The business and markets of liquid silicone rubber and liquid injection molding

In September, I delivered the keynote presentation at the LSR 2018 conference in Anaheim, CA, where key decision-makers and industry experts gathered to discuss new silicone chemistry, novel processing and manufacturing techniques, emerging technologies, market dynamics and new business directions of liquid silicone rubber (LSR).

In my presentation, I took a macro look at the business of liquid silicone from a raw material perspective, as well as a deeper focus of end-use markets for LSR and, most specifically, liquid injection molding (LIM). We discussed different markets, processes, applications, technologies and the future areas for growth—with a special focus on healthcare and medical applications—as well as the global LSR landscape and what the future holds. Lastly, I shared recent M&A, investments and consolidation in the LSR/silicone space. Here are some highlights.


What is LSR? What is LIM?

LSR has a wide operating temperature and high thermal stability. It is hypoallergenic, bacteria resistant and has high biocompatibility, making it the perfect substance for medical applications. It also has electrical resistance and is a good insulator. It’s odorless and tasteless.

Major LSR processes include LIM, extrusion, dip molding, gels, liquids, adhesives, lubricants, compression molding and transfer molding. Applications and uses include ophthalmology, healthcare, automotive (under hood and interior), coatings, lubricants, cookware, construction (building and plumbing), personal-care products, industrial processes, electronics and energy.

LIM is a long-established process, but due to the favorable benefits of LSR outlined above, LIM is experiencing increased adoption in a variety of industries. There are specific types of LSR for various applications, including medical, making it possible to take full advantage of this amazing substance in healthcare settings. LIM requires specific machinery and processing considerations in comparison to conventional thermoplastics molding, but the vast benefits are well worth the up-front capital investment.


LSR/LIM markets

The global demand for liquid silicone rubber is on course to reach $3.29 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research Inc. Market revenue reached $1.5 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9% from 2016 to 2025, according to the study.

The market is being driven particularly in the medical and electronics industries as well as by aging populations and new material developments. Medical is the fastest growing segment over the forecast period, with an estimated CAGR of around 9% from 2016 to 2025. Global LSR revenue in medical applications was $285 million in 2015.

LSR applications in the medical sector include implants and devices, valves, skin-contact devices, infusion pumps and tubing. Industrial-grade LSR was the largest segment in grade category in 2015 and held 53.5% of the overall market revenue. This area is forecast to generate over $1.7 billion in revenue by 2025.

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