Overview of IMSE

In-mold structural electronics (IMSE) is the combination of a printed graphic, printed electronic traces and injection molding. The end product is a functional, durable part. You may encounter IMSE parts as the functional display on an oven or washing machine, control panels in the automotive industry or heaters in snow plow headlights.

IMSE vs Conventional

Conventional electronics are comprised of multiple pieces, which can make the part bulky and limit design freedom. IMSE, on the other hand, can be comprised of one molded part and PCBA. With part thickness as little as 4mm and weighing only 140g, IMSE is optimal for space limitations. IMSE is Single Part Integrated, which allows for design freedom, ease of integration and reduces complexity of the part.

Purpose of Case Study

The purpose of this case study is to help identify areas where IMSE would make sense over conventional electronics. It is also meant to serve as a tool for organizations that are thinking of bringing IMSE technology into their project but are not sure if it is the right fit.

IMSE Options

IMSE offers many interactive and programmable options. Your part can include HMI controls, illumination, resistive heating elements, connectivity and integrated control electronics (SIP).

HMI Controls:
  • Touch buttons
  • Linear and radial sliders
  • Multi touch control
  • Scroll wheels with adjustable detents and infinity scrolling
  • Haptics (volume, sound and vibration)
  • Programmable switches – change haptics and sensitivity
  • LED indicators and smooth icon backlighting
  • Functional, ambient and large area illumination
  • Single point and diffused LED lighting
  • Static or dynamic light line

Image via TactoTek

Resistive Heating Elements:
  • Lens defrosting
  • Traffic control lights deicer
  • Solar panels deicer
  • Headlamp heater for snowplows, UTVs, locomotives and LiDAR
  • Lab equipment warming
  • Wi-Fi
  • BlueTooth
  • Near Field Communication tags
Integrated Control Electronics (SIP):
  • Control electronics within IMSE part
  • IMSE part connected directly to host system
  • Digital interface between IMSE part and host system and connector options: crimp connector or flex tail.

Image via TactoTek

When would you choose IMSE over conventional electronics?

There are several reasons why you would opt for IMSE over conventional electronics. IMSE offers a cost advantage. By integrating multiple functions into a single part, the need for additional components is eliminated, which reduces manufacturing costs.

IMSE provides the benefit of weight reduction and space optimization. IMSE allows for the seamless integration of switches and buttons without cracks or crevices. This reduces weight and prevents the accumulation of dirt and bacteria, making it easier to clean and maintain.

Another key advantage of IMSE is its compatibility with thin heating elements. Whether it’s LED headlights or defrosting systems, IMSE enables the creation of heating elements while ensuring efficient and effective performance. This feature is particularly valuable in products where space is limited or a sleek design is desired.

When it comes to durability and weather resistance, IMSE is preferred over conventional electronics. It serves as a solid-state replacement for membrane switches. This makes it a great option for outdoor parts that are exposed to a variety of environmental conditions. The robust construction of IMSE ensures longevity and reliability, even in harsh weather environments.

Choosing IMSE aligns with sustainability goals. IMSE significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 34% and decreases plastic usage by up to 70% compared to conventional electronics. This environmental advantage makes IMSE an appealing option for those aiming to develop sustainable products and reduce their ecological footprint.

The advantages of IMSE, including cost reduction, weight optimization, cleanliness, compatibility with thin heating elements, weather resistance and sustainability, make it an optimal choice over conventional electronics in various industries and applications.

Benefits of IMSE:

  • Cost reduction: IMSE can reduce costs with lower tooling investment, less assembly steps, fewer total parts to order and inventory, reduced supply chain management, less costs associated with shipping and logistics and efficient variant management.
  • Design freedom: IMSE allows for more design freedom. Inks and substrates used in IMSE can conform into complex, thin shapes allowing for more 3D design latitude.
  • Market differentiation: IMSE allows for market differentiation.
  • Reduced weight: IMSE parts weigh up to 70% less than conventional electronics and assembly depth is reduced up to 90%.
  • Reduced BOM: The BOM for an IMSE part is reduced and the ease of manufacturing is increased.
  • Durability: IMSE parts are more durable because they are encapsulated in resin to protect them from the environment.
  • Reduced real estate: The IMSE PCB can be significantly smaller since it doesn’t have to be behind all the switches and lights.

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