Today, 3D printing (3DP) technology is acknowledged as the potential to revolutionize the way products are designed, manufactured and supplied. It has become an effective alternative in numerous fields related to engineering, agriculture, medicine etc. Especially in the field of medicine, 3D printing can be applied to a great range of applications starting from developing tools to testing organs and supporting skeletal and neuromuscular disabilities.
Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the term used to mention the technologies that build 3D objects by adding layer-upon layer of material. AM is a part of the digital factory of the future. It is a disruptive innovation tackling all industry sectors and reshaping the entire value chain as there are evolving applications of AM technology to meet diverse needs. Silicones are the new class of materials used in 3DP and AM offering it new capabilities.
Being a 70 years old specialist in silicones design and manufacturing, Elkem Silicones provides tailored chemistry solutions for AM/3DP requirements and specific applications. Elkem Silicones, a division of Elkem, is one of the world’s leading fully integrated silicone suppliers, operating 9 multi-functional manufacturing sites and 11 R&D centers around the globe.
Headquartered in Lyon, France, Elkem Silicones offers customized services and a full range of silicone technologies for diverse and unique markets including aerospace, automotive, construction, consumer goods, energy, healthcare, paper, personal care and textiles. Over the years the organization has evolved from an innovative startup based near Rhone River to one of the world’s foremost fully integrated silicone manufacturers. It encompasses all processes from silicon metal treatment to the manufacturing of downstream applications, R&D laboratories, production sites and sales offices located in Europe, North America and Asia.
Experience and Expertise
Elkem Silicones has been an active contributor in the silicone industry for about 70 years. It believes that making of quality silicone products begins by carefully listening to its customers and understanding their requirements. It then manufactures the right products, supplying its customers with customized formulations and unique silicone technology solutions. The organization also provides them with technical and regulatory support so they can comply with the highest national and international standards. Its dedicated team of experts is focused on customers’ needs, providing unique silicones solutions including products and services.
A Comprehensive Range
Elkem Silicones serves very diverse and unique markets, which ranges from energy to cosmetics, via electronics, aerospace, automotive manufacturing, construction, healthcare, advanced molding & printing, paper and textile coating, personal care and more. Its comprehensive range of silicone products includes release coatings, engineering elastomers, specialty fluids, emulsions and resins. Elkem Silicones’ customers know they can count on the organization to provide them with specific silicone products and state-of the- art applications that meet their needs and comply with their most demanding specifications.
Elkem Silicones’ dedicated technical service and formulation chemists have expertise in many markets and applications. They are ready to help customers select the right products and solutions. It works to comprehend various needs of customers to determine the best solution for them. It continually invests in people, materials, hardware and software which allow the organization to develop further tailor-made solutions for its customers with a personal touch.
Stepping Ahead with Dynamic Network
Since 1944, Elkem Silicones has continuously sought to develop new technologies, new processes and new solutions to address its customers’ needs. In a flexible environment, it questions the status quo, generates new ideas and it moves one step beyond, in close cooperation with its customers. It enjoys moving faster through its dynamic network. Its open innovation culture is geared to respond effectively and rapidly to the needs of very diverse markets, today and in the future. It constantly sources innovation opportunities inside/outside the company to develop and commercialize new silicone technologies.
Evolving with Innovations
Elkem has been developing an Open Innovation approach since some years. This has led to very active collaborations in Competency Clusters on a national and international level with renowned Universities, RDOs as well as industry partners. In the search for excellence these collaborations enabled the creation of partnerships and integration with several leading companies of the AM/3DP industry various ambitious projects for silicones in AM/3DP. This open mind set is also reflected in the fact that Elkem is testing different business models as a response to the fast evolving dynamics of economic environment allowing it to take advantage in the most appropriate way of existing as well as future business opportunities. The creation of an interdisciplinary team of international experts has allowed Elkem to pursue the AM/3DP project on a worldwide level taking into account the specific needs of the different parts of the world based on the shared foundations of expertise.
Global megatrends like sustainability, energy demand and growth, rapid urbanization, increased standard of living, ageing and growing population, and digitalization create specific needs. All these trends open a huge market for Elkem Silicones.
- Paper & Film Release
- Silicone Rubber
- Chemical Formulators
- Personal Care
- Energy (solar, oil field, gas)
- Advanced molding and printing
- Food and beverage
Embracing the Open System Approach
Beyond the traditional in-house R&D approach known in the chemical industry, Elkem Silicones has embraced the open system approach to drive innovation faster for over a decade. The organization is focused on understanding the interdependence of materials, process, machine and the final part. Customers look forward to a specific feature provided by silicones as an industry standard. Elkem Silicones offers specific intrinsic characteristics and properties as biocompatibility, temperature resistance, and UV stability by other chemistries giving unique advantage to the final product.
Valuable Lessons Learnt
- Change in culture of a traditional material supplier needed
- Need for interdisciplinary teams in front of the various challenges
- Open innovation approach with external partners allowing to go fast and multiply experience · Historical knowledge in silicone chemistry and formulation as a sound base for the development
- Industry sector know-how accumulated since a long time allows the translation of the expertise from materials and applications to the new requirements and opportunities to AM/3DP
- Sharing the progress and success of the project as motivating factor for the innovation culture of the company
Utilizing the Potential of AM
The requirements in different industries such as Healthcare, Aerospace, Automotive etc. need specific solutions. Elkem Silicones has the required experience to understand these specifics and develop the required solutions. It is ready to build the new competencies in the company and start from scratch. The organization believes in remaining focused and progress in structured manner in front of the vast potential for AM in complex and ambiguous environment.
Different AM/3DP technologies request different types of silicone technologies and Elkem Silicones has the competency and has shown that it is able to meet these requirements. It understands the need to go fast in this type of emerging market and technologies and having an agile organization with a start-up spirit within a big multinational enterprise.
While explaining about the company’s future aspirations, Frederic Jacquin, the Senior Vice President of Elkem Silicones mentions “3D printing will undoubtedly reshape the full Value Chain in many core industries.” “Silicones will be due to its outstanding properties one of the prime solution for our customers in the future. This is our role to make it happen, exploring technology options and fine tuning business models with our customers and partners.” adds Frederic.
Refining Performance Parameters
Elkem Silicones aims to continuously innovate in the areas like e-mobility, robotics, implants, 3D printing both in Europe, China and North America. It believes that AM has to provide added value versus today’s existing solutions. New features through material combinations achieve new performances or new designs. The use of silicones will allow the use of final material with its characteristics reflecting the properties of the final parts thus increasing the likelihood to perform like the final part.
Value Creation through Growth and Specialization
Elkem Silicones’ outlook for specialty silicones looks promising. And its growth continues through its specialization with company sharing of expertise & captive use of available upstream capacity. The company has also made an attractive position in growing markets by creating a strong demand that is driven by electrification of transportation, better care, more wealth and digitalization. In parallel it has capitalized on industry fundamentals which have remained positive.