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Maximum hygiene and formability with flexible electronics in injection molded products

A very exciting technique is coming: flexible electronics in injection molded products. This technology makes it possible to integrate electronics on a flexible medium directly into an injection molded product. This way, plastic products get an electronic touch-sensitive surface, are completely hygienic and can be made in any 3D shape. Ideal for, for example, home electronics, the automotive and medical industry. Alligator Plastics heavily invests in this innovation. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.

Printing electronic circuits and planning the chips and components on a flexible film is nothing new. Integrating these flexible electronics in a vacuum-formed plate of plastic is also already a thing. The result is a plastic product with an electronic touch-sensitive surface. ‘That’s nice, but it has its limits’, Alesandro Fenu, manager engineering of Alligator Plastics, says. ‘Because of the vacuum forming technique, the product can’t ever be fully 3D and will always require a finishing process. You also can’t just use any type of plastic, the technique is not viable for serial production and you can’t integrate features like screw connections and click systems.’ Together with his team, Alessandro speeds up an innovation which, according to him, is much needed in the entire world of tech: flexible electronics in injection molded products.

Advantages

The big difference with vacuum forming is that with injection molding, nearly any 3D shape can be realized. The flexible film with electronics is put in a mold, after which the plastic product is formed around it using injection molding. The injection molded product with integrated electronics rolls off the conveyor belt ready-made and generally doesn’t require a finishing process. Alessandro: ‘The product has no moving parts and no buttons that can gather dust or dirt. You have one closed product with electronics hidden behind it. It’s easy to clean, so completely hygienic, and few things can be broken during use, you can practically use any type of plastic and you have complete 3D design freedom. This technology is incredibly promising.

Opportunity

Alligator works hard on the development of this technology into a ‘producible process’. ‘During the injection molding, there’s a much greater pressure on the flexible electronics than during vacuum forming’, Alessandro states. The upcoming time, tests will show whether the electronics can withstand this pressure. ‘We have plenty of experience in innovating, but we don’t want to give the impression that we can easily and quickly manage this. We do, however, see this innovation as an enormous challenge and opportunity. That’s why we enjoy collaborating with other tech companies and manufacturers to put this technique in practice. We already have a partnership with, among others, Quad Industry, specialist in flexible electronics. But I can imagine that a manufacturer of medical equipment, companies in the automotive or other lines of business also have ideas about how they’d use this innovation for their products. We’re interested in every great idea. So bring it on’, Alessandro declares.

Interested? Call or email one of our sales managers at +31(0)407023700 or info@alligator-plastics.nl.