Be sure to check out the March 9 print edition of Rubber & Plastics News. Our special medical report includes coverage by reporter Jennifer Karpus from the MD&M Show last month.
ANAHEIM, Calif.—Bluestar Silicones displayed its newly-expanded line of Silbione soft silicone adhesives for skin applications, including wound and scar care, transdermal patches and wearable devices, at the MD&M West Show in Anaheim Feb. 10-12.
One product on display was the Silbione HC2 2022. These products are “enhancements to our sensitive skin adhesives that are basically gels to use in open wounds, help with scar management,” said J. Christopher York, president of Bluestar Silicones North America.
“The U.S. isn't quite to the same level as Europe in skin sensitive adhesives, but we are getting there,” York said, but he does see this as a big market and opportunity for Bluestar to grow.
“This latest material has the highest tack in the industry,” he said.
Healthcare Marketing Director Karen O'Keefe added that the HC2 2022 is designed “to meet the trend of wearable devices ... so when you need a device to adhere firmly to the skin, but be able to remove it gently without damaging skin.”
For skin adhesive applications such as wearable devices, scar management and transdermal drug delivery, Bluestar Silicones introduced Silbione RT Gel 4642. Bluestar offers different levels of these adhesives, depending on need.
“We have varying tack levels from very low tack for neo natal applications,” O'Keefe said. For instance, in a newborn ICU unit or elder care, “the skin is very fragile, so you have to be careful not to compromise it.
“These gels can also be used for wound care because it won't adhere to compromise skin,” she said.
Besides medical industries, this product also can be used as a fashion tape to prevent wardrobe malfunctions.
Trend of wearable devices
Wearable devices and skin tattoos are growing in the marketplace, O'Keefe said. Using this type of silicone product can help because “it's a thin coating of silicone adhesives” so it forms and flows into the skin well. It will also pinch and wrinkle with the skin, “whereas acrylic technologies will release the bond,” she added.
This type of firm bond can be used in a child's monitoring system instead of having wires hooked up to various machines. Instead, the medical team can adhere a small tag to the skin with the silicone on top to keep it in place, and then they can read the vitals without disturbing the child.
Bluestar is a company oriented in finding how to make the customer experience better, York said, focusing on how it can advance its customers' technology and their ability to compete in the market ahead of the competition.
“We are kind of a new entrant, so we're bringing a second or third generation to liquid silicone rubber,” he added.
“We've enhanced it quite a bit to create very high level of physical properties out of various stiffnesses, durometers of materials.”
“Our LSRs, because they're flexible, they can be nicely incorporated into wearable devices,” O'Keefe said.
Bluestar's patented Silbione RT Foam 4241 also can be utilized into the wearable device market. The company said it offers low density open cell silicone foam for a flexible, breathable yet durable application.
O'Keefe said it is unique to the industry, winning Frost & Sullivan's product innovation award in 2012.
“(We) haven't really explored all of the places it can go,” York said.
He said Bluestar's job is not to figure out what the next thing is going to be.
“Our job is to figure out materials that can be incorporated in the various different marketplaces. And health care right now is just going like gangbusters for the wearable devices today.”
The company's job is to figure out how to create something with resiliency and is lighter, yet breathable.
Added capability in South Carolina
Besides adding new product lines, Bluestar has increased capacity by approximately 30 percent with its recent expansion in York, S.C.
The facility was constructed in 2012 to consolidate facilities, York said.
“Our entity was basically designed in North America through small acquisitions of formulators, so we had plants all over the U.S.,” he said.
In 2012, Bluestar Silicones relocated its manufacturing facilities in Ventura, Calif., and Rock Hill, S.C., to a 226,000-sq.-ft. facility in York, Bluestar said, as part of its global growth strategy. The investment included large laboratories and ISO 7 clean rooms (Class 10,000) for both its high consistency rubber and LSR.
This expansion allows Bluestar to be the kind of company it wants to be, York said.
Bluestar's motto is that it “brings silicone solutions to the marketplace with a personal touch.” That motto is its differentiator, he said.
The capacity expansion in York has enabled Bluestar to return to the long-term implantables market—materials that go into the body for more than 30 days.
“It's an area that we're in the process of finalizing,” York said, explaining that master files are into the FDA.
The company is currently conducting samplings with customers and will start commercial production this year as its product line is ready.
The product line Bluestar is introducing is the Silbione biomedical LSR elastomers.
O'Keefe said that while the company is working with a “number of customers in this arena,” it is a long process. It could take one to five years to complete.
“It's a really exciting time for us in the marketplace because there have only been a few players,” York said.
“It's much more narrow than the scope of silicone players in the world.”
With Bluestar entering the market, some newness will be evident in a material base that is 20 to 30 years old, he added.
“We like to call it our dream house. We were able to build it exactly to what would meet our needs,” O'Keefe said about the York facility.
“So that with long-term implants, it's something we wanted to do really well and excel at. We're excited to bring a new generation of liquid silicone rubber to this marketplace that the marketplace hasn't seen.”
Since there has not been any new materials emerging, she said, old materials can be difficult to work with. “So this is a real game changer for the industry where they can improve their productivity with a high performance product,” O'Keefe said.
Bluestar is not as big as some other players in the silicones market, York said. However, he said its “investment is probably unmatched, especially on a percentage basis.”
Putting the focus on meeting the customer's needs and how Bluestar can support the activity customers are seeking has served the company well.
“We've seen a real gap in the marketplace in service for silicone,” O'Keefe said. “The market has responded well to the strategy that Chris has put in place.”