Bluestar Silicones is a leading silicone supplier with a long-term commitment to the healthcare market, backed by investment in facilities and personnel in Europe, the US and China. Global business manager Bertrand Bordes explains how the company is pursuing further areas of product development to improve patient comfort and contribute towards managing healthcare costs.

What are your key global markets for healthcare, and how do you maintain close relationships with customers?

Bertrand Bordes: We are active in healthcare worldwide, mostly through our trademark Silbione, which covers very specific biocompatibility requirements. Dental, orthotics and prosthetics have historically been our core markets, but we are also developing significantly in other areas such as soft skin adhesives, parts for medical devices, and long-term implants. We have a worldwide presence, through our regional sales teams and our distribution network.

With this focus on customer service, to what extent can you tailor your products to clients’ individual needs?

Many of our customers are looking for differentiation, and we work hand-in-hand with them to find solutions specific to their needs. This is where our regional technical service teams come in, making direct visits to the customers so we can adapt our products based upon their requirements. Customisation may mean varying the characteristics of the silicone (such as kinetics, solutions for adhesion or odour) and includes options such as security plans, quality-approval processes, specific regulatory support or delivery schemes.

We are sensitive to management of change, and our local approach and manufacturing in specialised facilities makes us very flexible. In fact, we currently sell more customised products than standard.

What are your latest developments?

We’re currently taking a huge strategic step to provide the market with an alternative in the field of long-term implants (those that stay inside the body longer than 29 days). We are building this capability and introducing a new product line based on high-quality raw materials. We already have master access on file with the US FDA for our liquid-silicone rubbers; we are paying a lot of attention to the technical performance of the product, and our manufacturing, quality and contamination management protocols.

You mentioned that orthotics and prosthetics are key sectors for you. How are you developing your offering in these areas?

We have a significant presence in orthotics and prosthetics, with several benchmark products for the industry within applications such as external breast prosthesis, cushioning products, shoe insoles and podology. We are now growing in the direction of even better comfort for the patient, such as lowering the density of our products, and we have extended this concept to our elastomers. The use of silicone in settings such as homecare and sports applications is increasing: here the cushioning effect of silicones is really beneficial and our lightweight products could further improve comfort.

How are you improving your silicone products within wound care?

Silicone dressings are well known for being atraumatic and caring for people with damaged or fragile skin. Bluestar Silicones has its own industrial facility for developing such products, and we have been very receptive to the demand for a higher level of adhesion between the dressing and the patient’s skin. Designers of wound dressings are using our soft gels in combination with a variety of substrates and coating technologies to develop the next generation of atraumatic products. We are also responding to the consumer desire for dressings for less severe wounds, issuing some versatile new products for over-the-counter plasters. We are now addressing the needs of wearable-electronics developers that see a good fit between silicone technology and their needs for durable adhesion onto the skin.

With pressure on healthcare providers to maintain tight budgets, how can using silicones help improve cost and time-efficiency?

The first reaction to silicone from a price perspective might be that it is a costly material, but from working with our customers, we know that silicone can actually help manage the overall cost of patient care. Silicone offers long-lasting benefits including biocompatiblilty and improved patient comfort, which support the current trend towards care at home.

There is also a new – potentially high-gross – direction of silicone within drug delivery. As drug administration moves away from oral pills towards delivering the drug precisely where it is needed inside the body, silicone can act as a host matrix for a variety of drugs. Our teams are collaborating with combination-device manufacturers to select the ideal silicon matrix for their needs. This field obviously crosses over with our foray into long-term implants.