Our senior engineer Paul Adams has put together a video playlist where he explores silicone production processes, properties, and the common testing importers do to assess this production material’s suitability for their products. If you use silicone in your products, these videos will be a helpful introduction to some of the key knowledge you need.
Before we get started with the videos about silicone production processes, properties, and testing, let’s consider why this material is so popular for a moment.
A cross between a synthetic plastic and rubber, silicone includes the element silicon combined with oxygen and other substances, has a huge number of uses in today’s products of all types as it can be liquid, rubber, or solid. Cookware, gaskets, medical implants, LED and automotive lighting, insulation, sealant, lubricants, molds for rapid prototyping, and more can all be made from silicone because it’s so versatile.
The popularity is down to the desirable silicone properties that include:
- Good lubrication
- Oxygen, ozone, and sunlight resistant
- Great electrical insulation
- Can be transparent or colored
- Excellent mechanical properties (malleable, tear strength, elongation, etc)
- Low toxicity
- Doesn’t break down like plastic
Silicone rubber is available in 2 main forms:
- Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) – as its name suggests, this form of silicone is more liquid and as such is generally used in injection molding and/or extrusion.
- Solid Silicone Rubber (HTV or RTV) – these will be either quite hard or softer and rubbery. HTV, or high-temperature vulcanized silicone is harder and more solid and usually manufactured using a similar technique (compression molding with heat) as used in natural rubber. RTV, or room-temperature vulcanized silicone ranges from very soft to medium in hardness and will harden or cure at room temperature as its name suggests.
Let’s get into the videos…
This video goes deeper into what silicone is and demonstrates how it’s often used in more detail. You’ll learn where it’s used, how it’s processed to become the correct form, and a number of reasons why it’s a better alternative than natural rubber.
Explore how LSR is used in injection molding, why the equipment is basically the same as used in traditional plastic injection molding, and the injection molding process from start to finish here. This is a common production process for importers of silicone goods made into specific shapes.
Compression molding is used when working with the harder HTV silicone to create vulcanized silicone rubber products. The mold presses the silicone into shape and then heats it, curing or vulcanizing it into shape. We’ll look at the pros and cons of this process.
Using LSR again, the liquid silicone rubber is forced or extruded through a die to make certain shapes such as tubes. We’ll look at how this production process works, product types made, and some of the silicone properties to be aware.
Silicone testing regularly done by importers examines 3 factors:
- Silicone tensile strength
- Silicone elongation
- Silicone tear strength
Let’s look in detail at those tests and why they’re done:
You may need a specific hardness of silicone, so in this video you will learn how to assess silicone hardness using a shore durometer device (which is usually used to test the hardness of polymers, rubbers, and elastomers like silicone). We also explain the different hardness scales into which the silicone will fit.
Can silicone be colored, and how? Paul explains the processes used to colour both liquid silicone rubber and the more solid versions in this video. One of the more helpful silicone properties is that it can have numerous colors; another sign of its versatility.
Additional resources about silicone and others that you might find useful
We’ve written about silicone in these resources:
- The benefits of silicone as a production material and how it compares to common plastics
- How To Define Silicone or Plastic Finishes For New Products
- Vacuum Casting Prototyping
- Silicone Rubber
You can learn more about other production materials and processes in the library on our site.