Versatility and Flexibility Across Many Aspects Position This Material for Use in Multiple Industries
Since it was first commercialized 80 years ago, silicone rubber has continually evolved to the point where it is now one of the most versatile sealing materials available. Many of the benefits of silicone stem from its ability to address a variety of issues as it now competes well with organic options while still imparting long life in today’s applications.
Silicone, as a sealing material, is above all else adaptable. It can be used in nearly every environment, can be transparent, opaque, or colored, perform well across an incredible range of temperatures, and is found in end products in a diverse array — from medical devices and tubing to automotive gaskets and more.
Today we’ll examine the many benefits of silicone and why it continues to remain an essential material across many industries as a versatile elastomer. Unique and packed with qualities not found in other materials, silicone is a popular choice for a variety of applications.
Before we highlight those benefits, it should be noted that the term silicone covers a large group of materials and formulations in which vinyl-methyl-silicone (VMQ) is often the central ingredient. Infinitely adaptable, specific silicone-based formulations are also available with varying strengths and weaknesses; Discussing your specific requirements with an experienced engineer is always recommended before selecting a particular formulation.
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Silicone Benefits Begin with Flexibility and Flow
Silicone is an excellent seal material for high, or low, temperatures in static environments. Silicone seals typically exhibit outstanding flex and fatigue life, strong ozone and UV radiation resistance, and physiologically neutral and insulating properties. Silicone o-rings can be synthesized with a wide variety of properties and compositions, allowing for great flexibility in performance.
The benefits of silicone begin with one of its best-known attributes — thermal stability. This means it can withstand extremely high and low temperatures, all while retaining its flexibility. The temperature range — covering -75°F to 500°F — makes silicone one of the few viable material choices in extremely cold conditions. In fact, no other synthetic polymer widely available can perform under such extreme temperatures and retain the needed flexibility in application.
The material also has excellent flow properties, meaning it can be manipulated more easily. Silicone is equally adept whether as a standard o-ring or a custom, complex shape. These properties allow it to be developed into intricate, specialized forms and adhere to tighter tolerances.
Food & Medical Ready
Silicone, as noted, can withstand high temperatures. It also has resistant properties to many other factors, including acids, bases, chemicals, water, oil, and fungus. Even with all of these resistant properties, this quality rubber is non-toxic, making it a trusted sealing material for consumer products and medical devices.
Another benefit of silicone is it has excellent resistance to chemicals and radiation exposure — common elements in FDA regulation sterilization methods. Silicone can stand up steam autoclaving, dry heat, ethylene oxide, electron beams, and gamma radiation sterilization practices, leaving it compatible with FDA regulations and thus both a suitable medical grade material and FDA compliant for use in food and human contact applications.
Variability in Color
Silicone is unique in that it doesn’t require the addition of Carbon Black. Silicone can still use the component for additional strength, but it is not required, unlike other crude oil-based material formulations.
This facet opens the door to many more colorization options with silicone. Silicone is naturally transparent, which can be an important factor in medical and food applications. It’s also easy to color prior to the curing process, leading to lasting, even vivid, shades. The industry standard color for silicone seals is “rust red” due to the addition of iron oxide.
Compression Set & Durometer
Silicone boasts an excellent compression set, meaning it retains its shape better despite high levels of repeated or extended compression. This resilience results in flexibility, while also allowing the material to return to its original configuration after stress.
Silicone can be manufactured with a wide range of durometers. A durometer is a standardized way of measuring the hardness of materials like rubber or plastic and is typically listed on a Shore A scale of 0 to 100. The lower the number, the softer the material. A higher number means the material is more resistant to deformation caused by mechanical indentation or abrasion. Silicone, true to its versatile nature, comes in durometers of 10A to 90A.
Using Silicone for Solutions: Read this case study to see how Silicone was used to devise a custom solution in a food processing facility.
Performance that Moves the Needle
With access to more than one billion sealing solutions throughout our expansive production network, Marco Rubber & Plastics offers a comprehensive line of silicone sealing materials, with many remaining highly available due to our long-established supply chain. However, the ultimate performance of a seal will depend on how well it matches the application itself, and this is especially important when dealing with versatile, flexible materials like silicone. It’s important to discuss all aspects of your application with an application engineer to find and consider all the right potential solutions. Our technical sales team is available to help you through the process.
With more than 14,000 repeat customers worldwide, Marco Rubber & Plastics has proven it can be counted on to find the ideal match between application and sealing solution.