Perhaps the most common item to be included in our daily routines without us realizing its origin is silicone.
The journey of silicone as a potential replacement for disposable Plastic started when the medical industry adopted this fine element.
To be used as a potential form of treatment and started conjuring most of the tools like catheters and feeding tubes with the help of medical-grade silicone.
From the startling realization that silicone can be processed to create objects that were previously completely dependent on Plastic as the base material, has startled the industry, as well as society.
This amazing discovery could be a step forward in the direction of saving our planet from global warming and intense environmental catastrophes.
The range of products that can be based on silicone and the amazing level of their practicability has been nothing but a life-saver for all living beings of this planet.
That being said, silicone is now dominating almost all industries in the first world as its usage is
visible all around us, from medicine to kitchen utensils, from toys to automobile materials.
However, the question about the diversity of silicones practicability is not known to all.
The simplicity of the structure of silicone has enabled us to create such diverse products by using a base of silicone.
Most often, the silicone is mixed with aluminum or other metals to create alloys that are then impacted to create hardened objects.
Unlike Plastic, silicone does not have multiple inter-linked bonds, and this property of silicone created the possibility for the addition of other substances to create a wide range of amorphous alloys.
Silicone: An eco-friendly alternative to Plastic
Silicone is a polymer of siloxane, which means multiple particles (monomers) of siloxane join together in simple bonds to create one molecule of silicone.
A monomer of siloxane consists of a molecule of silicon and oxygen, which are coincidentally the most common elements on earth as SiO2 is the formula for sand, with a side chain of any organic compound such as an alkyl or phenyl.
The simpler structure of silicone does not render it a vulnerable element as it is not easy to shake the structural integrity of processed silicon.
Last but not least, this element was adopted in place of Plastic, primarily to help our ecosystem back towards stability.
Due to the adverse side-effects of pollution and plastic garbage that has disrupted entire bionic cycles, even humans have been facing catastrophes for our actions.
Although it is pretty early to say that silicone is going to eliminate all worries that we face due to plastic pollution, it is still somehow a step in the right direction for our society as well as wildlife.
Types of Silicone
The diverse applications of silicone-based products do not amaze us anymore. Still, it is essential to understand how this product has increased its practicability and what types of silicone can be reinforced to create alloys and be deployed in various fields and objects.
As we have mentioned several times that the simplicity of the structure and limited inter-linked bonds between the elements of siloxane is the reason that the addition of other substances to create superior alloys of silicone has been made possible.
These are the general types of silicone commonly available in the market for direct or commercial use:
- General-purpose and builder’s silicone
- Glazing silicone
- Food safe silicone
- Sanitary silicone
- Frame sealant silicone
- High-temperature silicone
- Neutral cure silicone
- Aquarium silicone
- And various other specialist silicones
These are the various types of specialist silicones, included but not limited to these, that can be used to conjure up all sorts of materials for literally almost every industry.
There are multiple steps that need to be perfectly calibrated to create authentic polysiloxane so that the end product could be a stable siloxane compound. First of all, the primary step is to procure the basic elements required to produce a polymer compound of siloxane.
Silicone is the element that is of primary importance as every processing plant starts its procedure by distilling silicon out of commercial silica. Then the processing starts with the addition of many other elements at carefully regulated temperatures, and after a ton of work, a perfect monomer of siloxane is created.
There are specific mixing machines involved in this process of carefully binding the raw-materials for siloxane together to get the perfect blend of atoms to create a single monomer of silicone. Secondly, after the procurement of siloxane monomers, the polymerization and condensation processes start.
The chance to create different alloys of silicon lies just at this point where monomers of siloxane are still separated and have the ability to form stable bonds with other compounds as well.
Such processes where the silicone is supposed to take its final chemical form either after the addition of various chemical elements or pigments to create an attractive look is carried out by conversion machinery.
It is essential that the temperature and chemical conditions must be perfectly regulated throughout the processing as any change in conditions can render entire batches of silicone unusable.
After the complete process of obtaining the silicone, the product has been completed, and we have created a base that can now be converted into a professional product, the process of molding starts. Now depending upon the field and the product that the silicone is going to be converted to, the base undergoes special treatment.
One of the most basic treatments that the silicone base has to endure in most cases is extrusion. In simple words, extrusion can be explained as compression of silicone to such a degree that all air escapes from the compound.
The resulting product is now a hundred percent silicone without any air bubbles that may have otherwise disrupted the process of molding or have caused the demolition of the object prior to its expiry date.
The last step to obtain the final look of the desired product is molding. There are many substances that can be used as molds for silicone material. The primary concern should be that the mold should not be able to induce any contaminants into the silicone base.
This can be avoided by making sure that the mold is neat and clean and also by reducing the temperature of silicone base to a stable degree so that it may not melt any nearby touching element.
Now, the silicone base is poured into the mold, and varying steps are performed to obtain the desired shape; most often, the base is left to set and cool with time. Once the product has been finalized, and silicone has obtained its final form, it cannot be re-invigorated by reheating or any other phenomenon.
The shape that it acquires is its final form, and no further changes can be induced except for cutting or polishing. However, there is still room for secondary actions to create a product with a larger base or to add multiple dimensions to the product.
For these purposes, multiple sheets of silicone can be sealed together with the help of sealants or the jointing process can be adapted. Silicone products can also be joined to non-silicone bases such as we see in utensils, as the base is often wood, and the tip of the product is made from silicone.
For a product to be cleared off the rack and join the process of industrialization, it is essential that the product must be tested first, and its viability and practicability must be determined before investing in it and presenting it into a potential market.
It is often better to create samples of the designated product and unleash them in the market and record the reaction of the masses to the new product. The records, positive or negative, must be recorded, and the decision for the future of the product must be made according to public response and the need for the product in the market.
This procedure does take out a little from the pocket but is necessary to avoid any future potential loss. Firstly, small sample products of the main product are created and then made available for the general public for free or in demand for an honest review.
That way, you can really comprehend the importance of the product in the view of the masses, and it is one of the most vital steps in estimating the probability of success of any product in its consumer market.
The last step in the process of creating a fully functioning product with demand in the consumer market is creating a valid set-up of heavy machinery that has the ability to produce that object in a large number according to the need of the market.
This requires subsequent funding and the procurement of qualified individuals to carefully undertake the entire process to ensure a quality end product.
This last step of production also involves packaging and distribution to the market so that the silicone product can be made a reality from its excerpt of design.