Understanding Liquid Silicone Rubber: Applications, Advantages, and More

In the world of manufacturing and product development, liquid silicone rubber (LSR) has emerged as a versatile material with a wide range of applications and benefits. From consumer electronics to medical devices, the use of LSR has revolutionized various industries, offering unparalleled advantages in terms of flexibility, durability, and precision.

What is Liquid Silicone Rubber?

It’s important first to differentiate the differences between silicon, a chemical element, and silicone, which is a synthetic polymer containing silicon. Silicon in its pure elemental form is crystalline in structure, very similar to how diamonds develop. Silicones contain equal parts oxygen and silicon in a lengthy polymer chain, along with other elements like carbon, hydrogen, and sometimes other elements as well. Since silicones consist of such a large group of different polymers, those that have properties similar to fluids are often known as liquid silicones.

Typically processed through liquid injection molding, liquid silicone rubber is a kind of dual-component silicone that is extremely pure. Though it starts as a liquid, silicone rubber can be customized to have specific characteristics. These include properties that affect its adherence and viscosity, along with the material’s temperature, and mechanical and chemical resistance. These properties make it durable and strong, qualities that make it useful for many types of technical components.

Properties of Liquid Silicone Rubber

Liquid silicone is highly durable while also being resistant to many environmental conditions. Additionally, it’s an incredibly flexible material that allows molding into complex geometries without much waste. As it enters a mold as a liquid, the silicone will fill even the most intricate hollow points within the cavity to create extraordinarily detailed products. This ability to mold into almost any shape makes it incredibly useful for the fabrication of an array of complex components.

This type of rubber has numerous advantages over other materials. Since it’s extremely biocompatible, it makes an excellent material for prosthetics or medical implants. Its durability and chemical resistance also make liquid silicone quite stable over time. Also, its high-performance mechanical properties allow it to work well through a wide temperature range, from -60°C to 250°C (-76°F to 482°F). Liquid silicone rubber also acts as an insulator, while its transparent color means it can be colored to exactly match different skin tones for humans, a bonus for any external prosthetic.

Applications for Liquid Silicone Rubber

Liquid silicone’s various material properties make it ideal for many applications. Its heat resistance makes it able to withstand both high and low temperatures without degrading. Liquid silicone rubber’s chemical resistance allows it to perform well under harsh conditions, while its durability means it will last longer than many other materials in an array of harsh situations. Electronic components benefit from liquid silicone’s insulating properties, while the material’s biocompatibility makes it perfect for medical applications. Additionally, because it can be molded into complex shapes, many industrial components are also made from liquid silicone.

Industries that use this type of rubber include: 

  • Aerospace: Seals, gaskets, and other aircraft components that can withstand temperature extremes and other harsh conditions make the material appropriate for many aerospace applications.
  • Automotive: The durability and heat resistance of liquid silicone makes it a common material for connectors, gaskets, and seals, while it’s also reliable in lower temperatures and deals well with vibrations.
  • Consumer goods: The soft texture and ability to easily accept pigments give liquid silicone rubber an appealing feel and look for items like kitchenware and products for babies, while its durability and flexibility make it great for wearable devices that expose the material to a variety of conditions.
  • Electronics: Connectors, keypads, and other parts that require electrical insulation are often made with the material due to their heat and chemical resistance, which makes them more reliable and longer lasting.
  • Food and beverage: Its biocompatibility and reliability in extreme temperatures make liquid silicone a good fit for seals, molds, and packaging used in the production of food and beverages.
  • Healthcare: Since it handles sterilization processes well, liquid silicone is widely used in the fabrication of prosthetics, along with medical implants and other devices used in the healthcare sector.
  • Renewable energy: Wind turbines and solar panels use seals, gaskets, and other components made from the material, as liquid silicone rubber resists severe weather and other extreme environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures and ultraviolet radiation.

Advantages of Using Liquid Silicone Rubber

In summation, the usefulness of liquid silicone rubber for a plethora of applications offers many advantages over other materials.

Advantages of using this type of rubber include: 

  • Being both biocompatible and chemically inert, liquid silicone rubbers don’t cause allergic reactions or otherwise react with fluids within human bodies.
  • Combines other materials into parts by allowing manufacturers to over-mold silicones onto another substrate.
  • Designs that allow the consistent molding of parts into a variety of geometries die to the elastomer’s lower viscosity.
  • Due to its chemical resistance, it works well for gaskets, O-rings, and seals operating under unforgiving conditions, such as those found in the aerospace and automotive sectors.
  • Greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness in part production due to the need for shorter molding times that allow higher output.
  • High resistance to heat makes liquid silicones more durable for several industrial applications.
  • Its inert nature allows liquid silicones to be sterilized without altering their chemical or physical characteristics.
  • The low viscosity of liquid silicones makes them excellent for making components with complex geometries and detailed structures.
  • Superior physical properties to other elastomers make it more easily moldable into complex parts.
  • A wide variety of beneficial properties make the material more versatile than other elastomers.

Though these types of rubbers can prove beneficial for many applications, like any material there are limitations. Since the production of liquid silicones requires a strict regimen regarding its mixing and curing, the production of the material can result in more waste than that of other rubber types. Since it’s formed from a liquid, silicone rubbers take longer to cure as well, often leading to delays in production, especially regarding the fabrication of larger and more complex parts. Though liquid silicone rubber has decent elastic properties, components made from it tear more easily than those made from other materials, limiting its applications.

Contact the Experts at Manufacturer’s Rubber & Supply

For companies looking into making components or products using synthetic elastomers, the team at Manufacturer’s Rubber & Supply can help. With extensive support and expertise in all rubber products, we are here to meet your needs. Contact our expert team today to learn more.

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