SCHAUMBURG, Ill.—The future is bright for liquid silicone rubber.
LSR has seen consistent growth throughout the last decade, and Kent Furst, manager of polymers and materials at the Freedonia Group, told attendees at LSR 2019, held Sept. 10-12 in Schaumburg, that is expected to continue, forecasting 8 percent annual growth through 2023 as the material continues to take shares from high consistency silicone rubbers and thermoplastic elastomers.
"LSR is outpacing growth with competing elastomers almost across the board," he said. "LSR has either processing, performance or price advantages—or some combination of these—over almost all other elastomers. It processes faster and more efficiently than HCR and generally has better mechanical properties and biocompatibility than comparable TPE."
The U.S. and Europe account for more than 60 percent of all LSR demand while China and other low income countries have been slow to adopt LSR for a variety for reasons. Furst said high price and a relatively steep learning curve are the biggest barriers, but low labor costs also make the highly automated process less of a benefit.
Like the silicone market overall, LSR has been impacted by tight supply, but Furst said because it is a high margin product, LSR has been more of a priority for the major silicone producers and thus has not been as impacted as the market overall.
Still, the situation—combined with price fluctuations for key raw materials like silicon metal, oil and natural gas—has driven LSR prices up in the last two years.
"All of the supply/demand turmoil has had a major effect on silicone pricing, leading to increases in 2017 and 2018," Furst said. "Overall price jumps averaged 8-12 percent per year for silicone products, although it was much higher in China where the supply tightness was worse."