The smart plastics technology, which is also known as functional film insert molding, can be described as a process in which a flexible substrate is coated, functionalized, trimmed, shaped and finally covered with one (or multiple) polymer matrix via a molding process.
The flexible substrate is usually a polymer layer, but could be basically also a fabric or another flexible material.
The functionalisation of the flexible substrate can be carried out either in a fully printed way (printed electronics) or in a semi-printed way (hybrid electronics), where just some parts of the electrical circuits are printed or coated and the remaining features are added by classical surface mounting technology (SMT).
The three dimensional shape is applied via forming processes. Thermoforming and high-pressure forming are the two main technologies used for this process step.
The molding process is usually a film-insert-molding process, which is also known as In-Mould-Labelling (IML). In this process step the functional films are implanted into the polymer product. Due to potentially high process pressures and temperatures, this step is particularly critical.
Top-quality surface finishes can be implemented via decorative films, top coatings or overmoulds.