Global plastic and silicone injection molder and contract manufacturer GW Plastics, Inc. is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its subsidiary, GW Silicones. Founded in 2008 in GW Plastics’ Royalton, Vermont technology campus, GW Silicones has grown into an operation that offers Class 8 cleanroom tooling, molding, and assembly.
When GW Plastics made the decision in 2008 to open GW Silicones and offer Liquid Injection Molding (LIM), they knew they needed to be completely committed. GW Plastics invested in the critical expertise and technology that a LIM business requires in order to extend their design and manufacturing capabilities and seamlessly integrate GW Silicones into their technical portfolio. GW Plastics hired two LIM industry veterans, Mark Hammond and Jeff Hazen, to launch GW Silicones and ensure that the new division would meet the high standard of expertise and service GW’s customers expect.
Starting with just one molding machine in GW Plastics’ Process Development Center, Hammond and Hazen quickly grew GW Silicones into a trusted partner supplying market leaders with precision silicone solutions. Since its inception 10 years ago, GW Silicones has completed three expansions, including a Class 8 ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified cleanroom. The clean- room is equipped with all-electric, hybrid and hydraulic machines, giving GW Silicones the ability to match the best machine to each prototype and production molding application. Multiple screw and barrel assemblies for each press allow for the molding of parts from fractions of a gram to larger pound shots, providing an extremely wide range of molding capabilities. In keeping with GW Plastics’ highly-automated manufacturing platform, GW Silicones has incorporated 6-axis robots that operate within the machine envelope, enabling both insert-loading and molded-part extraction.
Building upon their already successful tooling business, GW Plastics realized soon after launching GW Silicones that offering in-house Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) tooling capabilities would maximize efficiency and component quality, as well as improve responsiveness to their customers. Understanding the differences and complexities of silicone versus thermoplastic tooling, Hammond and Hazen developed a robust LSR tooling standard to ensure that very fine details and tight tolerances are maintained for years of trouble-free production.
GW Silicones underwent an extensive global search in order to assemble the most experienced and knowledgeable team possible to grow their tooling capabilities. By hiring and partnering with tool designers who have trained with the best in the world, GW can bring a level of confidence to their LSR tooling that is virtually unparalleled. In addition to having the right design team, building precision LSR tooling requires advanced techno- logical capabilities, a zero defect culture, and the highest levels of design integrity. In order to accomplish this, GW Silicones has adopted and applied the same standards of excellence that have been established from GW Plastics’ storied reputation as a world-class thermoplastics mold-maker.
Because of their in-house LSR tool design-and-build expertise, GW has been able to continuously offer their customers the option of building high cavitation, fully-automated, tight tolerance LSR molds designed for manufacturing at a lower cost with world-class lead times. GW Plastics has invested millions of dollars into their Tooling Division during the past few years to include more automation and improved technologies, providing additional resources to expand into LSR tooling. “Working closely with our in-house plastics Tool Division has allowed for this type of flexibility, improvement, and growth,” says Mark Hammond, GW Silicones General Manager.
The ability to mold multi-material (thermoplastics and LSR) components such as two-shot, insert, or overmolded parts has become a specific skill of GW Silicones, and one that gives them a particular niche in the molding marketplace. LSR can be used to create complex molded parts with finer detail and tighter tolerances than are often possible with other materials. When molded onto thermoplastic substrates, the resulting multi-material performance options are numerous.
Their familiarity with the demands of LSR processing and their knowledge of material properties allows GW Silicones to assist their customers in ways most LSR molders cannot. One such application is a surgical suture pen, for which GW Plastics and GW Silicones worked together with a leading OEM to redesign and manufacture a multi-material device that performed better for surgeons.
What started with humble beginnings has grown into a state-of-the-art, dedicated silicone facility with in-house flashless molding and tooling capability. While GW Silicones supports a number of markets including automotive, its largest market is medical devices and life sciences with an emphasis on a cost-effective combination of thermoplastics and liquid silicone to provide unique solutions not often seen in the marketplace. GW intends to continue their steady growth and is currently evaluating new technologies such as silicone manufacturing at their Mexico and Ireland locations. GW Silicones has brought considerable value to their customers as they continue to add to their growing portfolio of manufacturing capabilities around the globe.