Injection molding of liquid silicone rubber

Injection molding of liquid silicone rubber (LSR) is a process to produce pliable, durable parts in high volume.

Liquid silicone rubber is a high purity platinum cured silicone with low compression set, great stability and ability to resist extreme temperatures of heat and cold ideally suitable for production of parts, where high quality is a must. Due to the thermosetting nature of the material, liquid silicone injection molding requires special treatment, such as intensive distributive mixing, while maintaining the material at a low temperature before it is pushed into the heated cavity and vulcanized.

Chemically, silicone rubber is a family of thermoset elastomers that have a backbone of alternating silicone and oxygen atoms and methyl or vinyl side groups. Silicone rubbers constitute about 30% of the silicone family, making them the largest group of that family. Silicone rubbers maintain their mechanical properties over a wide range of temperatures and the presence of methyl-groups in silicone rubbers makes these materials extremely hydrophobic.

Typical applications for liquid silicone rubber are products that require high precision such as seals, sealing membranes, electric connectors, multi-pin connectors, infant products where smooth surfaces are desired, such as bottle nipples, medical applications as well kitchen goods such as baking pans, spatulas, etc. Often, silicone rubber is overmolded onto other parts made of different plastics. For example, a silicone button face might be overmolded onto an ABS housing.

Injection molding process

Liquid silicone rubbers are supplied in barrels or hobbocks. Because of their low viscosity, these rubbers can be pumped through pipelines and tubes to the vulcanization equipment. The two components are pumped through a static mixer by a metering pump. One of the components contains the catalyst, typically platinum based. A coloring paste as well as other additives can also be added before the material enters the static mixer section. In the static mixer the components are well mixed and are transferred to the cooled metering section of the injection molding machine. The static mixer renders a very homogeneous material that results in products that are not only very consistent throughout the part, but also from part to part. This is in contrast to solid silicone rubber materials that are purchased pre-mixed and partially vulcanized. In contrast, hard silicone rubbers are processed by transfer molding and result in less material consistency and control, leading to higher part variability. Additionally, solid silicone rubber materials are processed at higher temperatures and require longer vulcanization times.

From the metering section of the injection molding machine, the compound is pushed through cooled sprue and runner systems into a heated cavity where the vulcanization takes place. The cold runner and general cooling results in no loss of material in the feed lines. The cooling allows production of LSR parts with nearly zero material waste, eliminating trimming operations and yielding significant savings in material cost.

References


*cite book | author=Osswald, E. Baur, et al. | title=International Plastics Handbook | publisher=Hanser Publishers | year=2006 | id=ISBN 1-56990-399-9

External links

* [http://www.ssfab.com Specialty Silicone Fabricators] — Custom molder of silicones for medical devices.
* [http://www.medicalrubber.com Nolato Medical Rubber AB] — Contract manufacturer of high precision liquid silicone rubber (LSR) components for the medical device industry.
* [http://www.simtec-silicone.com SIMTEC Silicone Parts LLC] — Production manufacturer of liquid silicone parts.
* [http://plastics.inwiki.org/Liquid_injection_molding Liquid injection molding Guide]


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