ANAHEIM, Calif.—Silcotech Group and Dow Corning Corp. have unveiled what they claim is a step-change in liquid silicone rubber processing made possible, in part, by Dow Corning's LSR technology.
The companies showcased the breakthrough at the MD&M West Show, Feb. 10-12 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Gary Lord, global strategic marketing director, health care, said that Dow Corning, a company with 50 years experience in the medical device industry, tries to answer this question: How do we challenge the way we can serve our customers better?
“One of the things that has become clear to us over the past few years is getting the information back from the customers from the marketplace is becoming more difficult,” he said.
The information the company is receiving is not the type that helps with making real innovation, he added.
One of the goals with the Silcotech collaboration is to have these two key links in the supply chain serve the original equipment manufacturers, hospitals and the patients, and find ways to “actually pool our knowledge to be able to do things differently, better, faster, more cost effectively so that actually more people can get more benefits in a more timely manner,” Lord said.
Working together leverages each other's strengths, said Michael Maloney, president of Silcotech North America Inc. “This is really about the integration of our unique corporate strengths,” he said.
Silcotech is working on the manufacturing of the conversion of LSR to physical devices on a global level, while Dow Corning has had a strong position in the silicone market for years, Maloney said.
Both companies fight the same type of conversion issue battles each day. The common goal is to improve productivity and reduce lead time to market.
“We found it a very good fit to work with a leader in the silicone industry,” Maloney said.
This collaboration will put these two strengths together to yield something ultimately better for the end customer. The collaboration involves both parties “working out in advance. We're running through some problem-solving that we perceived as variables to create a unique product,” he said.
Creating unique products, such as cost competitive or quicker to market products, or ever leveraging the touch, feel, color, contrast or other chemical attributes, is where this collaboration will be important “with the hopes that their synergy yields a new path forward for the development of future products,” Maloney said. “We're both in the business of growing markets.”
Forging a new path
The companies hope to create paradigm shifts in the way products are introduced into the marketplace, Maloney said.
“The way forward in this industry, as it has been in many other industries, is through really understanding what makes the best decision, the best product, the best design, the best experience for the customer,” Lord said.
The recent trend over the years has been for companies to go into their own corners. However, a company can do what it excels at, and individually that would work, “but when you put those individual sums together, they don't come to the perfect hole,” Lord said.
“Our aim ... is actually to start to work in the opposite direction, and if we can actually bring more people into this type of discussion, right at the beginning of a new innovation (or) a new product development, the sooner we'll get that to market with less and fewer defects, and therefore everybody's going to benefit.”
With this collaboration, Silcotech said it developed a new multi-shot processing system capable of simultaneously molding nine discrete substrates or shapes that exhibit a broad range of durometers, textures and colors utilizing the Dow Corning QP1 Silicone Elastomer product family.
Silcotech said the system is capable of leveraging the full range of durometers offered across Dow Corning's QP1 product family within a single application. Additionally, Silcotech said Dow Corning QP1 elastomers help Silcotech's technology contain processing costs because of their fast-cure and easy processing.
Both companies have made a significant investment—both monetarily and time—to present the elimination or reduction of the barriers of entry into products that compromise multiple discrete materials, Maloney said.
“What we've done is reduce financial barriers to entering that marketplace,” he said. It offers the opportunity to use more pastels, chemicals and other elements for a single product.
Maloney describes this effort as “project canvas” because “it's really about creating a template for people to be expressive with.”
By working together, Silcotech is solving mechanical, tool and system-related problems, while Dow handles the chemical-related problems. These things will benefit everyone, Maloney said.
Lord said one of his objectives for the future is if an OEM designer said, “I wish there was a way to...” that Dow Corning and Silcotech could respond, “We can do that.”
Because of the projects the companies will collaborate on, “we are basically building a knowledge base together, which can answer some of the questions that people struggle with for quite some time,” he added.
To see a video of the nine-step molding process, click here.