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The top 7 most innovative smartphone technologies in development

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

From smartphones with augmented reality to ones with edge-to-edge screens you can roll up and put in your pocket, the latest in mobile phone features and technology is constantly evolving.

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

The Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona earlier this year sparked excitement and speculation about what’s to come from smartphone industry developers and innovators.

For many, it may seem that technology is already old news by the time it is released. This makes it challenging to develop predictions that aren’t outdated. However, it’s intriguing to follow the latest (for now) buzz on design and technology.

Here’s a look at what we think are some of the most exciting trends and most compelling innovations to in the works:

1. Displays: Although nothing revolutionary is anticipated, analysts are predicting a move to ultra 4K-resolution screens because they are expected to make a difference with mobile virtual reality (VR) headsets and augmented reality (AR).

2. Curved, foldable and roll-up phones: There are projections that technology companies are experimenting with curved backplates, curved front screens and curved edges for displays for handsets. There is also talk of bendable and foldable phones – and not the foldable, fold-in “flip phones” of several years ago – potentially being launched later this year. A phone that folds out and turns into a 7-inch tablet has already been developed and is targeted to be rolled out in the third quarter of 2017. Prototypes of phones able to be rolled up like a newspaper or to be wrapped around interior spaces have been rolled out, but they still have not yet entered into production for consumers.

Blog_LORD_IMB_cell phone post-MIT-Solid-Energy-Systems graphic_ Courtesy of SolidEnergy Systems

The history of lithium batteries from an anode perspective                  Graphic source: SolidEnergy Systems, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off focused on post Lithium-ion batteries

3. Invisible screens: A Kurdish inventor based in Turkey, Celal Goger, developed a phone screen that becomes “invisible” to everyone except the person using the phone.

An app installed on the phone turns the screen white. The user then puts on a pair of glasses that have a chip built into it, which communicates with the phone to make the screen visible. There is currently a prototype available for one type of smartphone, but the technology is not yet widespread. The inventor of this technology is also working on a nanochip variation that would be compatible with any pair of glasses. Check out the video of the “invisible” screen here.

4. Battery technology: There’s that feeling of dread when your cell phone enters into the red zone of power and you either can’t find an outlet or don’t have a charger with you. We’ve become so dependent on our cell phones and use them for so many different applications, it can rapidly drain their battery. Now, a new type of “anode-free” lithium-metal battery has been developed that is smaller than today’s lithium-ion smartphone batteries and has double the energy capacity. Taking battery technology even further is a prototype cell phone that is “battery free,” using a “backscatter” technique to enable the device to communicate by reflecting incoming radio waves – essentially drawing what small power it needs from “thin air.”

Mobile devices using virtual reality (VR)

Mobile devices are expected to play a key role in the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications, benefitting from the Internet of Things (IoT) — essentially mapping out actions and connecting to surroundings in a deeper, integrated way. Photo source: Flickr

5. Virtual and augmented reality: The Pokémon Go! craze, where the player experiences the game in the same real-world location by placing virtual objects in the real world, has “mixed reality” into the mainstream and attracted widespread attention. Social media platforms continue to integrate AR into smartphone apps with novelty camera filters that add objects to a photo in real-time.

There are even apps currently available and in continued development that enhances the visual appearance of everyday objects such as walls, tables, doors and faces to “augment” sight for visually impaired people.

Beyond gaming, mobile devices are expected to play a key role in the use of VR and AR applications – VR because of the endless commercial opportunities and AR for use in industrial design and medicine. AR and VR will also benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT), essentially mapping out actions and using your phone “to join the world in a much deeper way.”

6. Molecular sensors: The material sensing smartphone may be the wave of the future. A miniaturized near-infrared spectrometer is able to detect the molecular signature of objects. It shines a near-infrared light on materials, stimulating their molecules in the process. Through analysis of the light that is reflected off the vibrating molecules, it then identifies them by their unique optical signature. This allows the chemical composition of the material to be determined.

Development of the technology first began with a Kickstarter campaign and has advanced enough to create a version of the spectrometer miniaturized enough to fit inside a phone. Soon, you may be able to use your material sensor-equipped smartphone to check the nutritional value of food, such as which piece of fruit is the freshest or even to measure body fat.

7. 5G: This next-generation Internet connectivity would mean smartphone speeds of at least one gigabyte per second, with a latency of fewer than 10 milliseconds. A prototype has been developed and trials are being conducted, but it may be some time before smartphones with 5G are mainstream.

These are just a few of many technologies in the works, but the ones we think are the most exciting and innovative for the next generation of mobile phones. What are you hearing about? Let us know here.

Are plastics the next big thing in consumer electronics?

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation
Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

Consumer electronic devices, such as smartphones, wearables and home technology are being made smaller and lighter with increasingly more functions and faster data capabilities. There is also consumer demand for weight reductions, safety, miniaturization, design flexibility, performance and greater energy efficiency throughout the course of a product’s life.

With this, comes the challenge of fitting a more robust product into a smaller footprint. This means innovative processes and materials are necessary. Plastics have been taking on that role as an innovative and essential material for the engineering, function, design, features and performance of these consumer electronics.

The material traditionally thought of as a basic housing and associated with children’s toys, storage containers, packaging and disposables is gaining importance, expanding rapidly in capabilities, replacing other materials while also creating a niche for itself.

computer motherboard and memory slots

Consumer electronic devices are being made smaller and lighter with increasingly more functions and faster data capabilities. Plastics are being used in the manufacturing process as innovative and essential material for the engineering, function, design, features and performance of these consumer electronics.

Consumer electronic devices are being made smaller and lighter with increasingly more functions and faster data capabilities. Plastics are being used in the manufacturing process as innovative and essential material for the engineering, function, design, features and performance of these consumer electronics. At  this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017, plastics were recognized as an “essential material” in many of the leading innovative products within the consumer electronics marketplace.

Why plastics? How are they innovative and why are technology companies increasing integrating them into the electronics marketplace? Their durability, lightweight and affordable properties make them attractive and allow for a big range of performance benefits.

The American Chemistry Council points out that essentially “plastics enable many of our favorite electronics to do more with less.” The plastics may not be initially apparent in consumer electronics. However, as the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) wisely recognizes, “Once that people recognize that there are items in their life that would be impossible without plastics, people’s opinions change about their importance.”

Plastics are providing an avenue for innovation and design, but the actual assembly process has its challenges – i.e. how to get the plastic to securely bond well to another surface as well as remaining waterproof and airtight in certain situations.

netbook computer

Plastics are providing an avenue for innovation and design for wearables and other consumer electronics. Use of in-mold bonding (IMB) during the manufacturing process of these consumer electronics devices can help address some of the assembly bonding issues with plastics.

Use of in-mold bonding (IMB) during the manufacturing process of these consumer electronics devices can help address these issues. This is notable, especially when considering the mass production of consumer electronics.

Consumers expect their electronics and wearables to hold up to being dropped, exposed to moisture and endure the sometimes tough environments of everyday life. To meet this expectation, these devices and their components are made to be more rugged and shock absorbent, and often require damping materials to be introduced. These materials can be soft, which are difficult to attach to rigid materials – such as plastics – with clips and screws. In-mold bonding creates a method to successfully attach parts in the mold in an efficient way for mass-produced items.

For example, when producing hundreds or thousands of items, it’s efficient to use structural adhesives. However, when building 200 million small devices roughly the size of a person’s thumb, using structural adhesives could get massively complicated. Cleaning up squeeze out and production fallout on this many devices will create a great deal of scrap and require labor. Finding a robust manufacturing process to eliminate messy production and scrap as a result of void or irregularities with mating two surfaces together is essential.

AdobeStock_85782601_WM

The durability, lightweight and affordable properties of plastics make them attractive for use in consumer electronics and allow for a big range of performance benefits.

What if you could leverage the precision already inherent in your plastic component molding operation? In-mold bonding with LORD IMB Adhesives looks to bring assembling multiple substrates with plastic into the mold. Apply adhesives in batch processes to inserts before molding. Assemblies drop out of the mold rather than components. Considering this many million devices, it may significantly reduce costs and increase precision and efficiency of a production line.

Plastics may not get all the credit they deserve when it comes to innovation in the world of electronics, but they are playing a significant role. Time will determine how else they can and will be used.

Will plastic continue to replace metal in consumer electronics? Can it replace glass? How else can it be used? Can plastic be perceived as high a quality as these other materials for consumers?

Let us know your thoughts here.

How liquid silicone rubber is creating new opportunities and solutions

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation

Although the use of liquid silicone rubber (LSR) platinum-cured silicone has been around for more than 20 years, its use is rapidly expanding in already established markets and creating opportunities in new ones as a result of modern manufacturing and injection molding technology.

Twenty-five to 30 percent of the global silicone market is LSR and is estimated to be worth $20.3 billion by 2020. To that end, the estimated global LSR market size by 2020 is projected to be $5.075 billion.

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

The United States and China have been the primary global consumers of LSR, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 40 percent of the total silicone market size in terms of volume. Now, regional distribution of LSR manufacturing has been introduced as relative consumption has grown exponentially in the last five years.

The medical device market already plays a dominant role with use of LSR in surgical tools and equipment, particularly because of its biocompatibility. This market accounted for $250 million per a year in 2012 (one of the latest numbers available) with an estimated 52.94 million pounds used for it annually.

Incorporating LSR – including as part of the in-mold bonding (IMB) process – into modern manufacturing has been increasing because of its efficiency and consistency and because it creates less scrap.

Electronics, such as wearables and other personal electronic devices, continue to use LSR in manufacturing, especially with the movement to ruggedize these devices, combine fashion and function and enable them to be used in previously prohibitive environments. One example is electronics injection molder Jabil Green Point, who uses LSR for noise-cancelling headphones with a volume of 50,000 per month. This accounts for 40 percent of the company’s overall business.

Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) used in cookware

Cookware and household items such as silicone baking pans, cake pans and spatulas are a growing market for liquid silicone rubber (LSR).         Source: Flickr

Cookware and household items – such as silicone baking pans, cake pans and spatulas – are also a growing market for LSR. Its properties are inert so they don’t interact with other materials. LSR is also safe to touch, making it an excellent material for cooking and food storage.

The variety of other applications where it is applicable is extensive. Some other markets include:

Architectural textiles: Think of the patio at Panera bread. Some of the canopies are held up with string. Coated textiles give them longer life. LSR gloves for cooking, cleaning or even just for warmth are another possibility in this market. Rubber pads could be manufactured on the gloves for gripping.

  • Sporting goods: Diving masks and swim goggles have LSR molded seals. Some sports equipment has LSR grips and footwear is manufactured with LSR soles.
  • Baby products: There is a big market with baby care products. LSR is attractive in this
    Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) for baby products such as bottles and pacifiers

    Baby care products is an attractive market for liquid silicone rubber (LSR) because of its safety and ability to expand design capabilities.          Source: Flickr

    market because of its safety, especially when used for products such as baby bottles or pacifiers. Baby equipment manufacturers also often develop products with various textures and designs. Use of LSR in injection molding allows them to expand the type of designs, such as a spiral shape.

  • Automotive and transportation: There are a variety of applications in the automotive market such as using LSR for gaskets and seals, O-rings.  LSR enables integration of multiple parts and materials into one component. Lightweighting won’t come into play in this market, except possibly with the idea of thinner designs as a result of injection molding.

This is just a short list of LSR uses. Where will expanded use of LSR go in the future?

What is the next market for LSR manufacturers? The opportunities are numerous as it could expand to any market where more traditional rubber and silicone are dominant.

Although we don’t know exactly what the future will hold, it’s clear that there will be a great deal of opportunity.

What do you think the future holds for LSR? We welcome your thoughts here.

Sports equipment such as diving masks, ski goggles and swim goggles are made with LSR

Diving masks, ski goggles and swim goggles have liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molded seals. Some sports equipment has LSR grips and footwear manufactured with LSR soles.                                Source: Flickr

Why in-mold bonding makes sense with increased use of plastics in automotive manufacturing

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation

As plastics become more capable in terms of heat resistance and strength, they are replacing more metal components on vehicles. Both engine and transmission mounts are being made out of nylon. The engine itself – the heaviest, biggest part of your vehicle – is being held on by plastic. The trend toward decreasing vehicle weight – a.k.a. lightweighting – for increased fuel efficiency is part of what is driving this move toward increased use of plastics.

Plastic components are more prevalent in automotive design as the goal for reducing vehicle weight continues to be a top priority in efforts to meet the latest Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards for fuel economy and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

This makes the future easier to predict: the automotive industry will continue to increasingly adopt the use of metal-to-plastic hybrid components. Plastics will account for 18 percent of average vehicle weight by 2020, up from 14 percent in 2000, according to the report and analysis Plastics. The Future for Automakers and Chemical Companies.

Global demand for plastics in the automotive industry also has now grown to more than 15 million tons per year, says market research company Ceresana. Despite this growth, there is still some lack of acceptance for plastics replacing metal components.

Remember the Saturn vehicles? Produced from 1982 to 2009, the car’s body panels were made from plastic. It was touted as a selling point, but it also may be what ultimately led to the brand’s demise – the car was not a success because it was made out of plastic.

As the automotive industry embraces and increases use of plastics, challenges come with it. One of the biggest challenges is how to join dissimilar materials in effective – and cost-effective – ways.

Currently, these structural parts are composed of several metal components that are spot-welded, bolted together or joined together with structural adhesives. When implementing plastic components, the attachment features may not be exactly what is desired.

As the industry tries to tackle this challenge and explores bolts, screws and structural adhesives, it creates a big opportunity for in-mold bonding (IMB). This technology enables assemblies between plastics, silicones and metals to be made during the molding process. When LORD IMB Adhesives are applied to a rigid substrate, it provides a structural bond when over-molded with thermoplastic.

As the material make-up of the parts evolve and additional applications for in-mold bonding are developed, this technology can be a solution for these challenges and a method to continue moving the automotive industry forward.

To learn more about the IMB process and its applications, watch this short whiteboard video.

In-mold bonding (IMB) can be used in plastic-to-substrate component assemblies such as under-hood, exterior and interior applications. This technology can also be used in sealing over-molded sensitive electronics such as ignition coils, injectors, pumps, electrical connectors and the solenoids, such as the automotive starter solenoid pictured here

In-mold bonding (IMB) can be used in plastic-to-substrate component assemblies such as under-hood, exterior and interior applications and for hybrid material compontents. The technology can also be used in sealing over-molded sensitive electronics such as ignition coils, injectors, pumps, electrical connectors and solenoids, such as the automotive starter solenoid pictured above

Using Adhesives for Bonding Platinum-Cured Silicones to Multiple Substrates

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation

Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) is used for a wide range of parts for many different markets. Some notable segments include medical devices, cookware, electronics, automotive components and personal electronic devices.

Pictured: Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) adhered to polycarbonate with LORD IMB Adhesives.

Pictured: Liquid silicone rubber (LSR) adhered to polycarbonate with LORD IMB Adhesives. Polycarbonate is clear, and the LSR is 1-mm thick with a mixed white and red color.

Silicone polymers exhibit numerous unique properties that other materials are not able to achieve, combining rubbery flexibility with excellent thermal stability, durability, low-surface energy, biocompatibility, and a soft feel. As the market need for LSR expands, product designs are becoming more sophisticated and require bonding of silicone to other substrates.

Primers for bonding silicones do exist on the market today. The majority are based on alkoxy silanes that contain functional groups which are appropriate for the curing mechanism used in the silicone. These options need to be applied very thin to surfaces that are exceptionally clean with pre-treatments such as corona or plasma.

Expensive self-bonding liquid silicone rubber often requires a similarly complicated process of pre-treatments, tightly controlled environments, curing kinetics and post-cure procedures. Self-bonding silicones don’t perform well when the thickness of LSR varies throughout the part design. Self-bonding silicones also struggle with many substrates.

The limitations with silane primers and self-bonding silicones have created a market need for silicone adhesives that are easier to use and more effective on various substrates.

LORD Corporation recently introduced two new in-mold bonding (IMB) adhesives for bonding platinum-cured silicones to multiple substrates including plastics. These LORD IMB adhesives enable assemblies between LSR and plastic or metal substrate to be made during the molding process.

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

Eric Dean, Manager, Global    Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

These new adhesive solutions effectively bond LSR to various substrates directly in an injection- or compression-molding process. These new adhesives are simple and effective on a huge variety of substrates like aluminum, glass, stainless steel, and even a variety of plastics. They don’t even require surface pre-treatments, maybe just a simple wipe with IPA.

Unlike silane primers, IMB adhesives are not sensitive to moisture or atmosphere.  LORD IMB Adhesives can be applied to a substrate and then stored on a shelf for weeks before molding. IMB adhesives insensitivity to moisture also eliminate the need for precise molding facility environments.

Primers on the market today typically must be applied as a very thin coating, sometimes less than one micron. This is difficult to control and nearly impossible measure in a manufacturing/production environment. LORD IMB adhesives provide robust bonding when applied at a range of thicknesses that you can measure with standard tools.

Applications for these IMB adhesives include consumer electronics, automotive components and medical devices. Compatible substrates for IMB adhesives include aluminum, anodized aluminum, glass, steel/stainless steel, polycarbonate, select polyamides, and select thermoplastic elastomers.

Learn more about IMB adhesives in this video.

How fashion and function are aligning in wearables

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation

In the wearables/personal electronic devices space, the fashion vs. function issue has become increasingly more important. A big, bulky electronic watch might be quite functional with myriad features, however, some may lack the desired aesthetic quality.

The use of a wide variety of materials is becoming increasingly necessary as designers try to make these small, “wearable computers” physically attractive, yet functional.

The use of a wide variety of materials is becoming increasingly necessary as designers try to make these small, “wearable computers” physically attractive, yet functional.

It’s like the sensible shoes debate. A pair of sturdy, quality shoes achieve their function, but they may lack that pizzazz – the fashionable look wanted. Although the same could be said of some wearable electronics, this is changing.

High-end fashion brands have partnered with wearables for a mix of fashion and function. There has been a great deal of focus on making electronics lighter and thinner without sacrificing utility. Now, consumers don’t have to necessarily choose between fashion and function as the two become intertwined with new technology and assembly processes.

The use of a wide variety of materials is becoming increasingly necessary as designers try to make these small, “wearable computers” physically attractive, yet functional.

Take, for example, the integration of curves into a design. They can easily be added, but clips, screws or structural adhesives must be used and on curved surfaces the assembly is tricky. Clips and screws take up physical space and limit the kind of designs that can be created because of the space needed to accommodate the attachment features. Use of simply overmolding also limits the types of metals and plastics that can be used.

Eric Dean

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

IMB Adhesives, however, are a significant enabling technology for wearables/personal electronic devices because it allows use of non-compatible materials such as bonding amorphous plastic to crystalline plastic, either type of plastic to metals/glass or even liquid silicone rubber to a variety of rigid substrates.

IMB Adhesives can easily be applied to curved surfaces in batch processes and with film thicknesses of just 50 microns, it takes up practically no space in the final design. The final assemblies, curved or not, benefit from the fact that the tolerance stack up is as good as the mold itself.

The abilities IMB Adhesives enable with plastic, liquid silicone rubber, glass and metals is pretty revolutionary and quite unique. Using this technology may help make cell phones and wearables thinner and more appealing to people who don’t like the bulk of today.

Learn more about IMB and how it can help with your design at www.lord.com/IMB.

Why new technology is making personal electronic devices more valuable

by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation

With the movement to ruggedize personal electronic devices, they are becoming more valuable as new technology enables these type of wearables to be used in previously prohibitive environments.

Wearables

Creating a robust bond between the two materials of an electronic device is essential. Use of in-mold bonding (IMB) adhesives can create a more robust bond between the overmolded bond and substrate

Workers in harsh or hazardous conditions can now access data without removing gloves or create records without having to commit data to memory. This is significant in terms of safety and productivity.

Consumer electronics are being used more and more in medical settings where there are concerns about biowaste and biohazardous materials working their way into assembled devices.

Personal electronic developers and designers need to ensure that there is a good seal between the two mating materials. If a housing is composed of two components that need to be put together, a gasket might need to be attached to one of the box halves. It’s critical that the gasket’s attachment to the housing does not wear out over time because it can introduce hazardous materials into the electronic device.

Overmolded components with plastic or silicone are also used, but this process creates the potential for a gap when there is an exposed edge. This poses a risk for biowaste or other hazardous materials to work itself into the device in such a way that sterilization processes cannot remove.

Creating a robust bond between the two materials of an electronic device is essential. Use of in-mold bonding (IMB) adhesives can create a more robust bond between the overmolded bond and substrate as well as a seal that remains robust at typical temperatures and pressures.

There is a great deal of value in this because the device would be resistant to water, sweat, blood, and many more chemicals. The market has already accomplished creating water-resistant phones and other devices, but are designers limiting the material combination they are using? Are they not using the materials they want to use?

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy, LORD Corporation

As wearables and their components are ruggedized, shock absorbent and damping materials also need to be introduced. These materials can be soft, which are difficult to attach to rigid materials with clips and screws.

Structural adhesives are markedly better but still challenging with which to work. Incorporating soft materials with rigid materials can be difficult. Creating the attachment inside the mold can be very effective.

IMB Adhesives can help a great deal because soft materials can be molded on rigid materials directly in the mold to create a structural bond between the two that will last.

In the military, ruggedized versions of cell phones and wearables must never fail. They need to be able to go through a swamp or be dropped in an ocean. To achieve this level of survivability, most devices made for the military tend to be boxy and thick. However, with the amount of weight a military person must carry, IMB adhesives could play a role in making things lighter, thinner and easier to carry.

To learn more about IMB, visit www.lord.com/IMB.