New Smart Surfaces How to integrate next-generation electronics into almost any surface
Polymer company Covestro and Tactotek jointly developed a demonstration device, the Nighthawk in-mould structural electronics demonstrator with integrated display.
Tacto Tek is a pioneer of in-mold structural electronics (Imse) solutions, a key component of which are the polycarbonate resin and films that give them their structure. Devices which utilize Imse solutions are not only thinner, but also 50-70 percent lighter than those traditional devices. Imse parts have passed the demanding requirements of the automotive industry opening the door to rapid adoption in other markets. Moreover, both cosmetics and functions of Imse parts can be modified without tooling changes supporting efficient localisation and low cost product upgrades.
In addition to the Nighthawk, Covestro launched the Batray overhead control console. These demonstrators are designed to show various in-home and in-car use cases that are not only innovative, but are more eco-friendly because they reduce the number of parts to fulfill a use case, reduce plastics use by up to 70 percent and CO2 emissions by up to 35 percent relative to conventional electronics. In both units, electronics for wiring and touch controls are printed using clean, additive processes, and electronic components are surface mounted on polycarbonate film, which, along with a decorative film is inserted into an injection mold for encapsulation in polycarbonate resin. The result is a single piece, seamless, electronic structure, Imse.
These functional and decorative surfaces include in-mould illumination, and touch controls. The Nighthawk includes a display added after the injection molding process; the Batray includes a printed Bluetooth antenna. This allows designers to seamlessly blend control surfaces with decor in cars, kitchens, bathrooms and industrial workspaces.
The high clarity, low viscosity thermal conductivity of Makrolon polycarbonate resins are key to making these devices possible, while Makrofol polycarbonate films provide UV and scratch resistance. Reducing the complexity of the material stack of any device increases the potential for efficient separation and recycling.