Better known under the brand name Teflon, the fluoropolymer PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) offers unique properties. An expanded version of the material, ePTFE, was developed by W.L. Gore & Associates and is used in a myriad of products and applications. For instance, in the medical arena, Gore provides such products as synthetic vascular grafts, interventional devices, endovascular stent-grafts, surgical meshes for hernia repair, and sutures for use in vascular, cardiac, general surgery, and oral procedures. PTFE is chemically inert, so medical products made with this material are biocompatible because they do not emit gases. Therefore, the body does not usually reject the devices.
The Gore Capabilities Center, in Newark, Delaware is an exhibit space filled with interactive technology displays that showcase a variety of Gore products and the capabilities behind them.
The company’s expertise in membranes spans to other industries that use its fabric laminates including the GORE-TEX and WINDSTOPPER fabrics worn by medical professionals, fire services, the military and emergency personnel, and outdoor sports enthusiasts. In addition, ePTFE fibers are characterized as having high strength, abrasion resistance, and low shrinkage. They are also resistant to degradation from ultra-violet rays. These fibers are knitted, woven, braided, or sewn into items such as compression packings, sewing thread, architectural fabric, and dental floss.
Other applications include gaskets and sealant products. ePTFE’s resistance to chemicals, abrasion, and temperature extremes make it a good choice in the transport and sealing of industrial fuels.
Furthermore, ePTFE membranes are engineered to provide a variety of efficient filter media that allows air to pass through while trapping particles. The membrane’s chemical inertness and thermal stability make it suitable for filtration conditions in which exposure to harsh chemicals or high temperatures exist. Products in this area include filter bags, cartridges, microfiltration membranes, vents, and absorbent products found in chemical production plants, incinerators, food and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and foundries.
ePTFE properties make it an ideal candidate for insulation for wire and cable. Its porous structure allows signals to travel nearly at the speed of light with minimum loss or distortion. It also offers thermal stability and mechanical flexibility. The company’s electronic products include copper and fiber-based cables, assemblies, printed wiring board materials, conductive interface products, and shielding gaskets.
The Gore Capabilities Center in Newark, DE showcases dozens of products based on the company’s patented expanded fluoropolymer materials. Perhaps one reason why Gore continues to create innovative products is because the corporate culture throughout its worldwide facilities is team-based and hands-on. Its philosophy, initiated by founder Bill Gore, promotes personal initiative and freedom to pursue new product ideas. The company features a non-hierarchical management style, where decisions are based on knowledge, rather than seniority. Associates – not employees — are encouraged by sponsors and leaders – not bosses – to explore, innovate, and make their own commitments. One Gore associate, for instance, performs in a garage band in his free time. He wondered whether there was a way to apply ePTFE to develop a stronger, more durable guitar string. His perseverance and inventiveness resulted in the creation of the most widely used guitar strings in the world used by thousands of musicians.