York, South Carolina – Bluestar Silicones may have a new name, but the commitment toward innovative silicone products remains the same.
The firm was rebranded to Elkem Silicones in June 2017, this two years following Elkem's acquisition of the company.
"At the time there was a consideration of changing the name, but we thought it would be better to migrate at a later date and get our customers prepared for it," said Chris York, Elkem Silicones' North America president.
"We also brought in a sister company, our plant in China, under Elkem Silicones at the same time," he added. "Now we're a significant player in the marketplace. We have the largest position in China for upstream activities. We're a global player with a footprint that's different from our competition."
The firm continues to invest for medical grade silicones for long-term implantable applications at its facility in York. Most recently, it upgraded its high-consistency rubber silicone Class 7 and 8 clean rooms in 2017. Both recently were certified in February, giving the firm four clean rooms at the facility, the other two for liquid silicone rubber applications.
Elkem increased its employee base by nearly 15% in 2017 and projects to add another 29 jobs in 2018.
"We're primarily focused on producing the highest quality products that we can," said Bob Waitt, Elkem's North American market manager for health care. "Our Class 8 room is for compounding and the Class 7 is for packaging. We wanted to have the highest quality material on the market so we felt the need to go a little bit further with our Class 7 packaging."
As a result, Elkem also expanded its HCR silicone portfolio, now offering a full range from 20 to 80 Shore A hardness. The products are designed for long-term implantable applications in compression molding and extrusion applications, such as hydrocephalus shunts, central catheters and active implantable devices.
Waitt said the products are supported by device master files filed with the US Food & Drug Administration.
"These have a bit more testing," Waitt said. "They also include a longer shelf life. One thing we heard from the market was that existing products available for long-term implantable have a very short table life. We tried to focus on extending that to a reasonable amount of time so they have quite a bit of table life to work with the product."
On the non-medical side, Elkem also recently released high-performance silicone solutions for the plastics recycling market at Plastic Recycling 2018, held in February.
Among the products showcased were Silcolapse 623 and 723, silicone antifoam emulsions; Bluesil Clean 101 and 102, functional low-foam cleaning formulations designed for polyethylene terephthalate and polyethylene wash systems; and Bluesil SP 3300 and 3304, silicone-based polymers that provide wetting properties and produce low surface tension.
"We're employing some of the same branding that we use in medical," Elastomers Business Director Karen O'Keefe said. "We want to understand what our customer needs are and then deliver solutions. We're really focused on delivering solutions that will help with cost-effectiveness. By having lower-dose additives and less chemical usage, it helps them have a more cost-effective production process."