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96 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I NOVEMBER 2019 Article by Outi Rusanen, Janne Asikkala, Mikko Heikkinen, Paavo Niskala, and Tomi Simula TACTOTEK Abstract This article introduces structural electronics technology, enabling smart molded structures. It also presents a case for developing industry standards specific to structural electronics ma- terials, processing, and testing. In Part 1, we outline the benefits of structur- al electronics technology as well as manufac- turing processes. Smart molded structures are made by integrating and encapsulating print- ed electronics and standard electronic com- ponents within durable, 3D injection-mold- ed plastics. Structural electronics technology and processing differ significantly from con- ventional electronics. Thus, we describe how these differences influence component and materials certification for use within injection molded plastics. In Part 2, we discuss the lack of suitable standards for structural electron- ics. Two technologies, bearing a resemblance to structural electronics, have standards. How- ever, they do not cover all aspects, and we see a need for further development. Part 1: Structural Electronics Introduction to Structural Electronics Technology and Manufacturing Structural electronics technology enables de- sign innovation by integrating electronic func- tions into 3D injection molded plastic struc- tures. Features, such as controls, sensors, illu- mination, and communications, are embedded in thin 3D structures with plastic, wood, and other surfaces (Figure 1). The structures are light, thin, and durable. In conventional use cases, such as an in- vehicle control panel, a single part replaces a multi-part conventional electronics struc- ture and eliminates labor-intensive electro-me- chanical assembly. The part also weighs less Smart Molded Structures Bring Surfaces to Life Figure 1: Structural electronics can also have natural surface finishes.

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