The expanding range of end uses for liquid silicone rubber (LSR) – specifically in high-performance automotive and medical applications – has helped LSR outperform the larger silicone elastomer market over the last decade. US demand for LSR is expected to continue its rapid growth trajectory, with annual gains of 8.3% expected through 2023. In addition, the share of silicone elastomer demand accounted for by LSR – 29% in 2018 – is forecast to increase considerably.
What’s driving this impressive market expansion? A newly published Freedonia Group study singles out four of the fastest growing applications for LSR.
- Lighting Components
A small but quickly expanding portion of the lighting components market is accounted for by LSR, an increasingly important material to lighting fabricators seeking to increase the power of LEDs while reducing overall fixture size. LSR’s exceptional optical clarity, heat resistance, and other key advantages over other thermoplastics make LSR ideal for the manufacture of lenses, light guides, diffusers, and reflectors for:
- automotive headlights and interior lights
- street lights
- stadium lighting
- other indoor and outdoor lighting (e.g., for industrial buildings)
- electronics (e.g., camera lenses on mobile phones and chip-on-board LEDs)
For example, use of LSR in automotive headlights (or headlamps) is taking off in Europe, with German lighting and electronics manufacturers HELLA and OSRAM Continental employing LSR in headlights designed for their luxury motor vehicles.
- Automotive Sensors
LSR is an important material for automotive sensors, where it is used for:
- sealing (e.g., sensor connector seals)
- protective covers and housings
- vibration dampening
Accordingly, LSR demand benefits greatly from the increasing number of sensors automakers are utilizing in virtually all types of vehicles – whether to monitor the external temperature and weather conditions, report vehicle vital signs, or assist drivers on safety. In particular:
- Rising production of electric vehicles – including hybrid electric and battery-electric vehicles – will support more intensive sensor use, such as to monitor electric motors, batteries, and other subsystems. Motor vehicle batteries, for instance, require multiple sensors to monitor voltage, current, and temperature.
- Autonomous (i.e., driverless) vehicles – which require more sensors than standard vehicles – will be a small but fast-growing market for automotive sensor parts as these vehicles see increasing use in applications like grocery delivery.
- Cleanroom Manufacturing
Use of cleanrooms – or closed, sterile environments – is on the rise among developers of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, electronics, and other products that require minimal levels of particulates or pollutants (e.g., dust, chemicals, microbes) for safe manufacture.
In addition, controlling contamination in cleanrooms necessitates the use of specific materials and equipment that have been manufactured in similar cleanroom conditions – meaning a cleanroom is often needed to make items for use in a cleanroom.
This bodes well for LSR, which is widely employed for molded parts used in cleanrooms due to the material’s:
- high purity
- amenability to automated molding processes
Going forward, increasing spending on healthcare and biotechnology research will offer significant growth opportunities for LSR.
- Wearable Devices
Development of wearable devices is expanding rapidly as more advanced technologies improve the reliability, size, comfort, and monitoring capabilities of these products:
- Medical wearables can be worn externally or implanted to monitor such items as blood pressure, heart rate, or blood glucose levels.
- Consumer wearables – such as Fitbit and Apple Watch wristwatch products – are typically used as accessories and are geared toward general health and exercise tracking.
LSR is advantageous for wearable devices due to its:
- excellent biocompatibility, helping wearable manufacturers meet strict compliance standards
- high durability
- good flexibility and soft feel
- resistance to chemicals (e.g., skin oils) and compatibility with sterilization and disinfection processes
- ability to form very small, intricate molded parts with high precision
- ability to be overmolded onto temperature-sensitive electronics used in wearable medical devices
In particular, LSR can be utilized in burgeoning medical applications for wearables, such as pain management. For instance, electrically conductive LSR grades can be used in therapeutic wearable devices that can stimulate nerves or muscles.
Looking for More?
Liquid Silicone Rubber, a new study from the Freedonia Group, covers LSR demand by Market, along with discussion of specialty LSR grades and key machinery and equipment trends. Data are given in dollar value for each market segment, while total LSR demand is also provided in pounds.
In addition, see the Freedonia Group’s studies on the larger silicones industry:
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on the consumer goods and packaging industries.