by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation
Although the use of liquid silicone rubber (LSR) platinum-cured silicone has been around for more than 20 years, its use is rapidly expanding in already established markets and creating opportunities in new ones as a result of modern manufacturing and injection molding technology.
Twenty-five to 30 percent of the global silicone market is LSR and is estimated to be worth $20.3 billion by 2020. To that end, the estimated global LSR market size by 2020 is projected to be $5.075 billion.
The United States and China have been the primary global consumers of LSR, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 40 percent of the total silicone market size in terms of volume. Now, regional distribution of LSR manufacturing has been introduced as relative consumption has grown exponentially in the last five years.
The medical device market already plays a dominant role with use of LSR in surgical tools and equipment, particularly because of its biocompatibility. This market accounted for $250 million per a year in 2012 (one of the latest numbers available) with an estimated 52.94 million pounds used for it annually.
Electronics, such as wearables and other personal electronic devices, continue to use LSR in manufacturing, especially with the movement to ruggedize these devices, combine fashion and function and enable them to be used in previously prohibitive environments. One example is electronics injection molder Jabil Green Point, who uses LSR for noise-cancelling headphones with a volume of 50,000 per month. This accounts for 40 percent of the company’s overall business.
Cookware and household items – such as silicone baking pans, cake pans and spatulas – are also a growing market for LSR. Its properties are inert so they don’t interact with other materials. LSR is also safe to touch, making it an excellent material for cooking and food storage.
The variety of other applications where it is applicable is extensive. Some other markets include:
Architectural textiles: Think of the patio at Panera bread. Some of the canopies are held up with string. Coated textiles give them longer life. LSR gloves for cooking, cleaning or even just for warmth are another possibility in this market. Rubber pads could be manufactured on the gloves for gripping.
- Sporting goods: Diving masks and swim goggles have LSR molded seals. Some sports equipment has LSR grips and footwear is manufactured with LSR soles.
- Baby products: There is a big market with baby care products. LSR is attractive in this
market because of its safety, especially when used for products such as baby bottles or pacifiers. Baby equipment manufacturers also often develop products with various textures and designs. Use of LSR in injection molding allows them to expand the type of designs, such as a spiral shape.
- Automotive and transportation: There are a variety of applications in the automotive market such as using LSR for gaskets and seals, O-rings. LSR enables integration of multiple parts and materials into one component. Lightweighting won’t come into play in this market, except possibly with the idea of thinner designs as a result of injection molding.
This is just a short list of LSR uses. Where will expanded use of LSR go in the future?
What is the next market for LSR manufacturers? The opportunities are numerous as it could expand to any market where more traditional rubber and silicone are dominant.
Although we don’t know exactly what the future will hold, it’s clear that there will be a great deal of opportunity.
What do you think the future holds for LSR? We welcome your thoughts here.