Integrating functional electronics, lighting and touch controls inside of thin 3D injection molded plastics.

The electronic design process will be defined anew with the IMSE technology from TactoTek™. With this 3D technology, developers can get rid of mechanical buttons and switches, complex multi-part electronics assemblies and replace them with one piece solutions that are thin, light, beautiful, and strong, without compromising functionality. In addition to simplifying electronics integration and enabling new use cases, IMSE parts typically reduce weight by 70%, or more, and wall thickness can be as slim as 2 mm. Studies show that this new technology has huge growth potential across many industries, including automotive, appliances, IoT, and industrial solutions, to name a few.

TactoTek chose Essemtec as their business partner for the key production processes of pick & place and dispensing solutions. In addition to using Essemtec equipment in their own production, TactoTek is recommending Essemtec to their licensed manufacturers who produce IMSE solutions globally.

TactoTek IMSE solutions integrate a mixture of well-known production technologies into a very unique solution that enables mass production of 3D structural electronics. Core IMSE production technologies include flexible circuit printing, surface mounting electronic components, thermoforming, in-mold labeling and injection molding.

TactoTek starts with in-mold labeling (IML) material, or another suitable material, such as natural wood veneer. Decoration, if desired, is then printed. This is followed by printing electronics, including conductive circuitry and, in some designs, touch controls and antennas, too. Electronic components, such as LEDs for illumination, are mounted using standard high speed pick-and-place machinery. Electronics are fixed to the mounting surface using specialised adhesives able to withstand the temperature and pressure associated with injection molding.

With the electronics in place, the electronics carrier is used as an insert for injection molding. Typical molding materials include high pressure, high temperature plastics such as polycarbonate (PC), acrylic (PMMA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and, for flexible designs, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).

Some of the building blocks that can be molded within IMSE parts include:

  • Circuitry—printed flexible circuitry and wiring harness
  • Lighting—single/multi-color indicators, ambient lighting, logo/branding, animated lighting
  • Controls—printed capacitive touch controls molded into plastic surfaces for 1D, 2D and 3D controls
  • Sensors—ambient light, impact, stress, proximity, accelerometer
  • Antennas—NFC, Bluetooth/WLAN antenna
  • Integrated Circuits—MCU, BL

See the process in a video