Dow Corning expands Michigan tech centre

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Photo by Chris Sweeney, Rubber & Plastics News Posing for a photo at Dow Corning's MD&M West booth are (from left) Roger Hendrick, technical services development for food pharma and medical; Marie Craine, health care market manager; and Gary Lord, global strategic director for health care.

Dow Corning has expanded its North American health care application centre in Midland, Michigan.

The focus of the expansion is adding new equipment. Roger Hendrick, technical service and development for food, pharma and medical, said the centre established a set of core competencies in injection moulding. Investment details were not disclosed, but the company described it as "significant."

Dow Corning discussed the project while also showcasing new additions to its health care product portfolio at the recent MD&M West show in Anaheim.

"We continue to make investments in areas of interest and growth, and medical materials are still maintaining that appeal to Dow Corning," Hendrick said. "We have had for a long time a very comprehensive technical capability in regions around the world to help our customers. This is a further expansion of our capabilities specific to Midland and most importantly specific to health care and medical applications."

Gary Lord, global strategic marketing director for health care, said the U.S. is the largest market, so it needs to be the best equipped.

"The U.S. really is the place where a large amount of all our research and development and technical service has been done," he said. "It's always been the largest, most well-advanced area for Dow Corning for the medical area. Because the U.S. market is one where there is a lot of growth potential still and a lot of innovation that happens, we're constantly increasing the capabilities of the centre here in Midland."

Lord said both liquid silicone rubber and adhesives have the highest growth potential for Dow's customers in the medical market. The firm's focus is developing new products based on proven chemistry so customers can have an easier time getting them approved.

One such product is its new high-performance soft skin adhesive. Hendrick said the new product performs like a pressure sensitive adhesive, but can be removed or repositioned without causing as much irritation. The product is designed for wearable devices that require stronger adhesion properties.

Marie Craine, health care market manager, said the new product gives customers more options.

"There needed to be something that's in between the two," Lord said. "Something that isn't aggressive and hurts when you take it off, like a medical adhesive, but something that also holds the thing in place in a much stronger, semi-permanent way. This product is designed to complete that spectrum of adhesion to choose from.

"We saw a gap highlighted by the market and our customers. We've invested in both technology and the processing equipment to be able to help our customers to do things better."

The adhesive is just one way Dow Corning is emphasizing the global wearable device market. The company cited a Grand View Research report projecting the wearable device market to reach $27.8bn (€26.1bn) by 2022. The company identified four major trends driving this growth—aging population, chronic conditions, patients demanding more self-management technology and cost control for OEMs.

Lord stressed that a lot has to be done—particularly from a regulatory front—before the wearables market can grow to the size many are projecting. If smart phones and watches are to evolve to the point where they monitor vital information, will they be considered a medical device or a consumer electronic? Where is the data going? And who will be analyzing it?

"It's considered the wild west," Craine said. "Some of these devices make claims, but doctors and regulatory bodies are taking a step back and getting more involved. It's not so much your Apple phone anymore if you're looking about prevention. True prevention and treatment of a serious condition is going to be more regulated because it's all about the safety of the patient."

Dow Corning also is approaching its first year anniversary of officially being a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co., which bought out its joint venture partner Corning Inc. in a $4.8bn (€4.5bn) deal announced December 2015. The move became official June 1, 2016.

The move brings two different technology portfolios together: Dow Corning's silicone-based compounds and Dow's carbon-based technology.

"We're trying to focus on bringing the innovation as far as what our customers need to develop the next level of generation devices," Craine said. "Understanding what are the requirements for our customers based on the current set of technologies and how we can bring both sets to meet their needs. Now we're bringing a bigger set of current products to them and then talking about the 'what if?' We're really showing the breadth and depth of what we have to offer."

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