Oct 01, 2019 Read time: approx. MinutesMinute
“A low-volatiles content is the trend of the future”
All liquid silicone rubber grades supplied by WACKER SILICONES will contain significantly fewer volatile components in the future, and processing will not always require postcuring, announced Dr. Robert Gnann, divisional president.
Who was behind the low-volatiles initiative?
Mainly our customers, processors, and the authorities. This trend is not, however, new in the industry. The move to reduce volatiles began quite some time ago, for example with the so-called Toyota standard, which aimed at lowering automotive exhaust emissions. Liquid silicone rubber, or LSR, with low-volatiles levels offers our customers many advantages. As a major LSR supplier, it is our aim to take the lead in this field.
Which strategic goals is WACKER pursuing with its low-volatiles initiative?
The future belongs to liquid silicones that can be processed without postcuring. Our strategy is threefold: a significant increase in efficiency for our customers; improving quality; and making a strong contribution toward sustainability. Energy savings are made during further processing and the environmental impact is lower because fewer volatiles are emitted. That’s why we have introduced low-volatiles levels not only in individual products, but across our entire LSR product range.
How has WACKER positioned itself in the silicone manufacturer sector with the low-volatiles standard?
Our LSR portfolio consists of two low-volatiles platforms: As I mentioned earlier, our entire LSR product range will have far fewer volatiles than required by existing regulations. This offers processors definite advantages, especially when it comes to complying with emissions limit values. Also, we will have products such as pacifiers that fulfill standards and limit values in terms of volatiles content but require no postcuring.
Removing volatiles was announced as early as 2017. Why was this work only completed at the beginning of 2019?
Achieving our goal of enhancing the quality of both products and processes simultaneously was challenging. The low-volatiles platform development phase gave us a great deal of knowledge about LSR, especially in connection with process parameters and product properties. We also wanted to ensure our ability to manufacture the volumes required by the market. During the course of the project, we realized that our system and process can still be optimized further. I am confident that we have made good progress and commend all those involved for their tremendous achievement. But we will not rest on our laurels. Demands made on products and processing properties are continuously rising. LSR, the only liquid rubber that is easy to pump, has plenty of unexploited potential.
What benefits do LSR processors gain from an LSR portfolio stripped of volatiles?
It’s important to us that our customers benefit from increased productivity. This applies not only to there being less of a need to handle molded parts, such as the mostly manual loading of postcuring ovens, but also to energy savings made by eliminating postcuring. Additionally, the time-consuming scrubbing of gases emitted during processing could be eliminated. Stringent specifications on the volatiles content, as in the Toyota standard I mentioned, can easily be met with our products. The important thing is to ensure that product and process quality is on no account compromised.
The stripping of volatiles currently only affects LSR grades manufactured in Europe. Are any plans underway to extend the low-volatiles initiative to production sites in other parts of the world?
We strive to offer our customers the same level of product quality worldwide. However, this won’t be feasible overnight as the technology requires considerable investment.
Why did WACKER decide on a low-volatiles strategy for the LSR portfolio and not for the solid silicone rubber range or room-te The low-volatiles trend will affect our entire portfolio of silicone products. mperature-vulcanizing silicones?
The low-volatiles trend will affect our entire portfolio of silicone products. This trend has developed its own momentum as customers seek to increase productivity by eliminating process steps. At the same time, WACKER is committed to sustainability and would like to minimize the emission of volatiles into the environment during further processing of silicone products. The whole silicone industry has signed up for this approach, some aspects of which are required by the authorities. However, as I mentioned before, this will require extensive development and investment. We will also find out how much this effort is worth to our customers. Nevertheless, we will surely not stop with LSR. We are set to ramp up our development of low-volatiles solutions. And it’s no secret that stripping volatiles from high-viscosity products such as HTV rubber grades requires far more complex technology. But here too, we’re working on solutions.