Silicone firm offers alternatives to discontinued EMI lines

Silicone firm offers alternatives to discontinued EMI lines

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y.—Specialty Silicone Products has developed a new line of products that may give it a competitive advantage that results in future growth opportunities. In doing so, it will offer innovative replacements for a discontinued line of electromagnetic interface shielding materials.

W.L. Gore & Associates said late last year that it would discontinue making three well-known shielding, gasketing and grounding products: GS2100, GS5200 and GS8000 under the Gore brand. According to a letter to customers, the company said it would no longer take orders after April 30, with all materials to be shipped by March 1, 2020.

SSP said it is positioned to benefit, given its ability to produce thin, low-outgassing, flame-resistant shielding elastomers. With Gore's decision, SSP said it has seen high early demand for the release of its new data sheets with ASTM 595 outgassing and UL94-V0 flame resistance data.

"We didn't directly decide to start making the materials to offset the Gore decision, it was something they decided," said Dominic Testo, SSP business development manager. "They are discontinuing their manufacturing (of the shielding products) ... and this is providing us with opportunities."

As of mid-March, SSP had sent samples to current customers with a likely need around North America and had received a number of orders, Testo said. Beyond that, SSP had received roughly 20 website inquiries from all around the world with requests or orders. This new product line is presenting SSP with an opportunity to get exposure with OEMs and international fabricators who are unfamiliar with the company.

"This is going to put our brand name on the world stage faster," he said. "We're pretty well known in the North American market and with our partners in the United Kingdom. It's helping us to get more exposure directly."

SSP is a manufacturer of laboratory consumables and custom silicones for industrial applications located in upstate New York. The company has been on a growth phase with new quality team members, lab technicians and CNC machinists having been added to the staff since late 2019, bringing the total number of employees to nearly 90.

The new product line includes a 40-durometer EMI silicone that's filled with nickel-coated graphite particles that provides UL-94 V1 flame resistance (UL-94 V0 is pending). This SSP shielding silicone is recommended as a replacement material for Gore GS 2100, a carbon-filled cellular PTFE with a 45-durometer hardness that meets UL-94-V0.

In addition, it is developing a 60-durometer EMI silicone that's filled with nickel-coated graphite particles and provides UL-94 V0 flame resistance. This SSP product is recommended as a replacement for Gore GS2100, a nickel-filled cellular PTFE with a 60-durometer hardness that meets UL-94 V0.

Finally, corrosion resistance is featured with a 68-duromer silicone and a 72-duromter fluorosilicone. Both of these flame-resistant, nickel-aluminum elastomers have been tested to MIL-DTL-83528 and are very conductive, the company said.

The reality is that SSP has been manufacturing these materials for a while, Testo said. He believes they are one of the few companies making EMI shielding with an elastomer and one of the only companies offering silicone-based materials made in continuous rolls, rather than sheets.

"We can make these in 0.010 or 0.012 inches thick, which is really unusual and very thin. We don't see others on the market like these," Testo said. He added that SSP's flame retardant URL 94-V0 and VL 94-V1 have been in the market for more than a year.

"We can also put a conductive PSA adhesive on these materials. Between these capabilities and the (in-house knowledge in the industry), it makes us a really good option to offset this product line end-of-life decision."

The thought is that SSP can grow its business with flame retardant conductive shielding materials. Testo said the needs in Europe are very significant. The military, defense, aerospace and telecom industries previously accounted for at least 90 percent of SSP's business with these materials. But new, high-tech products are coming to the market that need these shielding applications given the amount of EMI and RFI waves they give off.

Specifically, consumer products related to smart home capabilities and technologies have a need for such shielding materials. As a result, much of the demand for these products comes from Internet of Things (IoT) and connected device manufacturers and producers.

"These are emerging products that we feel will see significant demand growth," Testo said. "5G is a huge opportunity because that is the next big thing in the market."

Among other investments, SSP spent $150,000 on a third EMI extrusion line to support the expected demand.

SSP was acquired by Heico Corp.'s Electronic Technologies Group in November 2018 and since then has continued to increase its reach into the growing aerospace industry, the SSP executive said. SSP offers EMI RFI shielding, silicone elastomers, silicone lubricating compounds, thin silicone membranes, and lab products that are used in applications in more than 20 countries.

Many of the conductive silicones that SSP has developed meet very specific and customized requirements for use in military applications. For example, two of its materials meet Qualified Products List requirements from the U.S. Department of Defense and its Defense Logistics agency.