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Think 3D! Molded Interconnect Devices

Laser Activating SurfaceThe introduction of Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) has revolutionized the molded interconnect device market, bringing flexibility to design, enhancing product capability and often at a cost savings. Molded Interconnect Devices (MID). MID’s are injection molded thermoplastic parts with integrated circuit traces. They provide enormous technical and economic potential and offer a remarkable improved ecological behavior in comparison to conventional printed circuit boards, they will however not replace, but complement circuitry that would be impossible to achieve with other technologies. In the laser direct structuring process, a part is normally made from a plastic material containing an LDS additive. The laser prints the conductive trace structures onto the surface. Initially copper and then nickel and gold layers are built up on these structures in a subsequent metallization bath.

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(MID) Molded Interconnect Device key points

Molded Interconnect Device
  • Design Freedom
    • Utilize more part real estate
    • Ease of changes to electrical layout
  • Miniaturization
    • Line width
    • Fine pitch spacing
    • Reduce size and weight of product
    • Requires fewer parts
  • Improved cycle time during development

 

Markets & Applications

Molded Interconnect Design

 

The use of high temperature thermoplastics and their structured metallization opens up a new dimension of circuit carrier design to the electronic industry.

Key markets for the MID-technology are automotive electronics and telecommunication. Besides those, MIDs are also suitable for robotics, computers, household appliances and medical technology. The market is currently showing an annual growth rate of about 20%. MID’s make the assembly between electronic, optic and mechanical elements and user defined shaped circuit carriers possible. They enable entirely new functions and support the miniaturization of electronic products. By eliminating mechanical components, the process chains will be shortened and the reliability is increased. The substrate materials are inherently flame retardant, easily to recycle and more ecologically sound. The novel design and functional possibilities offered by MID and the rationalization potentials of the respective production methods inevitably lead to a quantum leap in electronics production.

Currently, there are three methods for manufacturing LDS circuit carriers:

  1. Mold injected parts from LDS approved materials
  2. Proto painted parts
  3. Powder coated metal parts

Mold Injected Parts

LDS works on many types of plastics. But to solder to them with higher temperatures, it is recommended to use LPKF-LDS approved materials. Below is the part going through its processing life cycle:

Mold Injection Laser Direct Structuring Metallization 3D Assembly

 

Proto Painted Parts

ProtoPaint LDS enables users to quickly and inexpensively create 3D-molded interconnect device prototypes from machined or 3D printed components. LDS-Proto paint is a two part paint that can be mixed for use in an industrial spray gun or can be purchased in aerosol cans. The components created can be structured with the laser, like conventional LDS components. Electronic components can be applied by means of conductive adhesives for assembled prototypes.

Selected Component Proto Painting Laser Direct Structuring Electroless Metal Plating

 

Powder Coated Parts

Powder Coated Parts

This new process allows metal substrates to become circuit carriers, opening up new possibilities in the LDS-Powder Coating process, a metal base substrate, not an LDS plastic, is coated. Powder coating works well on metal surfaces such as steel or aluminum, but it also works on electrically conductive plastics. The powder is applied in an electrostatic process, which guarantees a homogeneous coating of precisely controllable thickness.

The metal substrates assume mechanical functions, aid in heat dissipation, and serve as contacts for the LEDs applied to them. The coated metal parts can be laser-structured and metallized in the same way that plastic parts are.

 

3D Assembly!

Powder Coated Parts

For the final assembly of MID after substrate manufacturing, several further steps are usually necessary. After preparing the MID by applying conductive adhesives or solder paste, components are placed with automated assembly systems, such as the Hydra (3d dispensing and placing system).

Placement is followed by establishing the connections between components and substrate. To enable classical soldering methods, high temperature thermoplastics are necessary. Other plastics can be processed by using low melting point solders, conductive adhesives or selective soldering methods. Research in this area concentrates on material evaluation, characterization of joints, various heating methods and reliability assessments.

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