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Improving the functionality of small consumer electronics

21 November 2008

As electronics continue to shrink in size, they are also expanding in functionality. Each new mobile phone, PDA and music player incorporates more bells and whistles in thinner, smaller packages. To help device manufacturers miniaturise, SABIC Innovative Plastics and LPKF Laser & Electronics have worked together to develop a new approach. By combining LPKF’s Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) technology with SABIC Innovative Plastics materials, it is now possible to integrate electronic and mechanical functionality – such as a mobile phone antenna – in a single module, saving space and reducing manufacturing costs and development lead time.

Replacing printed circuit boards, harness and metal inserts that require significant space within a device is critical to electronics manufacturers. Today OEMS are using molded interconnect devices, which integrate circuit tracks into the plastics part, that are created using LDS technology. The laser sculpts an intricate, three-dimensional structure on the molded plastic housing in preparation for metallization. Only special plastics that can be metallised are suitable for LDS technology.

SABIC Innovative Plastics has developed a full portfolio of these special plastics with LDS-enabled LNP compounds based on polyphthalamide (PPA), polyphenylene oxide (PPO), nylon and polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC/ABS).

The benefits of LDS technology also include reduced environmental impact compared to traditional etching because no caustic chemicals are required; and lower tooling costs because one-component injection moulding can be used instead of two-component injection moulding.

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