Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) is used in various applications, specifically in medical products, as an alternative to thermoplastic. That’s good news for custom molders such as GW Plastics, a Royalton, VT-based injection molding company that just completed a $3.5 million expansion of the its GW Silicones division.
The expansion, which began in the fall of 2011, includes a 15,000-square-foot expansion that is scalable to 25,000 square feet. The state-of-the-art LSR molding and assembly facility is capable of supporting up to 18 new injection machines and features an ISO Class 8 cleanroom along with expanding office, engineering, and conference space. Currently, GW Silicones operates five LSR molding machines—all Engels.
“Our customers are increasingly looking to silicone as an alternative to thermoplastics because of its unique biocompatibility and performance attributes—it is odorless, tasteless, stainless, bacteria-resistant, easy to clean and sterilize, and works extremely well in complex injection molding applications with extremely fine detail and very tight tolerances,” commented Terri Marion, GW Silicones' business development manager.
GW Plastics began LSR molding in about 2009, but wanted to get a solid foundation in the process prior to making the leap. Marion told PlasticsToday that GW hired Jeff Hazen and Mark Hammond, both from Engel and with technical backgrounds in LSR. “They saw a lot of different operations, tooling and facilities, and wanted to set up an operation that could be extremely successful from the get-go, and one that complements the thermoplastics operations,” Marion said.
While GW Silicones is a startup operation, it has the advantage of having GW Plastics behind it, with 50 years of experience, the quality systems and tooling capabilities. As a separate division of GW Plastics, GW Silicones now has its own stand-alone building, its own measurables, and its own goals.
“The expansion of GW Silicones reflects our commitment to meeting our customers growing demand for cutting-edge silicone applications in the medical device/healthcare and the automotive markets,” Marion stated.
In general, GW Plastic’s business is about 70% medical, however LSR automotive components have become a major part of GW Silicones business. “We’ve gravitated from general products to safety critical, more complex components that demand higher quality,” said Marion. “LSR in automotive tends to be applications that require high-performance characteristics such as lubricity, biocompatibility, and resistant to acids and oils. The thermostability of LSR means that it is good for fatigue and compression resistance in parts such as the fuel door boot. One thing driving the use of LSR in automotive is that cars are expected to last longer under more extreme conditions.”