starlim combines production know-how with finite element methods
Although they look relatively simple, baby pacifiers pose a major challenge as a plastic product. Generally consisting of two components, they need to comply with the strictest health and safety requirements. Starlim Spritzguss GmbH willingly embraces this challenge as, in addition to more than 40 years of experience in processing, the silicone specialist from Marchtrenk in Austria has honed its expertise through the realisation of a myriad of products for the life science sector and, as a consequence, is more than familiar with the standards involved. It is exactly this know-how that has now enabled starlim to develop an appropriate production process for the new 2-component silicone teat based on a hard/soft compound developed by MAM Babyartikel GmbH in Vienna. This innovation offers numerous advantages, particularly for newborn babies.
“Silicone/silicone compounds are, in themselves, nothing new. We’ve been producing these with great success for more than ten years”, relates Leopold Pühringer, Head of Product Development at starlim. “But, up until now, there’s never been a solid silicone pacifier made of two different types.” The trick in realising the pacifier design from MAM in the appropriate mold technology was the rapidity and, consequently, efficiency involved. The specialist for liquid silicone ultimately employs its own FE methods for this purpose. “The customer defines its product and, with the aid of simulation software, we develop the appropriate process steps, taking all essential parameters such as the shape, temperature, viscosity and pressure into consideration.” This approach enables the speedy, cost-effective realisation of a completely new design, as in this case. Until completion, no costs are involved for iterative manufacturing of the mold, nor are any costs accrued for production or waste material. “Our cooperation with starlim, which we’ve cultivated for over 40 years, is a continuous source of impressive results”, says Harald Schermann, Head of Technical Product Management & Strategic Purchasing at MAM, in praise of starlim, his development partner.
That said, the production process is still very challenging. Firstly, the shield is created from silicone with a higher Shore A hardness. This is then conveyed to the second machine in which the soft silicone component is injected and both components are joined. A robot takes charge of the careful conveyance of the soft and still hot silicone component. “Our calculations needed to take into consideration the fact that, on closing the second mold, the first silicone component may be subjected to minor squeezing. We succeeded in mastering this challenge in just a few virtual iterative steps”, relates Leopold Pühringer. “We’re delighted with the result”, says Harald Schermann, “as rapid implementation means we’ve already launched the pacifier on the market.”
With its two different silicone components, the solid silicone pacifier is somewhat smaller than the conventional pacifier with a thermoplastic shield. The optimised design also makes the pacifier particularly light, making it especially comfortable and, in the case of premature babies and infants in particular, avoiding pressure points around the mouth. It also goes without saying that the 2K silicone pacifier meets all long-term stability and temperature resistance requirements, meaning it can be regularly sterilised for hygienic purposes. The silicone shield can also be manufactured in different colours if desired.