Peeling Back the Layers of Custom Seating!

Peeling Back the Layers of Custom Seating!

My first week working for Sunrise Medical I traveled to our manufacturing facility in Fresno, California. As a self-proclaimed assistive technology nerd, I was completely blown away by the order intake and manufacturing process. I recall spending extra time in the custom seating section of the facility where I intently watched the precision that went into cutting and layering the foam combination of a custom seating system order.

Selecting the number of layers and types of foam, the cover fabric material, and whether or not a specialized material such as a JAY® Flow™ fluid pack should be utilized in a client's custom seat or back may seem daunting. In an effort to demystify the process, let’s peel back the layers of custom seating by taking a closer look at some of the options.

Internal Material Options

According to our custom seating experts, Sunrise Medical offers twelve different types of foam that can be utilized to create a custom seat and/or back. Why are there so many options? The short answer is: no single client presents with the exact same needs. Offering various densities of foam allows for a greater level of customization. For example, a client who has a history of skin breakdown may benefit from a layer or two on the top of the extra-soft or soft foam to allow him/her to immerse into the cushion. The client’s size and weight should also be considered when deciding the type of foam to include in a custom seat. A medium-soft, medium, or medium-firm foam will provide more support for a greater range of weight without bottoming out.

In addition to foam, materials such as gel, elastomers (a type of plastic in a honeycomb shape), and JAY® Flow™ fluid packs are available to be added to a custom seat and/or back. If you would like to know more about the difference between gel and JAY® Flow™ fluid, be sure to read my interview with JAY® Product Manager, Jeff Rogers. To further customize a client’s seat and back, there are also options with adjusting the level of thickness of foam and gel.

There are two most common number of layers used in custom seats and backs that are ordered from Sunrise Medical. These two frequently ordered layered combinations are: Soft SunMate® over Medium SunMate® and Soft SunMate® over High Resilient 70 (HR 70).

Cover Material Options

Lil Kiddos Configured Seating

Choosing the appropriate cover material is equally as important to selecting the internal material of custom seats and backs. When selecting cover materials, be sure to think about both the contact and non-contact surface areas of the seat and back. For the contact areas, the cover material should stretch and allow the user to sink into the seat or back so he/she is able to take advantage of the properties of the internal material. Another item to consider when it comes to the material used on the contact surfaces is how the material is able to be cleaned. For example, I recommend selecting a material that is nonabsorbent and able to be wiped down for clients with continence issues. Non-contact areas of seats and backs can be covered with a more rugged material such as vinyl.

Sunrise Medical offers over ten options of fabric for contact and non-contact surfaces, some of which come in different colors. The two most common combinations of cover material ordered from Sunrise are: Darlexx® (contact surfaces) with vinyl (non-contact surfaces) and Reverse Dartex® (contact surfaces) and vinyl (non-contact surfaces).

Selecting the most appropriate seat and back for clients is vital for the clients’ overall safety and health. It is important to note: just because a certain material or combination of materials is commonly used, it does not mean those materials or combination are appropriate for every client. If you are new to custom seating, I highly recommend consulting with a seasoned supplier, clinician, and/or manufacturer’s representative to learn what is best for each of your clients. Also, if you consider yourself an experienced veteran of the world of custom seating, I encourage you to consult with other professionals. You may be surprised what you can learn from others!

Thank you for reading our blog! We love hearing from you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We encourage you to leave a comment or send us an email.

Always remember at the end of the day, your client is your number one priority!
- Angie

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are intended to be utilized as a general resource for clinicians and suppliers to then use clinical reasoning skills to determine optimal seating and mobility solutions for individual clients. Steve and Angie are unable to answer questions from members of the general public including caregivers and end users. Members of the general public should direct specific questions to their own clinicians, medical, suppliers, or other health care professionals.


Posted by: Date: 10/30/2014 12:00:00 AM
Filed under: Angie, ATP, CustomSeating, Seating
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