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Injection molded structural plastic serves as a light guide in vehicles to deliver lighting effects and reduce total cost of ownership.

Clare Goldsberry

December 7, 2016

2 Min Read
TactoTek secures patent for in-mold structural electronics technology

TactoTek (Menlo Park, CA), a manufacturer of 3D injection molded structural electronics, announced in September that it had received U.S. Patent 9297675 for “illuminated indicator structures for electronic devices, a technology that enables sophisticated lighting in very thin 3D plastic smart surfaces.”

According to TactoTek CTO and co-founder Antti Kerlinen, the Finland-based company’s patent “recognizes a key innovation of in-mold structural electronics (IMSE) technology—employing the plastic material that is the structure of the part as a light guide. Using this technique we can create very bright, evenly distributed illumination within structures as thin as two millimeters.”

For illumination, traditional electronics designs typically include a cosmetic surface structure and use a separate light pipe structure to direct lighting to the surface from a flat, rigid printed circuit board (PCB). By comparison, TactoTek’s IMSE technology consolidates printed electronics and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) within the 3D molded plastic part and uses the plastics to conduct light.

“By using the molding material of a cosmetic surface as a light guide, TactoTek IMSE technology removes design constraints that have prescribed thick, multi-part assemblies,” noted Hasse Sinivaara, Head of Product Management. “As we remove parts, we remove design time and weight and minimize electrical and mechanical assembly, [which is] very appealing when considering form factor innovation and total cost of ownership.”

TactoTek can integrate printed electronics, such as circuitry, touch controls and antennas, and discrete electronic components, such as LEDs and ICs, into light, 3D injection molded plastics as thin as 2 mm.

TactoTek maintains a staff of engineers to help customers adapt their traditional electronics designs into IMSE solutions. The company prototytpes and manufactures products in its Oulu, Finland, factory that includes complete, vertically integrated production capabilities. Mass production can be performed by TactoTek or TactoTek licensed production partners.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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