Discover the rich history of silicone rubber extrusions.
Silicone rubber has established itself as one of the most popular materials on the market. This versatile, durable material is ideally suited for a range of industries and applications from construction and electronics to aviation and healthcare.
What is silicone rubber?
Silicone is a synthetic polymer created from the chemical element silicon. There is a significant difference between silicon and silicone, as silicon in its raw form is brittle and unlike the silicone material we know. Man-made silicone combines silicon, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen to create a versatile substance.
It can be used in a variety of situations, including as a sealant, adhesive, lubricant, or extrusion. Viking Extrusions specialise in the manufacture of a wide range of silicone rubber products. As one of the largest manufacturers of silicone inflatable seals in the UK, we understand the history of silicone rubber and how it can help your business.
An extensive history of silicone rubber extrusions
Silicone rubber has a long and rich history to explore. While it is a man-made product, silica-based stones have been a key feature since ancient times. Here at Viking Extrusions, we explore the silicone rubber timeline.
The origins of silicon - the Stone Age and Roman period
Stone Age – Silica-based stones are used to create tools and weapons
The earth’s crust is teeming with silicon and oxygen, with silica and silicates mostly being found within rocks. Silica-based stones would be used in the Stone Age to create tools and weapons. They were ideal for use as protection and to aid survival.
Roman Period – Silica sand is used to form glass
It was the Romans who then took the small particles of sand and transformed them into glass. By utilising silica in this way, they paved the way for scientists in the 19th Century to first discover the element of silicon and then begin the process of creating silicone rubber.
The discovery of the silicon element - Berzelius and Deville
1824 – Jöns Jakob Berzelius successfully isolates silicon for the first time
The element of silicon was first discovered by Jöns Jacob Berzelius. A Swedish chemist, he first isolated silicon in 1824. While conducting an experiment, Berzelius reacted potassium metal with silicon tetrafluoride, before heating the resulting product in chlorine. The resulting brown powder was silicon. Berzelius is considered not only to be one of the founders of modern chemistry, but also the founder of silicon.
1855 – Henri Étienne Sainte-Claire Deville obtained pure silicon in its crystallised form
Although Berzelius is often credited as the founder of silicon, it is thanks to Henri Étienne Sainte-Claire Deville, a French chemist, that we have silicon in its more common crystalline form. Using the electrolysis smelting process, Deville obtained pure silicon in 1855, 31 years after the isolation of silicon by Berzelius.
The beginning of commercial silicone production - Dr Hyde
1930 – Dr James Franklin Hyde begins research on the commercial production of silicones
While chemists would continue to research silicon throughout the 19th Century, it wasn’t until the mid-20th Century that chemists began to develop silicone rubber for commercial purposes. American chemist and inventor Dr James Franklin Hyde was one of the first to research how commercial silicones could be produced in 1930.
Hyde began his research in an attempt to create new plastics and challenge the glass industry. He was successful and created fused silica, which was used in advanced telecommunications, aeronautics, and computer chips.
Where the name ‘silicones’ originated - Kipping
1940 – Frederick Stanley Kipping develops silicon polymers and coins the term ‘silicones’
The term silicones was first used by Frederic Stanley Kipping in 1940. This British chemist was the brilliant mind behind the development of silicon polymers, or silicones as we have come to know them, at Nottingham. The research he conducted was the basis for synthetic rubber and silicone-based lubricant development around the world, as stated by Isaac Asimov in ‘Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology’.
One of the most fascinating facts about Kipping is that he apparently did not see a particular use for silicone rubber. He considered silicones to be sticky messes and felt that the material offered no practical use within commercial applications. Other chemists continued their research and advanced the silicone rubber industry, and while he did not see its potential, he was inducted into the University of Akron’s International Rubber Science Hall of Fame as a result of his pioneering work.
How silicone rubber production developed
1950s – Worldwide companies begin to use silicone rubber in commercial products
Mass-production of silicone rubber as we know it today began in the mid-20th Century. The versatile material began to appear in many products but was first used in a toy. The toy itself, Silly Putty, was launched in the United States in 1950 and contained viscoelastic silicone.
The development of silicone rubber by GE Silicones saw the use of the product in various forms during the space race. It formed the rubber soles of Neil Armstrong’s boots and was used in command modules onboard.
Where Viking Extrusions comes in
1991 – Viking Extrusions was incorporated
Viking Extrusions was incorporated on 1st August 1991. We have grown from our humble beginnings and now serve customers around the world with complex and diverse silicone rubber profiles and components. With more than 30 years of experience, our knowledge and expertise can help you with a range of projects from prototyping to development work. Read more about Viking Extrusions and see just how far we’ve come.
Silicone rubber extrusions in the 21st Century
Present day – Silicone extrusions are created for a variety of industries
Silicone rubber has become one of the most popular materials for use in different industries. Popular within the pharmaceutical, automotive, and energy generation industries, to name a few, it is the versatile solution businesses need to achieve their goals.
The numerous benefits of silicone rubber make it essential for a variety of purposes, including:
- Thermal conductivity
- Resistance to ozone and UV
- Temperature resistance
- Moisture and steam resistance
How Viking Extrusions has promoted the production of silicone rubber extrusions
The production of silicone rubber extrusions has come a long way since the element of silicon was first discovered. From being seen by Kipping as a sticky mess with no practical use, it has become one of the most significant materials across industries. Here at Viking Extrusions, the manufacture and development of new silicone rubber extrusions is at the core of our business. In fact, we have produced over 8,000 silicone rubber profiles for our customers.
Technology and manufacturing equipment is continuing to improve, with 3D printing moulds for silicone now available to save you time and money. No matter the project, we can help. Shop the range of products we create and sell today to find the perfect solution for you or contact us today to get a bespoke quote.