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Dow Corning opens European health care center

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A look at Dow Corning's European health care center.

SENEFFE, Belgium—Dow Corning Corp. has opened an expanded health care application center at its European headquarters in Seneffe.

The firm said the facility combines its expertise in silicone materials with leading-edge application development equipment to support advances in medical, pharmaceutical and health care technologies.

The center can provide training on application development using the company's materials along with a variety of sophisticated prototyping services, technical support and testing for customers designing new products with Dow Corning's medical grade silicone-based technologies, the firm said.

“Answering questions for customers both around products, processing and regulatory and all those other things is really something that has to be done today faster than any other time in our history. You need to have an application center and that's why we expanded,” said Gary Lord, global strategic marketing director for health care at Dow Corning.

“We continue to enhance the expertise that we have in innovating with silicones across all of our product ranges, from medical adhesives to medical elastomers. As you develop those products, you basically need to make sure that you have the ability to help your customers use them in the adequate and appropriate fashion.”

Dow Corning added to the physical building in Seneffe with dedicated space for health care. The firm would not release the numbers associated with the expansion. Its European headquarters also manufactures non-health care products, primarily sealants for the construction industry and emulsions for compounds for a lot of other industries, like beauty care and household care, Lord said.

In addition, the company has increased employment in Seneffe, but would not say by how much.

“What we've done, and will continue to do over the next few months, is add the technical staff on site here in Belgium,” said Jean-Pierre Latere, application engineer and technical service manager for health care. “We want to make sure we have the right level of resources to develop the products that the European customers will want to have.”

Dow Corning's key products in the health care market are liquid silicone rubber, high consistency rubbers and adhesives. Lord said Europe has a very strong demand from the advanced wound management segment, the drug delivery segment and for liquid silicone rubber product technology for medical device components.

Lord said about seven of the 20 biggest medical device companies and 10 of the 20 biggest pharmaceutical firms are based in Europe.

“Europe is definitely extremely important,” Latere said. “Being able to have a facility where we can receive our customer, work with the customer, showcase our material and help them is definitely a key step for us. We want to make sure that we're getting close to the customer, and we want to make sure that the European customer is our focus here.”

The firm operates a dedicated health care manufacturing facility in Hemlock, Mich., which is registered and inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. The facility has been in operation for 50 years. Lord said it does not have a dedicated health care site in Europe, but does have manufacturing capabilities for short-term usage in medical devices.

New product line

Dow Corning plans to launch a new product line of LSR in the first quarter of 2015.

QP1-2XX is an extension of its existing QP1 range and is being targeted for medical device manufacturers or medical device component makers. Lord said the line will consist of five different products.

He said Dow Corning designed increased reproducibility into its new range, which is important for firms running production 24 hours a day every day using high automation or minimal oversight. Latere said the range has an improved stability when compared to Dow's competition.

“We're launching this product range to help our customers with the increasing pressures they are seeing from a productivity and cost perspective,” Lord said. “These products are being developed to help reduce the cost through things like reducing cycle times or to reduce the amount of energy it takes to produce those components.”