There is no substitution for experience.
And when it comes to the relatively young liquid silicone rubber arena, it may be tough to find companies with more experience than Trelleborg AB. The Trelleborg, Sweden-based company has been working with silicone for about four decades and continues to push innovations and technologies that stretch the material's potential.
That depth of experience is what gives Trelleborg an edge today, according to Ursula Nollenberger, the firm's global product line director for health care and medical as well as LSR.
"It is really the experience and the know-how that we have developed over the years and continue to develop. It allows us — and it's a benefit to our customers — to make more and more complex parts with LSR," she said.
Trelleborg was an early leader in developing the technologies to process and mold the material. Now as trends evolve and require molding or processing with plastics or metals, Trelleborg is positioned to meet those needs.
"This is the advantage we have in the various markets, where a good-fitting material is used to make intricate and complex shapes by combining LSR with plastic," Nollenberger said. "There are only a few companies like us who are taking it to that level of expertise, at least according to the feedback we are getting from customers."
Nollenberger notes that Trelleborg's ability to meet the shifting demands from a number of end markets hinges on the strong relationships it has built with its suppliers and its customers. Pointing to trends that require bonding silicone materials to plastics and metals, Nollenberger said suppliers are working to achieve higher expectations and overcome challenges.
"Our customers are increasingly asking for multicomponent integrational functions," she said. "For us, that means you might have a conductive element, a sealing element and a dampening element all combined in one component."
Nollenberger notes that LSR represents between 15 and 17 percent of the world consumption of silicone elastomers. But demand for the product is growing, especially as more and more consumer products rely on LSR.
As demand for LSR grows, so too will the challenges faced in processing it.