Landl said it is interesting that many do not realize where LSR is used. Examples include in shower heads, as a complete mat with integrated nozzle functions largely hidden from view behind a large diameter metal plate. Compared with thermoplastic elastomers, Landl said, LSR performs well under extremely high temperature conditions.
He added that Rico Group's combination of mold making and molding competence is a win-win situation for the market.
"We position ourselves definitely in the premium segment, which means the applications we have are demanding in both part development and production-oriented design, where we use tools such as finite element modeling [FEM] calculations and thermal analysis through to start of project after using prototype tools and running pre-series production."
Rico uses Sigmasoft mold filling simulation to avoid knitlines and to ensure full venting of air at the end of flow paths. The material data bank it built up over 20 years forms the basis for FEM calculations to predict demolding forces.
Landl says Rico often provides complete turnkey solutions, with all tools tried out before delivery and subsequently performing maintenance of customers' tools. Landl stressed importance of cold runner thermal separation to ensure mixed LSR components do not prematurely cure prior to injection, although there is always some curing starting already at around 25°C.
In Landl's opinion, "LSR is a relatively young material, and I believe designers and product developers and managers worldwide are only now beginning to notice which value this material has. It is becoming attractive for many areas."
For Rico, it has meant a wide range of applications, in automotive, sanitary, electronics, medicine, household appliances (coffee machine seals), packaging (closure seals and dosing membranes) and life sciences. While baby drinking teats, soothers and pacifiers used to be entirely in latex rubber, they are now made mostly in LSR, as a biocompatible material that easily conforms to U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements, Landl said.
Rico expanded the mold production space in Thalheim in 2016 from 10,000 to 21,500 square feet. It will increase the size of the Thalheim chemical laboratory and development department in 2018 and make more space available for more machines, mainly for injection molding. This expansion will be accompanied by a new modern logistics center, Landl said.
Looking ahead, Landl said that with part production continuing to grow, the company's tooling activities will remain stable and constant and that the company will continue investment to support LSR technology in the market.
The term Industry 4.0 has taken on a tendency of being too much overused, Landl said, and then asked, "What does it really bring? Everyone has to decide on what it brings for them."
For its part, Rico has anyway established the efficiency and reliability of its production systems, having received IATF 16949 certification from the International Automotive Task Force, as one of the first companies to become IATF-certified in Austria.
Partner companies Silcoplast AG of Wolfhalden, Switzerland, and Simtec Silicone Parts LLC of Miramar, Fla., have obtained ISO 13485 medical quality management systems certification, Simetec also has ISO TS 16949 certification.
As Landl puts it: "We don't want to just monitor quality but to really produce quality."