If you type “foam mattress unboxing” into your favorite internet search tool, you’ll see thousands of homemade videos of people taking their newly-arrived, compressed foam mattress out of the box, cutting away the plastic, and watching as it unfurls. This was one of the key differences in Casper’s business when we opened in 2013. It allowed us to save on shipping costs, reduce the cost of the mattress to customers, and give people a cool at-home science experiment to witness.
The reason why you can compress a foam mattress and fit it in a box is the same reason why they can be incredibly comfortable: their unique molecular structure. Polyurethane foam (the kind of foam the Casper mattress is constructed from) is made up of small little “boxes” — on a microscopic level — that vary in shapes and sizes. These “boxes” are really a polymeric structure of cells that are full of air. Each cell is made up of “struts,” which offer support, and “windows,” which are the spaces between the struts. Depending on the chemical composition of the foam, the microscopic windows can be open, closed, or somewhere in between. When you compress a polyurethane foam mattress, you push all the air out of the cells. This is what allows us to compress a 10-inch-thick mattress down to around one inch, roll it up, and deliver it to your door.
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The unique molecular composition of a foam mattress is the same reason they can be incredibly supportive and comfortable. One of the largest advantages of a foam mattress over a spring mattress is weight distribution, which comes back to its molecular composition. In a spring mattress, the surface area spreading out the weight of your body comes down to the diameter and number of coils.
As you have more of your weight pushing down on these coils, you will feel them pushing back on you more, leading to pressure points. The cellular structure of foam creates nearly infinite contact points for your body. Viscoelastic polyurethane foam (a.k.a. memory foam), for instance, is great for pressure distribution and energy absorption and contours to your body. It does have some disadvantages though as it has slow recovery, leading to that “stuck” feeling some people experience. However, there are a lot of different ways to “layer,” or otherwise structure a foam mattress, to get it to have the characteristics an engineer like me looks for.
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