Selecting the right materials for consumer electronics manufacturing
The global consumer electronics industry right now is massive. According to Statista, revenue in the consumer electronics sector is expected to reach $415 billion in 2021 and $487 billion by 2025. As such, designers and engineers must prepare to fulfill the growing desire for consistently well-manufactured computers, smartphones, and televisions. This means choosing the best plastics for consumer electronics products that will offer stability, longevity, functionality, and aesthetic appeal.
Let’s dive into three key consumer electronics applications where plastic is the proper choice — lenses and screens, electric insulators, and pliable shock-absorbing parts.
Choose the right materials for your consumer electronics project
Materials for lenses and screens
Polycarbonate is a strong thermoplastic with high dimensional stability, meaning it will maintain its clarity and shape over time. It also has good insulative properties, heat and abrasion resistance, and transmits light well while being lightweight.
Acrylic is highly scratch-resistant, UV-resistant, and translucent. Even though it’s not very heat resistant, and boasts average flexural and tensile strength.
Polystyrene is often associated with Styrofoam and other rigid foams, but it can also be manufactured as a naturally transparent solid plastic. In this form, polystyrene is incredibly strong and durable, incredibly lightweight, and relatively inexpensive. It also repels water and chemicals and can form complex shapes, making it ideal for screens.
Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR)
Liquid Silicone Rubber (LSR) has good chemical stability, high heat resistance, and is an electrical insulator. It is also resistant to oils, solvents, bacteria, wind, and rain, and is UV-resistant for extended periods. Along with its durability and long-term integrity, LSR is transparent and can be pigmented to match any color needs.
Materials for electronic encasings
Many plastics are insulators, which are materials with natural resistivity. They are used to make various enclosures or housings for electronics, ensuring long-term performance and safety for end-users.
Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is hydrolysis-resistant, maintains stiffness in extreme temperatures and environments, and emits very low smoke and toxic gas levels when exposed to flame. Glass-filled PEEK offers enhanced thermal protection and excellent chemical resistance and is even more electrically insulative.
LE Linen Phenolic
LE Linen Phenolic can be used in high-strength electrical grade insulation applications, like insulators for electromechanical devices. However, you can also use it for non-electrical grade projects that require increased friction and wear resistance. High dimensional stability also helps LE Linen Phenolic retain its shape under extreme temperature variations.
Polyetherimide (Ultem®) is a semi-transparent, extremely stiff thermoplastic that boasts incredibly high dielectric strength. This, along with its resistance to hydrolysis when exposed to hot water and steam, makes polyetherimide a great option for electrical connectors, insulators, and semiconductor electrical equipment. Polyetherimide is also easy to fabricate and can withstand repeated sterilization.
Pliable materials for additional comfort
Elastomers, like LSR, are petroleum-based polymers that perform like rubber and can absorb shock without compromising functionality. They generally support high elasticity and compressibility, and are malleable, tear-resistant, and long-lasting.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is capable of high elongation before failure, or breaking, making it a somewhat versatile manufacturing material. LDPE can create coatings, jackets, and sheathings for cables and wires. However, it shouldn’t be used for high-temperature applications — this material is highly flammable.
Polypropylene (PP) is strong and stiff but still lightweight, flexible, and resilient enough to bend without breaking. PP is also resistant to chemicals, solvents, and intense physical stress, which helps it remain its structural integrity. Like LDPE, PP isn’t best-suited for high-temperature applications.
Pick the right materials for consumer electronics with Fast Radius
During the design and engineering process, it’s critical to consider your materials when manufacturing parts for consumer electronics. However, it can be challenging for product teams to wade through all the material options out there.
Fast Radius, an expert manufacturing partner, can help you understand which plastic is the best choice for your consumer electronics products. Our team of manufacturing professionals can guide you through the consumer electronics manufacturing process, including material selection, designing for tolerances, and everything else you need to manufacture superior consumer electronics products. Contact us today to get started.
To discover more common thermoplastics and manufacturing methods for electronic enclosures, visit the Fast Radius resource center.