Swiss technology company Datwyler is leading the development of LSR technology in Europe, in various medical, automotive and FMCG sectors. Torsten Maschke, CEO of Datwyler Sealing Solutions tells us why the future is promising for liquid silicones:
Q: Liquid Silicone Rubber is increasingly becoming a popular choice within a broad range of industries. In your experience, what would you say are the key industries that will drive the growth of the LSR market? Why?
A: Liquid silicone rubber is becoming more and more popular in different segments, as universal material properties make it very versatile. Especially in the automotive industry, Datwyler sees a high benefit and a high demand for LSR solutions. They are used in a wide range of applications, from connectors, covers, and sensors to diaphragms for central locking systems and oil filter membranes. However, the recent popularity of LSR in the automotive industry is due to new developments, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and e-mobility in general.
For the medical market, LSR is also becoming more and more important. Liquid silicone rubber has many advantageous material properties like chemical resistance, good mechanical properties, biocompatibility, transparency and high product quality. Furthermore, it is non-allergic in skin contact and can be sterilised with a variety of methods. Overall, it is no surprise that there is an increasing demand for LSR solutions on a global scale.
In addition, Datwyler has used LSR for quite some time in the field of form in place gaskets (FIPG) for the Consumer Goods industry. This technology makes use of applying a liquid seal in free form to the dedicated shape of the customer’s surface. A typical application for this non-moulded unique Datwyler FIPG solution is an LSR sealing, which is applied on a capsule and used in the world-famous and trend-setting coffee capsule system. High requirements from the food industry in relation to product safety, compliance, and geometrical accuracy make Datwyler a reliable and future-oriented partner. This dedicated and customised solution offers our customers a wide range of opportunities in this FIPG market for LSR seals.
Q: In your field of work, what makes LSR stand out from other materials, including elastomers or plastics?
A; Depending on the application, the usage of liquid silicone rubber offers various advantages. First of all, it can be used in a highly automated process with relatively short cycle times. The LSR material is chemically inert, resistant to many substances and biocompatible. It can maintain its mechanical properties over a wide temperature range and its excellent insulation properties provide convincing benefits for automotive electronic components. For medical solutions and lighting applications, you are capitalising on the transparency properties of LSR. Independent of the industry in which it is used, most LSR types provide easy bonding with many technical plastic materials. However, both elastomers and plastic also have advantages in specific use scenarios and, thus, continue to play an important role in our product portfolio of sealing solutions for various industries, always offering the best material solution in order to correspond to customer needs.
Q: What kind of machinery is used for processing LSR and how is the processing different from other materials? What expertise is needed here?
A; For processing LSR, the material initially is supplied in liquid form in two separate containers (A+B component). The two components are supplied to a mixing unit by means of the metering system. Afterwards, the material, which was conveyed separately until then, is mixed. As liquid silicone has a very low viscosity index, it requires very precise tooling to guarantee a burr-free finished product.
For this process, we use an injection moulding machine, dosing and mixing units, and a cold runner system.
To meet all of these requirements, we have an own internal tool shop to meet customers’ expectations.
Q: How do you expect LSR science and processing technologies to develop in the near future?
A: Within the next years, especially the increasing usage of 3D printers to create silicone materials faster and easier will influence the processing of LSR.
And of course, other developments such as Industry 4.0 and smart production will have an impact on the manufacturing of LSR. In the end, both of these technological developments will enable highly automated production systems with networked, self-optimised production environments.