While continually working to improve the possibilities for extruded tubing, Trelleborg has not lost its focus on durability. The company is exploring the use of filaments and rigid monofilaments within the walls of its products to add additional reinforcement that provides the tubing with better kink- and crush-resistance.
The team also is learning to better control the surface texture of the extruded silicone. By nature, silicone can be sticky, and diversifying the texture of the extruded silicone can address the unwanted tackiness of the material.
"It helps to have a texture that reduces friction," Sanchez said. "Many customers seek coatings from secondary processes to reduce the tackiness and friction and facilitate device assembly and surgical procedures. If we can manufacture tubing with controlled texture, we can eliminate the risk and cost of additional coating processing in some cases."
Those successes Trelleborg celebrates are rooted in its ability to establish strong relationships with its suppliers who are as passionate and determined as Trelleborg is to expand silicone's capabilities. Whether it's enhancing the conductive properties of the silicone by incorporating conductive materials or working to ensure that it can survive harsh, corrosive conditions, Trelleborg and its partners continue to push the medical industry forward.
"We are challenging and testing silicones to do a variety of things they didn't do historically," Sanchez said. "Employing conductive silicone is one area we are exploring, bonding to other materials is another. Silicone historically did not bond well to other materials. We are partnering with our suppliers to find better formulations."
Those strides Trelleborg is making also are possible because of the relationships built with its customers. In many cases medical device manufacturers come to Trelleborg with complex, cutting-edge design ideas and a desire to build new solutions.
Trelleborg strives to ensure it can provide exactly what the customer needs. And that, Sanchez said, may require taking on bigger challenges by pushing to extrude more complex shapes, reducing the number of parts in a medical device.
Some of these innovations may face big challenges along the way, which leads to another of those inevitable questions: Is this even possible?
Trelleborg thinks so, and it's determined to rise to the challenge with support from both its customers and its suppliers.
"Like anything else, if you aren't pushing yourself, you stagnate. Our goal is to continually innovate and make life better for patients and medical professionals," Sanchez said.