One of the most promising technological developments in recent years, in-mold electronics are poised to change both electronics and plastics manufacturing. In-mold electronics are devices created by printing with conductive inks and transparent conductive membranes effectively creating an electronic “smart skin” that can be combined with plastics through injection molding. The process is somewhat similar to in-mold decorating.
IME creates the opportunity for the creation of structural electronics, offering complete solutions from a single source – electronics in molded components that are ready for assembly. IME’s show the greatest promise in creating devices and components for human/machine interface particularly in the automotive and consumer electronics markets. IME devices can be manufactured with much less waste than electronics with PCBs and cables, making them much more environmentally friendly. Initial product development has shown that they simply design and installation, greatly reducing both the amount and complexity of wiring. In addition, the possibilities for designs that were not previously possible to create may leave the drawing board and enter our homes. Some of the cool concepts we see industrial designers create may show up in our homes and pockets sooner than we thought.
IMEs are a relatively young tech, only about 5 years old. Currently, they’re not as cost effective as established electronics manufacturing but as the techniques mature, cost-competitiveness is achievable. This is a technology that we’d love to see become more prevalent. We hope one day to be able to add it to our portfolio of innovative manufacturing technologies.
(See below for a video explaining the possibilities of IME from Dupont)