For many years, processing liquid silicone (LSR) was limited to specialist companies. Despite the material’s strong growth, it had been viewed as being difficult to work with. This is currently changing as more and more plastics processing companies are becoming interested in this versatile material. The Plastics Center (SKZ), Toolcraft and KraussMaffei are now taking advantage of a triple-win situation.

To date, SKZ (Würzburg) has been known for its expertise in the field of thermoplastic processing. Going forward, cross-linking plastics such as LSR will play a more prominent role. Prof. Martin Bastian (Head of the Institute) and Georg Schwalme (Head of Injection Molding) recently designated KraussMaffei as their technology partner for silicone processing.

Because Toolcraft (a company based in Georgensgmünd near Nürnberg) wanted to start working with the technology at the same time, KraussMaffei brought all three together at one table. This resulted in a triple-win situation: SKZ and the new network partner, Toolcraft, cooperate in order to together build up the expertise necessary for perfect manufacturing (Toolcraft) and expert advice and vocational training (SKZ). It is even likely that public subsidies will be able to be used for the innovative approaches. KraussMaffei is providing the all-electric injection molding machines (PX 50 at SKZ and PX 121 for Toolcraft) as well as the technical expertise and consulting for all matters involving the challenge of processing liquid and solid silicones.

The future timeline was discussed in a three-way meeting in Würzburg, Germany. In the coming months, SKZ and Toolcraft will work on designing, creating and optimizing a new LSR mold. The low viscosity of the material and the fact that the temperature control is the reverse of that used for thermoplastics present some challenges in this regard. The first product has already been defined: a medical application with a part weight of 0.5 grams.

Toolcraft assumes that up to two years will be required to gain comprehensive mastery of the process and the moldmaking. SKZ has the same time frame in view for its efforts to accumulate the knowledge necessary to serve as a bridge between basic research and the shop floor, just as it has for thermoplastic processing.

KraussMaffei will be supporting the project actively and report back after its conclusion.

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