How Silicone Rubber is Produced: A Comprehensive Guide

Silicone rubber, a versatile material with applications ranging from household items to industrial components, has become an indispensable part of modern life. Its unique properties, such as heat resistance, flexibility, and durability, make it suitable for a wide range of uses. But how is this remarkable material produced? In this blog post, we will delve into the intricate process of silicone rubber production, from raw materials to finished products.

Understanding Silicone Rubber

Silicone rubber is a synthetic elastomer composed primarily of silicon, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. Unlike organic rubbers, which are carbon-based, silicone rubber is based on a backbone of alternating silicon and oxygen atoms, known as siloxane bonds. This structure imparts several advantageous properties to silicone rubber, including high thermal stability, excellent electrical insulation, and resistance to weathering and chemicals. These characteristics make silicone rubber an ideal choice for applications that require long-term durability under extreme conditions. Furthermore, silicone rubber is known for its biocompatibility, making it suitable for medical devices and implants. The combination of these unique properties has led to its widespread use in various industries, from automotive and aerospace to healthcare and electronics.

silicone raw material

(1) The Raw Materials

The primary raw material for silicone rubber is silicon, derived from silica (silicon dioxide), which is abundant in sand and quartz. The production process begins with the extraction and purification of silicon.

(2) Extraction of Silicon

Mining and refining: Silicon is obtained from silica through a process called carbothermic reduction. In this process, silica is mixed with carbon (usually in the form of coal or coke) and heated in an electric arc furnace at temperatures above 2000 °C. This reaction produces silicon metal and carbon dioxide. The quality of the silicon produced at this stage is crucial, as it determines the purity and performance of the final silicone rubber.

Purification: The crude silicon obtained is then refined to remove impurities, achieving a purity level suitable for industrial use. High-purity silicon is essential for applications that demand exceptional performance, such as in the electronics and medical fields. Advanced purification techniques, such as zone refining or chemical vapor deposition, may be employed to achieve the necessary purity levels.

(3) Production of Siloxane

Hydrochlorination: The refined silicon is reacted with methyl chloride in the presence of a copper catalyst to produce a mixture of methylchlorosilanes, primarily dimethyldichlorosilane. This step is critical as it forms the building blocks for silicone polymers.

Hydrolysis and Condensation: Dimethyldichlorosilane is hydrolyzed with water to form a mixture of cyclic and linear siloxanes. These siloxanes are then subjected to condensation reactions to form polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), the base polymer for silicone rubber. The molecular weight and structure of PDMS can be controlled during this process to tailor the properties of the final silicone rubber, such as its viscosity, elasticity, and thermal stability.

(4) Compounding: Creating Silicone Rubber

The base polymer, PDMS, is combined with various additives to create silicone rubber with desired properties. This step is known as compounding and involves the following components:


Reinforcing Fillers: These include materials like fumed silica or precipitated silica, which enhance the mechanical properties of silicone rubber, such as tensile strength and tear resistance. The choice of filler and its concentration can significantly influence the performance characteristics of the final product.

Non-reinforcing fillers: These fillers, such as calcium carbonate or aluminum hydroxide, are used to reduce cost and modify specific properties like hardness and density. Non-reinforcing fillers also play a role in improving the processability of the silicone compound during manufacturing.

Curing Agents:

Silicone rubber requires curing agents to convert it from a pliable material to a durable elastomer. Common curing systems include:

Peroxide Curing: Organic peroxides are added to the silicone compound, which decompose upon heating to form free radicals that initiate cross-linking. This method provides good heat resistance and is commonly used in high-temperature applications.

Platinum-Catalyzed Addition Curing: This system uses a platinum catalyst to facilitate the addition reaction between vinyl groups and hydride groups, resulting in cross-linking. This method offers excellent control over the curing process and is preferred for applications requiring high precision and purity, such as medical and food-grade products.

(5) Modifiers and Additives:

Various modifiers and additives are incorporated to tailor the properties of silicone rubber. These can include:

Colorants: Pigments and dyes are added to achieve the desired color. The stability of these colorants under processing conditions and their compatibility with the silicone matrix are critical considerations.

Flame Retardants: To enhance fire resistance, materials like antimony trioxide or halogenated compounds are used. These additives help silicone rubber meet stringent fire safety standards required in certain applications, such as in construction and transportation.

Heat Stabilizers: To improve thermal stability, stabilizers such as iron oxide or cerium oxide are added. These additives protect the silicone rubber from degradation at high temperatures, extending the service life of the products.

(6) Mixing and Forming

Once the silicone rubber compound is prepared, it undergoes mixing and forming processes to shape it into the desired products.


The compounding ingredients are thoroughly mixed to ensure uniform distribution of fillers, curing agents, and additives. This is typically done using a two-roll mill or an internal mixer, where the ingredients are blended until a homogeneous mixture is achieved. The quality of mixing is crucial for ensuring the consistency and performance of the final product. Advanced mixing techniques, such as high-shear mixing or twin-screw extrusion, may be used to achieve optimal dispersion of the components.


Extrusion: In this process, the silicone compound is forced through a die to create continuous shapes such as tubes, rods, or sheets. The extruded material is then vulcanized (cured) to set its shape. Extrusion allows for the production of long, continuous profiles that can be cut to length for various applications.

Molding: Silicone rubber can be molded into complex shapes using techniques such as compression molding, injection molding, or transfer molding. The compound is placed into a mold cavity, and heat and pressure are applied to cure the rubber. Molding enables the production of intricate and precise parts, essential for applications like gaskets, seals, and medical devices.

Calendering: For producing thin sheets or films, the silicone compound is passed through a series of rollers to achieve the desired thickness. The calendered material is then cured to finalize its form. Calendering is ideal for manufacturing flat, uniform products such as membranes, conveyor belts, and protective liners.

(7) Curing: Solidifying the Silicone Rubber

Curing is a crucial step in silicone rubber production, where the material undergoes a chemical transformation to achieve its final properties. Depending on the curing system used, the process can vary:

Peroxide Curing:

The silicone compound is heated to a specific temperature, typically between 160 and 200 °C, to decompose the peroxide curing agent. This decomposition generates free radicals that initiate cross-linking, converting the silicone into a solid elastomer. The curing conditions, such as time and temperature, must be carefully controlled to ensure complete curing and optimal properties.

Addition Curing:

In this system, the curing occurs at lower temperatures, often between 100 and 150 °C. The platinum catalyst facilitates the addition reaction between vinyl and hydride groups, forming cross-links and solidifying the silicone rubber. Addition curing offers precise control over the curing process, making it suitable for high-performance and critical applications.

Room Temperature Vulcanizing (RTV):

For some applications, room temperature vulcanizing silicone rubbers are used. These materials cure at ambient conditions without the need for additional heat. RTV silicones are commonly used in sealants and adhesives due to their ease of application and ability to cure in situ. They are ideal for applications where heat curing is not feasible, such as on-site repairs and bonding.

Post-Processing and Quality Control

After curing, the silicone rubber products undergo various post-processing steps to ensure they meet quality standards and specifications.

Trimming and Finishing:

Excess material from the molding or extrusion process is trimmed away, and the products are finished to achieve the desired surface quality. This can involve processes such as deflashing, grinding, or polishing. These steps are essential for ensuring the aesthetic and functional quality of the products, especially for consumer-facing and high-precision applications.

Quality Control:

Rigorous quality control measures are implemented to ensure the silicone rubber products meet the required standards. This includes testing for properties such as tensile strength, elongation, hardness, and thermal stability. Analytical techniques like Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA) are used to verify the chemical composition and thermal behavior of the materials. Quality control also involves inspecting the products for defects, dimensional accuracy, and consistency to ensure they meet customer specifications and regulatory requirements.

What Applications of Silicone Rubber?

Silicone rubber’s unique properties make it suitable for a wide range of applications across various industries:

• Automotive:

Silicone rubber is used in automotive components such as gaskets, seals, hoses, and ignition cables due to its heat resistance and durability. It helps improve vehicle performance and safety by maintaining its properties under harsh engine conditions.

• Medical:

In the medical field, silicone rubber is utilized for making implants, catheters, tubing, and other devices due to its biocompatibility and flexibility. It plays a critical role in ensuring patient safety and comfort, and its ability to withstand sterilization processes makes it ideal for medical applications.

• Electronics:

Silicone rubber is employed in electronic applications for insulating and protecting components from heat, moisture, and environmental factors. It is used in connectors, keypads, and sealants, providing reliability and longevity in electronic devices.

• Consumer Goods:

Household items like bakeware, kitchen utensils, and baby products often feature silicone rubber due to its non-toxicity, heat resistance, and ease of cleaning. Silicone rubber enhances the functionality and safety of these products, making them more convenient and user-friendly.

• Industrial:

In industrial settings, silicone rubber is used for making seals, gaskets, and hoses that need to withstand harsh conditions and chemical exposure. Its resilience and durability make it suitable for demanding industrial applications, ensuring reliable performance and reducing maintenance costs.

medical industry

Consumer Goods






The production of silicone rubber is a complex process that involves the transformation of raw materials into a versatile and valuable material. From the extraction of silicon to the compounding, forming, and curing stages, each step is crucial in ensuring the quality and performance of the final product. Silicone rubber’s unique properties and wide range of applications make it an essential material in numerous industries, contributing to the advancement of technology and improving everyday life.

By understanding the production process of silicone rubber, we can appreciate the intricate science and engineering behind this remarkable material, and the innovative applications it enables. The continued development and refinement of silicone rubber technology promise even greater advancements and expanded uses in the future, driving progress and enhancing the quality of life in countless ways.

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