Can electrically conductive plastics really replace traditional metal electronics enclosures? The answer is a resounding yes! There are very effective electrically conductive plastics available today that provide excellent electromechanical properties that help shield portable electronics from the electromagnetic interference (EMI) noise that is proliferating our daily life. Smart phones, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, radio, even your television are all susceptible to EMI. So here are the key points you may want to consider when evaluating electrically conductive plastics for your application:
#1: Shielding effectiveness
Every day we encounter EMI, and sometimes it happens at the most inopportune time. Maybe you’ve been put on hold for an hour and just when the customer service agent gets back to you, your cell phone drops the signal. Or perhaps you’re blasting the car radio listening to your favorite song, and just when the chorus comes on, static noise drowns out the tunes as you drive under high tension power lines. These are all examples of EMI interfering with our daily life, and electrically conductive plastics can help shield our portable devices from these interruptions.
#2 Manufacturing cost performance
When it comes to small portable electronics such as smart phones and other wireless devices, there is typically no more cost effective way to produce them than using injected molded conductive plastics. Metal housings often require additional rework after tooling, such as bending and threading, that injection molded plastics do not need.
Nowadays, smart phones and other small portable electronics such as life science devices are routine. Electrically conductive plastics allow these devices to remain lightweight and compact, all while providing critical EMI shielding performance to not interfere with the device’s performance.
Electrically conductive plastics can typically withstand everyday wear and tear better than many metal enclosures and metal PCB components. In a lab, conductive plastics can pass drop test after drop test with flying colors, which is not so easy to do with heavy metal enclosures.
#5: Corrosion resistance
Even if a conductive plastic housing gets dinged up, scuffs and scratches do not lead to corrosion susceptibility. Most conductive plastics can resist corrosion in harsh environments much better than metal can.
Benefits of conductive plastics
Conductive plastics are very effective given the correct applications. Given the shrinking nature of electronics devices, often you will save money going with conductive plastic over traditional metal because conductive plastics typically do not need additional machining such as adding threads, bending, etc. Given the right application, conductive plastics can be cost effective for smaller portable devices.
Be sure to work with a material provider that has extensive knowledge in the above areas and can support you on your design.