The availability of silicone, fluorosilicone, and other high performance elastomers has improved since 2022, and Stockwell Elastomerics predicts continued improvement throughout the rest of 2023. We don’t have a crystal ball, of course, but the last two quarters have brought relative price stability compared to the last two years. That’s mainly because many of the raw material inputs that are farther up the supply chain are now more available. There are still some bottlenecks, of course, but they’re typically downstream of the raw material inputs.
Although there’s still some tightness in the supply of some silicone grades, many suppliers are no longer formally allocating materials to North American customers. For example, Rogers Corporation is supplying more BISCO® HT-800 silicone foam and BISCO® HT-840 extra-firm silicone foam. NORSEAL® silicone foams from Saint-Gobain have decreasing lead times. Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) supply has improved dramatically compared to just 1 year ago. Lead-times are still higher than historical, but the amount available and the reliability of order arrival is improving. As a converter for these and other silicone materials, that’s good news for Stockwell Elastomerics, and for our customers.
Meanwhile, we’re continuing to invest aggressively in inventory to keep up with customer demand. In the last year and a half, Stockwell Elastomerics has increased its inventory dollars by more than 40%. We have aggressive orders in for most common materials to keep up with forecasted customer demand. Despite these approaches, admittedly, we are still not able to meet all of our customer needs. For applications where dual qualification is possible, we’re continuing to work with our supplier partners to qualify alternate materials so that we can meet our customers’ needs.
Stockwell Elastomerics has worked closely with our customers and supplier partners to manage alternate component formulations when possible. The Applications Engineering Team, the Sales Engineering Team, and the Customer Service department have prioritized these efforts to make sure that there is timely information going to our customers. Stockwell Elastomerics increased the technical resources dedicated to testing materials and working with our partners to validate product performance. If a supplier is unable to provide an alternate material, we’ll contact a different supplier for a comparable option.
Longer term, we still believe that there are still some structural supply chain issues that need to be addressed. Specifically, increased North American production of silicon metal – the main chemical element used to make silicones – is critical for long term supply stability. Stockwell Elastomerics encourages upstream producers to continue to add new capacity to support future demand, and to maintain their current capacity to ensure longer-term material availability. In many public forums, Stockwell Elastomerics and our partners have advocated for a longer term view of investment and expansion of regional North America capacity.
For now, demand for silicone rubber gaskets, silicone pads and sealing devices will continue to rise. High-growth markets for silicone products include the medical, aerospace, electronics and commercial construction industries. Please contact Stockwell Elastomerics for more information. Current customers can reach out to the Stockwell Elastomerics team member you have worked with to solve your gasketing and sealing requirements.
– Tom Rimel
President, Stockwell Elastomerics
BISCO® is a registered trademark of Rogers Corporation.
NORSEAL® is a registered trademark of Saint-Gobain.