More materials’ companies are coming onboard with materials developed for the Laser Direct Structuring process. The result will be continued penetration of the technology into three-dimensional electronic components. LDS integrates electronic and mechanical functionality into a single module, such as mobile phone and notebook antennas. The ability to integrate antennas, sensors and other functionality into the housing of a device can help drive greater part consolidation and enable slimmer, smaller designs.
LNP, the compounding arm of Sabic’s Innovative Plastics business, says it has developed the first custom colorable compound that can be used in the process. Previously, only black plastic materials were available, often forcing designers to confine LDS components to the device’s interior.
“LDS is a powerful technology for achieving greater miniaturization in mobile phones, notebooks and tablets, but until now, it had aesthetic limitations,” says Cathleen Hess, global product marketing director, LNP, Innovative Plastics. LNP worked with LPKF Laser & Electronics AG, which invented the laser technology, to develop the new material.
LPKF’s LDS technology uses specialized lasers to scribe the circuit layout of a component onto a molded plastic part. The layout is then plated, with the resulting circuit pathway conforming exactly to the laser pattern. Potential application areas include integrated light emitting diodes (LEDs) and connectors.
Suppliers of polymers for the LPKF-LDS Process include RTP, DSM, Lanxess, Chemex, Evonik, Mitsubishi Engineering Plastics, Ticona, Wah Hong Industrial Corp., BASF, Sabic, and EMS-Chemie. The process was commercialized in 1997. There had been earlier attempts to developed molded interconnect devices, but none of the approaches caught on.