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In-mold electronics market set to take-off

IDTechEx Research provides some of the reasons why


In-mold electronics (IME) – or in-mold structural electronics (IMSE) – are about to enter a period of rapid revenue growth, according to IDTechEx, forecasting the overall market to exceed $1-billion within a decade. 

IME is the idea of introducing electronics on a 2D substrate before thermoforming this into a final 3D part. A previous report by IDTechEx goes into more detail around the process and associated technology hurdles. However, with many of these challenges overcome, the market will outdo its previous false start and come to the commercial forefront.

Human-machine interfaces

The key indicators for this come from the market leaders TactoTek. In September 2019, the firm secured another prestigious licensee in the Korean giant LS Automotive, and along with fellow licensee Faurecia, this shows a clear direction into human-machine interfaces for automotive interiors. To date, the most notable product is in a wearable device. Nanogate, another licensee, reported to IDTechEx that 2020 will see their first commercial production (>100,000 units pa), again not in an automotive application.

Progress is not complete, with advancements in material requirements, electrical connections, scale, software, control brightness and more all being developed. TactoTek is not alone in developing this industry; not only are there other competitive processes to 3D electronics, but there are other players and research institutes (image below) continually developing this. In addition, it is evident that many large players are aligning themselves with this technology for the upcoming take-off.

So what will the key markets be?

As discussed earlier, IDTechEx expects automotive interior applications, for things like overhead control units, will be the major high-volume orders in the medium-term. The shorter-term will be in consumer electronics and other industries that can bring a product to market much faster.

In the longer-term, not only will they infiltrate across more affordable transportation, but they are also expected to be seen in even more everyday devices. This includes opportunities in household appliances and white goods.