Market Research Report
In-Mold Electronics 2020-2030: Technology, Market Forecasts, Players
|Published by||IDTechEx Ltd.||Product code||929394|
|Published||Content info||202 Slides
Delivery time: 1-2 business days
|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.
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.
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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