Kevin Stein and Derek Bobowick are from Latex International, the largest producer of natural Talalay in the world (and the only one in the United States). What follows is a nuts-and-bolts Q & A session we conducted with them recently.
Are there any differences in feel or texture between the natural and synthetic Talalay? If so, how would you describe them?
Natural latex is a little more “lively” than a synthetic/natural blend.
Do you produce natural Talalay in more than one plant in the U.S.?
As of now, there is only one plant where natural Talalay is poured, in Shelton, Connecticut.
What tests are performed on the raw rubber as it arrives in tankers, to be sure it is of acceptable quality?
We run four tests on every batch of latex as it comes into our facility. We test the Ph, temperature, viscosity, and solids. Our testing is extensive to ensure that it is indeed the best latex and that it is of consistent quality.
Would you describe the “washing” process for sheets of latex that are fresh off the production line?
Right out of the molds, latex is put into the washing process and “squeegeed.” This washing and squeegeeing process happens five times for every piece of latex to remove the proteins.
What is the “washing” process for the molds themselves? How often is that done?
Molds are cleaned on a scheduled basis, or as needed. Boiling the molds happens about every two weeks.
What makes natural latex different to produce than synthetically blended latex?
Natural latex is not more difficult to produce, but the process does take longer, due to the higher density of natural latex foam. Firmness to density is different in natural latex vs. synthetic latex; and natural latex uses more pounds of latex per piece.
Why do you consider the Talalay process to produce latex better than the Dunlop process?
In the Dunlop process latex tends to settle to the bottom, so the top of a sheet of Dunlop latex will be softer, especially the top 2″ if, for example, a 6″ sheet of latex is poured. Moreover, Talalay is more consistent than Dunlop from top to bottom. It has a better cell structure with lower density, because the Talalay process uses less material.
Has the growth of Latex International's relationship with Savvy Rest influenced these quality control measures over the years?
Savvy Rest has been demanding about the quality of the latex we produce. We have always advocated lean manufacturing to produce the best latex in the world, and Savvy Rest's demands caused us to look at all aspects of our operation more closely.
What additional QC controls are added for Savvy Rest orders?
We handle products more carefully and effectively because of your input.
How do you ensure that each piece of latex is not outside certain ILD ranges?
Unlike Dunlop manufacturers and regular foam manufacturers, we do not produce to a density. Density is merely a measure of pounds per cubic foot. Our goal is not to make products that weigh the same; our goal is to make products that feel the same. Feeling is determined by ILD, not by density. To that end every core is measured for ILD in multiple places to ensure that it's within tolerance.
How do you inspect for rips and tears that sometimes appear?
We inspect 100% of our product just before ILD measurement, checking all six sides for rips, tears or other imperfections.
What is it that makes latex deteriorate or yellow over a long period of time or when exposed to air for a shorter time?
All latex foam is impacted by oxidation. The cross-linking of bonds gets broken down.
We have seen how 3″ natural Talalay has smaller variations in height than natural Dunlop, but how do you handle height variations in the latex, or when the pieces cut in half are not the same thickness?
It is difficult to cut latex perfectly every time because latex stretches, making it harder to cut than polyurethane foam. This natural stretching is the same reason that latex conforms to the body and polyurethane foam does not. We handle height variations by putting the correct sizes together (queen, king, etc) before we cut to thickness, ensuring consistency in a bed.
Why would a 3″ core have an ILD different from a 6″ core?
ILD is used as a manufacturing assessment of a products' firmness in a specific set of conditions.