Example of electronics on a thermoformed substrate by Fraunhofer IVV at K Show 2019. This work in 3D electronics was done with multiple notable partners including Fujikura Kasei and Heraeus. Photo: IDTechEx
In-mold electronics (IME) - or in-mold structural electronics (IMSE) - is about to enter a period of rapid revenue growth, with IDTechEx forecasting the overall market to exceed $1bn within a decade.
This article will highlight some of the key indicators and market opportunities; for more information see the market report: In-Mold Electronics 2019-2029: Technology Market Forecasts, Players.
IME is the idea of introducing your electronics on a 2D substrate before thermoforming this into your final 3D part. A previous article goes into more detail around the process and associated technology hurdles. However, with many of these challenges overcome, the market will outdo its previous false-start and come to the commercial forefront.
The key indicators for this come from the market leaders TactoTek. In September 2019, they secured another prestigious licensee in the Korean giant LS Automotive, and along with fellow licensee Faurecia, this shows a clear direction into human machine interfaces for automotive interiors. To date, the most notable product is in a wearable device. Nanogate, another licensee, reported to IDTechEx that 2020 will see their first commercial production (>100,000 units pa), again not in an automotive application.
Progress is not complete, with advancements in material requirements, electrical connections, scale, software, control brightness and more all being developed. TactoTek are not alone in developing this industry, not only are there other competitive processes to 3D electronics, but there are other players and research institutes (image below) continually developing this. In addition, it is evident that many large players are aligning themselves with this technology for the upcoming take-off. More information on all the players, technology, competitive processes and market projections can be seen in the report.
So what will the key markets be?
As discussed earlier, IDTechEx expect automotive interior applications, for things like overhead control units, will be the major high-volume orders in the medium-term. The shorter-term will be in consumer electronics and other industries that can bring a product to market much faster.
In the longer-term, not only will they infiltrate across the more affordable transportation, but are also expected to be seen in even more everyday devices. This includes opportunities in household appliances and white goods.
The IDTechEx Show! in Santa Clara, USA (November 20-21 2019) is the premier event for printed electronics worldwide. This event includes co-located conferences and a large exhibition theatre with 3D printed electronics and in-mold electronics both taking prominent roles. Visit: www.PrintedElectronicsUSA.com for more.