In-mold structural electronics (IMSE) are a low-cost alternative to traditional designs and technologies, requiring fewer raw materials and zero assembly while improving product durability and the user experience. But despite these advantages, many manufacturers and molders are unfamiliar with the specifics of IMSE constructions. Sometimes referred to as in-mold electronics (IME), IMSE products combine durable graphics with functional electronics to create complete, one-part solutions for a range of applications. Let’s explore some of the basics of IMSE products and how they can add value to manufacturing operations.

What are in-mold structural electronics (IMSE)?

Known as the perfect union of form and function, IMSE integrates printed, conductive inks with in-mold decorating (IMD). It produces a single finished product that requires a fraction of the space of conventional electronics and eliminates the need for a printed circuit board (PCB). The graphic and functional inks are printed second surface so they are protected behind an applique substrate. The end result is a smaller, sleeker part with all graphics and electronics sealed within the part itself, making it more durable and providing a number of other benefits.

How is IMSE different from IMD?

The two products are similar in appearance, materials used and the user experience. The difference is that in-mold decorating products only include graphics, while IMSE also incorporates electrically functional components as well. In other words, IMSE takes IMD to the next level by introducing functionality into the product.

What are the benefits of IMSE products?

There are many benefits of IMSE products for manufacturers across industries. Compared to conventional electronics constructions, IMSE provides:

  • Fewer parts and a simplified bill of materials (BOM)
  • Reduced assembly time
  • More durable products
  • Lighter, thinner products
  • Maximum weather resistance
  • Superior illumination options
  • More sustainable products
  • Greater design freedom
  • Easier-to-clean products

What are the layers in an IMSE stack-up?

There are multiple structural options that can be used to create IMSE products. Choosing one of these options depends on the specific part being manufactured as each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Possible structures include:

  • 2-Film Structure – Film on top and bottom, injection molding resin in between
  • A-Film Structure – Film on top, injection molding resin on bottom
  • B-Film Structure – Film on bottom, injection molding resin on top

Within these structures, the typical layers of an IMSE part include:

  1. Decorative A Surface Film
  2. A Surface Electronics
  3. Injection Molding Resin
  4. B Surface Electronics
  5. Functional B Surface Film

What kinds of materials are used in IMSE products?

The resins used to create IMSE products are generally the same type of materials as those used for IMD or other injection molding applications. For example, IMSE products are typically printed on polycarbonate and polyester, but DuraTech is not limited to these materials. However, molders must ensure that the resin is compatible with the inks and other substrates used to create the graphic elements or the graphics could be washed away or otherwise damaged. This is why it’s good to work with an experienced printer like DuraTech early in the IMSE product development process to avoid production issues.

Why should I work with DuraTech for IMSE projects?

DuraTech has the experience and technology to help manufacturers across industries create truly excellent IMSE products. We have a long track record of successfully developing IMSE solutions for a wide range of applications and can use our deep experience and technical know-how to craft custom solutions that enhance products and improve manufacturing efficiency.

DuraTech also has a licensing agreement with TactoTek, a deep tech company that specializes in IMSE applications. TactoTek continuously releases technology and product updates that enable newer integrations and optimize cost and manufacturability of IMSE for a wide range of applications. The partnership allows DuraTech to use TactoTek’s patented processes, expert engineers and intellectual property, thereby enhancing and expanding our IMSE offerings to add even greater value for our IMSE customers.

Want to know more about the value in-mold structural electronics (IMSE) can bring to your business? Contact DuraTech today to learn more about our IMSE services.