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.
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?
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.