3D Electronics and Additive Electronics in the Automotive Industry

3D Electronics and Additive Electronics in the Automotive Industry
With 3D electronics, bulky PCBs can be replaced, resulting in sleek and integrated designs. The automotive industry is one of the largest sectors benefiting from this technology, as electronics can be printed in a thin layer onto surfaces or integrated within components, which can be particularly useful for human-machine interfaces (HMIs).
In-mold electronics
Streamlined automotive interiors are a large market for 3D electronics, where the technology can incorporate electronic functions into new form factors with aesthetic appeal and modern design features. There are many possibilities for 3D electronics on a number of surface materials. The IDTechEx report, "3D Electronics/Additive Electronics 2024-2034: Technologies, Players, and Markets", explores these further, alongside market predictions for the future of the technology.
Touch-sensitive interfaces are an example of a component that could use in-mold electronics (IME), using screen printing with conductive inks and adhesives. IME can make components completely functional and built-in with no excess materials and are most suited to HMIs in automotive interiors.
Higher outputs with lower production costs are a benefit of IME technology and are cheaper to install than touch screens. There are lots of surface opportunities for 3D electronics within automotive displays and dashboards, where buttons might otherwise look bulky and not conform to the desired aesthetic. IME can also be suitable for mass production, with its use of simple and trusted technology and very few process restrictions.
Partially additive electronics
Partially additive electronics, or applying electronics to a surface, include methods like laser direct structuring (LDS), aerosol, or inkjet printing. The technology uses conductive inks or LDS-compatible thermoplastics to create electronic capabilities over 3D structures, adding a circuit to a surface rather than integrating it, and also removing the need for a PCB. LDS is currently the most popular, allowing electronics to be incorporated into a number of surfaces quite easily, and it is commercially used in the automotive industry. Other methods of additive electronics are still in the prototyping stages.
Film-insert molding and capacitive switches with foils are other new alternative manufacturing technologies for automotive interiors and have already been launched into the market. They could work alongside IME and LDS technologies to produce modern, high-tech hardware.
3D printed electronics or fully additive electronics are known for being hard-wearing and can provide reliable quality with electronics embedded within products. The technology allows for mass customization and minor changes to be made and can create the most complex of designs, including medical devices such as prosthetics and hearing aids.
Rapid prototyping is also possible with fully additive electronics, using materials from conductive inks to thermoplastics. It could also be used to make spare parts, highlighting versatility in a number of sectors. However, this method is still in the semi-commercial prototyping stage for the automotive industry, just behind in-mold and 3D additive electronics, so it could soon make progress to be a top contender for HMI opportunities, especially with its possibilities of prototyping and spare part manufacturing.
The report highlights that the sales of 3D electronics are increasing rapidly and that overall, IME technology appears to be better for human-machine interfaces than additive electronics. IDTechEx does identify some challenges for this technology within the report, which include the speed at which 3D electronics can be produced, product reliability, and acceptability within the market as various sectors and consumers adjust to this new technology.
Drivers for 3D electronics include reduced shipping volume, cost, and material consumption. In a market as large as the automotive industry, these new technologies will be hugely beneficial for new vehicle designs. With reduced materials, new components could promise to be simpler to assemble and, therefore, simpler to fix or replace.
To find out more, please see the IDTechEx report, "3D Electronics/Additive Electronics 2024-2034: Technologies, Players, and Markets", by visiting www.IDTechEx.com/3DElec. Downloadable sample pages are available.
For the full portfolio of printed and flexible electronics market research from IDTechEx, please see www.IDTechEx.com/Research/PE.
IDTechEx provides trusted independent research on emerging technologies and their markets. Since 1999, we have been helping our clients to understand new technologies, their supply chains, market requirements, opportunities and forecasts. For more information, contact research@IDTechEx.com or visit www.IDTechEx.com.