Silicone is a popular, widely used material throughout the medical industry for a good reason. From seals to fasteners, silicone is found everywhere. You’ll see silicone included in items ranging from single-use products to tubing and valves, medical implants, and the wire and cable assemblies used in many different medical devices.
Read on to see why silicone is ideal for these varied applications.
The Appearance of Silicone
Silicon, the basis for silicone, was discovered in the early 1800s by a Swedish chemist, Jöns Jacob Berzelius. It wasn’t until the early 20th century when English chemist Frederic Kipping developed silicone.
Silicone use largely began in the 1940s, when it became commercialized. Large companies of the day hopped on board, excited at the prospect of using such an adaptable material. That adaptability hasn’t changed.
Today’s advanced technology has created new opportunities that require using this unique and durable material to keep people safe as they undergo various medical treatments or procedures. Let’s view examples and the benefits of using silicone in medical manufacturing.
Bodily Fluid Compatible
Silicone is not chemically reactive. It’s a naturally inert, lab-made material of chains composed of alternating silicon (a naturally occurring element) and oxygen atoms, with hydrogen and/or hydrocarbon groups attaching to the silicone atoms in a sort of side chain.
Since it’s produced as a bendable, flexible plastic or as a type of liquid, silicone has many different applications. Silicone is often used in cosmetic and prosthetic procedures. It’s also used in adhesives, hydrogels, lubricants, and medical-grade seals.
Chemical Structure Tolerance
A silicone o-ring has a unique ability to handle a range of conditions. Silicone is chemically non-reactive, so it takes longer to break down, resulting in more durability. This durable nature enables medical-grade silicone to remain stable in temperatures running from –75°F to 500°F.
Silicone has a unique ability to mold into all manner of shapes. Manufacturers bend silicone in three ways: injection molding, transfer molding, or compression molding to create the right part for the correct application.
Complex and detailed designs can be tailored and custom matched to specific design needs. Fortunately, costs for tooling specialty parts may be lower than expected, at least when created as part of a long-term program with high-volume output.
Some materials are difficult to sterilize. They may require special conditions and a lengthy process. Silicone, however, is different. Medical-grade silicone is non-porous, making it easy to keep clean. Liquid Silicone Rubber, or LSR, can handle a variety of sterilization methods.
Compared to other elastomers, silicone offers a range of resistance to chemicals, oxidation, water, and bacterial growth. Moreover, silicone is mold and mildew-resistant, making it an obvious choice for any materials requiring skin contact to minimize potential side effects.
The Plus Side of Silicone
Silicone’s biocompatibility, flexibility, hypoallergenic properties, and adaptability have made it a standout material in the medical industry. No wonder the silicone market is expected to grow 6.2% in less than a decade. Thanks to the many interesting uses of silicone in the medical manufacturing industry and its advantages, it’s no surprise.