In-Mold Electronics: the transition from art to platform technology: Page 4 of 5

April 26, 2019 //By Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh
In-Mold Electronics
In-Mold Electronics (IME) is a technology for structurally integrating electronic functionality into 3D-shaped parts. The value proposition is compelling: the technology enables novel and elegant designs, reduces weight and saves space, and decrease part and assembly numbers.

The substrate suppliers must ensure that they remain in the qualification process. PC is the common material of choice today, but it does not have to be so forever. Indeed, alternatives are emerging that seek to offer sufficient formability whilst beating PC on cost, solvent resistance, and other features. Moulding material suppliers too need to invest in R&D to develop tailored materials that relax the process conditions.

Benefits will propagate back into the value chain: the conditions that pastes have to withstand will be relaxed; the processing conditions become easier and thus yield will likely improve. Companies capable of screen-printing functional inks, e.g., force sensor makers or membrane switch producers, are also now considering evolving their businesses and adding forming capabilities. Some have taken the first initial steps whereas others are waiting on the fence for the technology to become more mature and de-risked. Large contract manufacturers have also been experimenting with the technology to build in-house know-how. The molding experience is also expanding. This too is non-trivial as often relatively voluminous parts are required (e.g., IME part can be a small subset of a major molded piece). Software firms are engaging with technology hubs to develop tools that will streamline the design process. End users are also engaged in concept and product design.

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