08 Aug MIDs and LDST. Click to keep reading…
Like many of you, I have been aware of Molded Interconnect Devices (MIDs) for quite some time. However, it wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I was introduced to Laser Direct Structured Technology (LDST). A long time customer, who is also a good friend, was exploring this technology as an option to overcome some design and functionality hurdles.
LDST yields a molded plastic part which has a metalized geometry (in most cases an antenna) plated directly onto the plastic. LDST offers full 3D imaging of the part, a wide range of materials and resins, thin conductor traces, tighter electronic packaging and miniaturization.
The LDST process begins with a standard thermoplastic injection molding material such as PC or PC/ABS. A non-conductive inorganic compound is then blended into the standard resin. The doped resin is then injected into the mold just as any standard resin would be.
The finished molded part is then exposed to a laser which is fed the CAD data for the imaged/metalized area. The laser prints (transfers) the image onto the part. The laser beam stimulation acts as an activator to the non-conductive inorganic compound. This defined area or image is now micro roughened, activated and ready to receive a deposition of electroless copper.
The imaged part is processed through electroless copper to deposit a very thin layer of metal. The part is then ready to receive a deposition of nickel and/or gold. Components or connectors can then be attached to all metalized surfaces.
LDST was patented in 2002, and has experienced rapid utilization and acceptance in the past 5 years. The current major market for LDST is in antenna manufacturing. These antennas are used in cell phones, smart devices, gaming controls, vehicle tracking, UAVs and wireless medical devices.
While the technology offers many benefits and design flexibility, it does have some drawbacks. The most significant of which is cost. The non-conductive inorganic additive is expensive, and since the process requires the entire part to contain the additive, the molded part cost is high. The subsequent plating operations the part must be processed through are costly, and contribute to the higher piece price.
As my 10th grade chemistry professor used to say “almost rocket science”.–Commentary provided by Tom Osso, Business Development