Nov 26, 2021
Some of Elkem's latest achievements are related to the use of silicones for renewable energy, electric vehicles, health care, digitalization... Tell us about these applications. How far does the power of silicones go?
To challenge megatrends, Elkem Silicones develops innovative silicone solutions for various industries. With hybrid and electric vehicles, our aim is to accelerate the transportation revolution by providing efficient, cost-effective products that ensure electrical integrity as well as electronic performance that are key features required in these kinds of vehicles.
We also support the increasing demand for new materials in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. We have teams of experts to find solutions with and for our customers and have developed a specific technology portfolio for additive manufacturing/3D Printing. Within the healthcare industry, we strive to improve patient safety and comfort by investing in healthcare to provide our customers with high quality silicone products and regulatory support.
How is Elkem contributing to INKplant's goals of creating the next generation of ink-based multimaterial implants?
As part of the INKplant project, Elkem has the important task of providing a 3D printable silicone, which will be used to print meniscus long-term implants. The choice of silicone materials for this application is particularly accurate since silicone elastomers can perfectly mimic the mechanical behavior of human soft tissue, such as the meniscus. Moreover, silicones are well known to be biocompatible and have been used in medical applications for a long time now.
In association with biomaterials and ceramic materials developed by the other partners, we will be able to create implants that fit the great diversity and complexity required for personalized surgeries. Elkem has been deeply involved in 3D printing challenges for 5 years, and with AMSil, we demonstrate our ability to 3D print Liquid Silicone Rubbers (LSR) using the Liquid Deposition Modeling (LDM) technology.
Elkem's corporate signature is "Delivering Your Potential". How is this related to improving the quality of life of the European aging population?
We believe that our mission is to work closely with our customers, providing them with innovative silicone solutions that enable them to deliver their potential. For example, with the AMSil Silbione™ series for use in restricted medical applications, Elkem Silicones is committed to improving the quality of life of the aging population by combining the performances, the durability, and biocompatibility of silicones with additive manufacturing/3D printing. This medical grade is dedicated to design soft and complex elastomeric parts for the healthcare industry.
Another example is medical-grade Silicone Soft Skin Adhesives. They are very soft and conform to the skin directly for a gentle adhesion and atraumatic removal, which is why they are also being used for Advanced Wound Care applications. Elkem Silicones also provides biomedical grade silicones used in implantable devices (cardiac, neurostimulation devices, stents). The silicones used in these critical and very precise devices must meet the strict requirements for long-term implants to efficiently ensure patient safety over time.
Could you explain the benefits of the material you are developing for meniscus long-term implants? What are the properties or characteristics that make it unique?
We are developing a new silicone formulation which would fulfill the requirements of both the multi-material 3D printing technologies and the high mechanical performances required for the development of long term implant. One of the challenges is to provide formulations with the right rheologies to pass through the 3D printers while keeping high mechanical properties of the resulting final implant. Overcoming this key technological lock, will enable us to 3D print high resolution objects that will perfectly suit the patient’s needs.
Beyond the printing challenges (kinetic, accuracy, compatibility with other materials), there is also the knowledge and understanding of the aging of silicone scaffold in long term implants. Strong collaboration will be developed with other partners of the project in order to solve all these issues.
The Elkem Silicones division has extensive experience in R&D and innovation. What are the most revealing results to date?
R&D is at the core of our business, and Elkem’s R&D centers and its 400 employees are strategically located across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and USA. Our commitment to R&D upholds our reputation as a leader in our field. We have a portfolio with more than 1,200 patents and an average of 10 products are developed each year. It illustrates Elkem Silicones’ capacity to innovate. The division is dedicating more than 4% of its turnover to R&D. Products that are less than five years old generate over 20% of sales.
Most recently, Elkem silicones has been declared a winner in the renowned worldwide competition of the 2021 R&D 100 awards in the Mechanical Materials category with the AMSil™ & AMSil SILBIONE™ range. The AMSil™ 20000 series is used in industrial & food grade applications such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, equipment, etc. and allows silicones to be used by additive manufacturing/3D printing in digital, connected, and distributed manufacturing (Industry 4.0) for more efficient and sustainable production methods. The AMSil™ Silbione™ 24000 series is for use in restricted medical applications.