Life Expectancy of a Silicone Part
Written By: Kevin Franzino
While it depends on the specific application, generally molded silicone parts will have a considerable life expectancy. Once fully cross-linked a silicone rubber part will be virtually inert, meaning it won't degrade or react chemically with most anything in the environment, aggressive solvents can break silicone down. Compared to thermoplastic elastomers and other rubbers silicone tends to retain its physical properties for much longer periods of time, and over numerous cycles of use, hundreds, thousands, millions (again this is somewhat dependent upon the application).
Silicone is an ideal polymer for medical applications due to its bio-inert nature, and ability to withstand elevated temperatures, which allow the molded silicone medical device part to undergo heat based sterilization processes that plastics and rubbers would not survive. Silicone also works well for most consumer product applications, particularly food related applications, as it is dishwasher safe, and can be easily cleaned with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
There are also single use (disposable) silicone products, though not as common as other materials as silicone tends to be more expensive. This can also occur in the medical industry, particularly with implanted silicone parts. Implanted silicone parts are classified as either "restricted" or "unrestricted". A restricted implantable part will be removed from the patient prior to 29 days of implantation (some restricted materials may be approved for shorter periods of time. Please check with the material supplier regarding each materials specific limit), and unrestricted implantable parts can be implanted in a patient indefinitely. The restricted materials are most commonly used in cardiovascular, ocular and oral surgeries and may only stay in the patient for the duration of the procedure, or may remain throughout the recovery period. While unrestricted implant grade materials are commonly used in heart pumps, stents, orthopedic devices, drug delivery devices, and cosmetic implants that are placed into the human body for long periods of time.
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