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Market Research Report

In-Mold Electronics 2020-2030: Technology, Market Forecasts, Players

Published by IDTechEx Ltd. Product code 929394
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In-Mold Electronics 2020-2030: Technology, Market Forecasts, Players
Published: March 13, 2020 Content info: 202 Slides

In-Mold Electronics 2020-2030: Technology, Market Forecasts, Players
Technical assessment of manufacturing process and material requirements; market outlook for applications and players; study of competitive routes to 3D electronics.

IDTechEx has a long legacy in the field of printed electronics and has been analysing the forefront of this field. We have also been studying technical and commercial developments relating to 3D-shaped electronics and structural electronics including In Mold Electronics (IME) for more than five years. We know all the key players across the value chain. The information for this new report is obtained through extensive interview-based technical primary research.

IME is a process of integrating printed decorations and electronic circuitry with thermoforming and molding. The results are 3D-shaped objects with embedded circuits and optical guides of differing degrees of complexity.

This report suggests that IME can become a market larger than $750m by 2028. The market take-off will however occur only around 2023 or 2024. Note that IME is part of the global emerging trend to 3D structural electronics and the progression away from the rudimentary solution of components encased in a box.

Challenges and Innovation Opportunities

The capacity to print electronic circuitry on a 2D substrate prior to converting this into a functional 3D part represents many manufacturing and material challenges and innovation/development opportunities. This report covers the commercial and emerging solutions from the key players as this technology progresses from R&D to gaining high-volume end-user success.

On the material side, the conductive inks will need to survive the forming and molding steps, the cross-overs will need to do the same and remain pin-hole free, the adhesives will need to support some degree of elongation, and so on. All the materials in the stack will need to work closely with one another. Indeed, the stack composition and sequence will need to be carefully optimized. The choice of the substrate, the molding material, and even the IC layout and package design will also have bearings on the entire system design and production process flow.

Reliability will also need to be proven under real field conditions to avoid setback scenarios such as those encountered by the Ford IME overheat product. This is important not just because target markets include automotive interiors and exteriors, but also because there will be little post-deployment repair opportunities given the embedded nature of the electronics and optical guides.

The process steps also have a relatively steep learning curve even for those who come with a background in in-mold decoration. The design-to-production process is also not yet completely seamless and necessities many expert interventions at every stage. Indeed, despite the technology not being young, its successful realization currently resembles a black art. The report, however, outlines the roadmap, arguing that in time the technology can become an accessible platform technology.

This report examines the current situation in terms of material performance, supply chain, process know-how, and application development progress. It also analyses the key bottlenecks and innovation opportunities.

The material suppliers who started early engagement are well positioned to reap the rewards when the first wave of products hits the market. This is because the product designs will be, to some extent, make around the characteristics of their materials, which will act as a temporary lock-in mechanism and switching barrier. Over the long-term, this barrier will relax as performance requirements become more standardized. The developers who started early are also strongly positioned. This is because IME entails a learning curve, and optimized lines can therefore not be set up and operated overnight.

Commercial Progress

The prototypes have been diverse, ranging from simple devices for wearable technology, automotive light heating, antennas, and white goods touchpads to more complex sensors, actuators, and displays.

The first commercial product was released in 2012/2013, an overhead console in Ford. This success story soon turned sour as the product was recalled due to malfunction. The underlying reasons were never officially confirmed but were generally attributed to false reading caused by moisture ingress. This well-known story demonstrates the long-standing market pull. It also demonstrates that to save costs, corners should not be cut by, for example, simplifying the material stack and reducing essential process steps.

The market deployment is, this time around, likely to start with simpler products. One example is in the automotive exterior. Here, an emerging example is in the heaters embedded in light covers to accelerate defrosting when energy-saving LED lights are employed. Such products as retrofits are already available for purchase. Another automotive example is the interior. Here, transparent foils printed with fine metal mesh and conductive lines are conformed to a 3D shape to create a HVAC control panel. This process is very similar to a classic IME.

Yet another interesting example is the use of carbon nanostructure (carbon nanobuds) to create 3D-shaped uniform transparent heaters for use in ADAS and autonomous driving perception sensors such as cameras or lidars. Another example is in a wearable/consumer product in which a simpler interconnect is molded. This product was rumoured to already be in production, but IDTechEx analysts believe this was not the case. Recently, a remote door lock switch was announced using IME.

In general, the first generation of products to have reached the market, or to have come very close, represents simpler manifestations of IME. Of course, in terms of prototypes, complex system incorporating multiple LEDs, light guides, many touch switches or slides, NFC antennas, etc. are demonstrated. These show the future development direction

Overall, the market is beginning to change character towards product production. IDTechEx expects the market to show accelerated growth from 2023/2024 onwards, starting from simpler small-area devices then progressing towards more complex larger-area and higher-volume applications with more stringent reliability requirement. To learn more about this technology, key challenges and innovation opportunities, all the key players across the value chain, the latest prototype and products, as well as existing and future market forecasts please consult this report.

Note that IME is not the only technological solution to 3D electronics. Aerosol jet printing, Mold Interconnected Devices (including laser direct structuring, two-shot molding, and film inserting), and 3D printing electronics are all rapidly emerging and gaining traction. This report benchmarks these technologies and looks at some of the key players and latest advancements.

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Table of Contents



  • 1.1. Introduction to in-mold electronics (IME)
  • 1.2. Commercial advantages and challenges of IME
  • 1.3. The route to commercialisation
  • 1.4. Overview of key players across the supply chain
  • 1.5. IME market forecast - application
  • 1.6. Benchmarking competitive processes to 3D electronics


  • 2.1. What is in-mold electronics (IME)?
  • 2.2. IME: 3D friendly process for circuit making
  • 2.3. What is the in-mold electronic process?
  • 2.4. InMold Electronics production: required equipment set
  • 2.5. InMold Decoration production: required equipment set
  • 2.6. Processing conditions: traditional electronics vs. IME
  • 2.7. Comments on requirements


  • 3.1. IME: value transfer from PCB board to ink
  • 3.2. New ink requirements: stretchability
  • 3.3. Evolution and improvements in performance of stretchable conductive inks
  • 3.4. Performance of stretchable conductive inks
  • 3.5. Bridging the conductivity gap between printed electronics and IME inks
  • 3.6. The role of particle size in stretchable inks
  • 3.7. Elantas: selecting right fillers and binders to improve stretchability
  • 3.8. E2IP Technologies/GGI Solutions: particle-free IME inks
  • 3.9. The role of resin in stretchable inks
  • 3.10. New ink requirements: portfolio approach
  • 3.11. Diversity of material portfolio
  • 3.12. All materials in the stack must be compatible: conductivity perspective
  • 3.13. All materials in the stack must be compatible: forming perspective
  • 3.14. New ink requirements: surviving heat stress
  • 3.15. New ink requirements: stability
  • 3.16. All materials in the stack must be reliable
  • 3.17. Design: general observations
  • 3.18. SMD assembly: before or after forming
  • 3.19. The need for formable conductive adhesives
  • 3.20. Using Cu foils similar to PCB industry
  • 3.21. The need for formable conductive adhesives
  • 3.22. Adhesive
  • 3.23. Conductive adhesives: general requirements and challenges
  • 3.24. Different types of conductive adhesives
  • 3.25. Electrically Conductive Adhesives
  • 3.26. Conductive adhesives: surviving the IME process
  • 3.27. Attaching components to low temperature substrates
  • 3.28. AlphaAssembly: Low temperature solder
  • 3.29. Low temperature solder alloys
  • 3.30. Low temperature soldering
  • 3.31. Conductive paste bumping on flexible substrates
  • 3.32. Ag pasted for die attachment.
  • 3.33. Safi-Tech: Ambient soldering with core-shell nanoparticles
  • 3.34. Photonic soldering: A step up from sintering
  • 3.35. Photonic soldering: Prospects and challenges
  • 3.36. Photonic soldering: Substrate dependence.
  • 3.37. Electrically conductive adhesives: A simple low temperature option?
  • 3.38. Cross-overs
  • 3.39. Multilayer circuits: need for cross-overs in IME devices
  • 3.40. Cross-over dielectric: requirements
  • 3.41. Cross-over dielectric: flexibility tests


  • 4.1. Stretchable carbon nanotube transparent conducting films
  • 4.2. Prototype examples of carbon nanotube in-mold transparent conductive films
  • 4.3. 3D touch using carbon nanobudes
  • 4.4. Prototype examples of in-mold and stretchable PEDOT:PSS transparent conductive films
  • 4.5. In-mold and stretchable metal mesh transparent conductive films
  • 4.6. Other in-mold transparent conductive film technologies
  • 4.7. Beyond IME conductive inks: adhesives
  • 4.8. Heaters
  • 4.9. Growing need for 3D shaped transparent heater in automotive
  • 4.10. CNBs: Insert film molding for 3D-shaped sensor transparent heaters
  • 4.11. Benchmarking CNT 3D-shaped molded transparent heaters
  • 4.12. Ultra fine metal mesh as transparent heater
  • 4.13. Feature control capability of ultra fine metal mesh as transparent heater
  • 4.14. Technology roadmap of ultra fine metal mesh as transparent heater
  • 4.15. Substrates
  • 4.16. One-film vs Two-film approach
  • 4.17. Different molding materials and conditions
  • 4.18. Special PET as alternative to common PC?
  • 4.19. Can TPU also be a substrate?
  • 4.20. Other: IC package requirement, software
  • 4.21. IC package requirements
  • 4.22. Special design software


  • 5.1. Beyond conductive inks: thermoformed polymeric actuator?
  • 5.2. Thermoformed 3D shaped reflective LCD display
  • 5.3. Thermoformed 3D shaped RGD AMOLED with LTPS
  • 5.4. Molding electronics in 3D shaped composites


  • 6.1. In-mold electronic application: automotive
  • 6.2. HMI: trend towards 3D touch surfaces
  • 6.3. Addressable market in vehicle interiors in 2020 and 2025
  • 6.4. Automotive: In-Mold Decoration product examples
  • 6.5. White goods, medical and industrial control (HMI)
  • 6.6. White goods: In-Mold Decoration product examples
  • 6.7. Is IME commercial yet?
  • 6.8. First (ALMOST) success story: overhead console in cars
  • 6.9. Commercial products: wearable technology
  • 6.10. Automotive: direct heating of headlamp plastic covers
  • 6.11. System integrates electronics
  • 6.12. Automotive: human machine interfaces
  • 6.13. GEELY Seat Control
  • 6.14. Faurecia concept: prototype to test functionality
  • 6.15. Faurecia concept: traditional vs. IME design
  • 6.16. Increasing number of research prototypes
  • 6.17. Consumer electronics prototypes to products
  • 6.18. White goods: human machine interfaces
  • 6.19. Antennas
  • 6.20. Consumer electronics and home automation
  • 6.21. Home automation becomes commercial


  • 7.1. In mold electronics: emerging value chain
  • 7.2. Stretchable conductive ink suppliers multiply
  • 7.3. IME conductive ink suppliers multiply



  • 9.1. Printing directly on a 3D surface?
  • 9.2. Aerosol: how does it work?
  • 9.3. Aerosol deposition can go 3D
  • 9.4. Applications of aerosol
  • 9.5. Optomec: update on market leader
  • 9.6. Aerosol deposition is already in commercial use
  • 9.7. Nano ink challenges and directions of development for aerosol


  • 10.1. Three approaches to molded interconnect devices


  • 11.1. Molded Interconnect Devices: Laser Direct Structuring
  • 11.2. Applications of laser direct structuring
  • 11.3. LDS MID: characteristics
  • 11.4. LDS MID: material considerations
  • 11.5. LDS MID: Laser roughing
  • 11.6. Galvanic plating to the rescue?
  • 11.7. LDS MID: Ease of prototyping and combining 3D printing with LDS?
  • 11.8. Mass manufacturing the all-plastic-substrate paint?
  • 11.9. LDS MID application examples: antenna
  • 11.10. LDS MID application examples: insulin pump and diagnostic laser pen
  • 11.11. LDS MID application examples: automotive HMI
  • 11.12. LDS MID in LED implementation
  • 11.13. MID challenges for LED integration
  • 11.14. Expanding LDS MID to non-plastic substrates?
  • 11.15. LDS MID 3D LED retrofit
  • 11.16. LDS MID in LED with improved heat dissipation
  • 11.17. LDS MID in sensors
  • 11.18. LDS MID: fine pitch capability


  • 12.1. Two shot molding: process description
  • 12.2. LDS MID application examples: insulin pump
  • 12.3. Comparing LDS and Two-Shot MID


  • 13.1. PolyIC: inserting complex patterned functional films into 3D shaped parts
  • 13.2. Transfer printing: printing test strips & using lamination to compete with IME
  • 13.3. IME with functional films made with evaporated lines


  • 14.1. Printing PCBs: various approaches
  • 14.2. Single-/double-sided printed PCB (approach I)
  • 14.3. Single-/double-sided printed PCB (approach II)
  • 14.4. Single-/double-sided printed PCB (approach III)
  • 14.5. Single-/double-sided printed PCB (approach IV)
  • 14.6. Multi-layer printed PCB (NanoDimension)
  • 14.7. Multi-layer printed PCB (ChemBud)


  • 15.1. The premise of 3D printed electronics
  • 15.2. Routes to 3D printing of structural electronics
  • 15.3. Approaches to 3D printed electronics
  • 15.4. Extrude conductive filament
  • 15.5. Extrude sensing filament
  • 15.6. Conductive plastics using graphene additives
  • 15.7. Conductive plastics using carbon nanotube additives
  • 15.8. Extrude molten solder
  • 15.9. Paste extrusion, dispensing or printing during 3D printing
  • 15.10. Ink requirements for 3D printed electronics
  • 15.11. 3D printed with embedded metallization
  • 15.12. Benchmarking different processes (IME, MID, 3DP, aerosol)


  • 16.1. Forecast Methodology
  • 16.2. IME market forecast - application
  • 16.3. Ten-year in-mold-electronics market forecast in area
  • 16.4. Estimate of value capture by different elements in an IME product
  • 16.5. Ten-year market forecasts for functional inks in IME
  • 16.6. Ten-year market forecasts for plastic substrates in IME
  • 16.7. Key observations from the MID market



  • 18.1. In-Mold Electronic market forecast data
  • 18.2. Functional ink and substrate for IME market forecast data
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