Opportunities for liquid silicone rubber in the medical market are plentiful and 2017 should be another busy year for contract manufacturers.
Demand for LSR in medical is one of the fastest growing segments of the overall silicones market, according to Kent Furst, an analyst with the Freedonia Group who covers the silicones industry. Furst projects segment growth at 7-8 percent per year during the next five years with double-digit growth in Asia.
Health care spending in Asia is increasing by more than 10 percent per year.
“LSR technology is not as widespread in Asia as it is in the U.S., which is both a challenge and an opportunity,” Furst said in an email.
Bob Waitt, medical market manager for Bluestar Silicones, said LSR is perfect for molding high volume parts or requiring precise and specific parts thanks to the injection molding process, which allows producers to automate the process much like in thermoplastics — efficient and repeatable.
But LSR also has many benefits that make it an ideal choice for medical applications. Luis Tissone, life sciences director for Trelleborg Sealing Solutions in America, said the main advantage is LSR can be processed in a closed loop system, greatly decreasing the risk of contamination. The material's excellent properties and overall performance allow it to achieve many shapes in demanding environments while meeting many rigorous regulatory requirements.
“Liquid silicone has an inherit advantage over the heat cured or gum based silicones,” said Randy Ross, CEO of Q Holding Co., the parent company of LSR manufacturer Qure Medical. “With liquid you basically open the two vessels and put the dosing system on. The raw material is never exposed to the open air. Your potential to get a contaminant in there is significantly reduced compared to an HCR or a heat cured silicone. On those you're going to put them in the mixer, put them in an open mill, to get the material prepared. LSR has a very clear advantage in cleanliness.”