a place that offers an American made memory foam mattress that is truly a cheap memory foam mattress. For as little as three hundred sixty nine dollars ($369) you can get a twin size nine inch memory foam mattress with a three inch high rebound top with a six inch high density base that does not require a box spring base. These mattresses are poured in North Carolina from a compound made by BASF; the same company that has been providing cushioned supports for NASA since 1983. This is less than the comparable Tempur-Pedic three inch mattress topper ($532).