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Bluestar centralizes manufacturing, launches new LSR grades, process technology

New grades, a new manufacturing site, and a novel approach to liquid silicone rubber (LSR) injection molding that gives the molder, not the material supplier, control over the material's curing; those were the announcements made by Bluestar Silicones on the first day of MD&M West (Feb. 13-15; Anaheim Convention Center; Anaheim, CA).

New grades, a new manufacturing site, and a novel approach to liquid silicone rubber (LSR) injection molding that gives the molder, not the material supplier, control over the material's curing; those were the announcements made by Bluestar Silicones on the first day of MD&M West (Feb. 13-15; Anaheim Convention Center; Anaheim, CA).

Bluestar Silicones York, SC
Bluestar expects its new York, SC North American headquarters to be fully operational by June 2012.
After entering the North American market through acquisitions in Rock Hill, SC (PCL in 1988), and Ventura, CA (Applied Silicone in 1999), the Lyon, France based firm is seeking to more aggressively pursue the North American market with a relocation of its headquarters to York, SC, where it will combine manufacturing, quality, and R&D under one very large roof. The company is taking over a former Hella Lighting facility set on 21.5 acres with 190,000 sq ft of manufacturing and warehouse space plus 36,000 sq ft for offices and labs, investing more than $20 million.

The company will close its operations in California and Rock Hill, with the Ventura site's equipment, which was used for the creation of its healthcare grades, moved to the new site in York. There it will be used to create two new LSR products for the healthcare market: a 1-duromoter LSR and a 60-durometer self-lubricating LSR, both under the Silbione brand name.

Ron Hanks, Bluestar's business director performance additives and coatings core intermediates, told PlasticsToday his company, which is forecasting 2012 growth of 19%, will examine the company's base production capacity over the next 12 to 24 months, as the company weighs a capacity expansion in response to average annual growth rates of 15%.

Putting cure control in the molder's hands

The company will also be launching what it calls a new concept for LSR molding, dubbed LSR Select. Working with Graco on the metering equipment, Karen O'Keefe, healthcare market manager at Bluestar, said the technology breaks down the LSR's formulation to give molders control over the cure kinetics. The resulting LSR molded product is the same, but by tweaking the formulation, O'Keefe said some of the trial molders running the process have seen 30%-100% improvements in cycle time, gaining capacity without adding any machines.

"It's different," O'Keefe said, "where we had control of cure, now they do." The company has filed a patent on the technology, which controls reactivity by tweaking inhibitor levels in LSR. LSR Select chemist contains the minimum amount of inhibitor in the base, and the platinum catalyst is metered immediately before molding. Then, additional inhibitor is metered to optimize reactivity for the part being molded.

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