April 23, 2010

Silicone rubber – a wonder material

Posted in Design, Production tagged , , at 7:24 am by Kilo

One of the very first light bulb moments in the design process was the choice of material for Jellypods – super-soft silicone rubber. During the initial idea forming stage one of our mothers gave us a small kitchen gadget made of this material – and bingo! There it was, the perfect material for Jellypods. Thanks for the gift and the inspiration, Dani!

Silicone rubber is created by mixing silicone with carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and vulcanizing the mixture using heat. The base material is simple silica – sand – the most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust. But silicone rubber is a wonderful substance. It offers a unique combination of chemical, mechanical and even marketing properties that are very hard to match with any other material, and that makes it the material of choice for many applications ranging from bakeware to turbocharger hoses – to Jellypods.

Optical quality liquid silicone rubber

Silicone rubber has tremendous resistance to temperature extremes – from -55°C to +300°C. It is far more strong, stretchy, and tear resistant than many other materials, and it has a very soft and silky feel. It is naturally translucent and very easy to add a dash of colour.

It is a very hygienic material, and will not support the growth of fungus, mold or bacteria. In addition it can be impregnated with natural anti-bacterial agents like triclosan and because of those waterproof and heat resistance properties, it can be washed in the household dishwasher and even sterilized in the microwave oven.

Silicone rubber is pretty much inert, odorless and has no taste, and because of this you find it used in many medical and culinary uses. It also does not cause staining, corrosion or deterioration of other materials, and different additives can make it steam resistant, electrically conductive, chemical/oil/acid resistant, and even flame-retardant.

Medical grade silicone rubber used in pacemaker implants

It is virtually unaffected by rain, snow, humidity, ozone, or the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, unlike standard materials like vinyl and polyethylene plastics. Those strengths mean we can afford to give a much longer guarantee on Jellypods. And in addition to reducing the huge amount of plastic ziplock bags that would be used during it’s expected 10 year lifetime, at the end of its life, silicone rubber is 100% recoverable.

So: hygiene, strength, toughness, temperature resistance, soft, translucent, colourful, stylish and ecologically sound. All those things make it the perfect material for Jellypods. And on top of that it is one of those materials that can be formed into almost any shape, combined with other materials through bonding or a process called over-molding (which you see in almost any toothbrush today), and it is manufactured all over the world. We have been engaging with potential partners all across the planet, and next week we will be visiting some of them in Italy with our technical consultant – hopefully there will be some nice reportage to follow!

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