See all Innovation Awards

VTT – Surfaces come to life

EARTO Innovation Awards 2018 – Impact Delivered Category

First Prize

                       Electronics have an ever-increasing role in product content, features and value in many markets. The need to incorporate electronics into everything from stylish control panels to washable wearable devices has challenged the industry to find alternatives to the 100-year old components-in-a-box approach. VTT sets out to find a way of manufacturing the lightweight, thin and durable electronics global industries are now seeking. Its solution, Injection Molded Structural Electronics (IMSE), integrates printed circuitry and electronics components within three-dimensional injection molded structures to create one seamless part. Bringing functionality to shapes and places impractical or impossible for traditional electronics, IMSE has been commercialised by VTT spin-off TactoTek and is giving product engineers unparalleled freedom to deliver the electronic functions users want and companies the opportunity to differentiate their products in the marketplace.  
IMSE technology reduces assembly costs by more than 30% compared to traditional manufacturing methods
IMSE structures are 50-75% lighter and take up 25% less space than conventional electronic assemblies
The time taken to change product functionalities and appearance is reduced by 40% with IMSE manufacturing 
  Reimagining the manufacturing process Conventional multi-part assemblies made up of separate surfaces and electronic components limit possibilities in terms of functionality and form. Critically, alongside their weight and volume, they aren’t flexible or rugged enough for today’s applications. Applications such as Internet of Things and wearable devices and switches and lights for car interiors and appliances. These require electronics to be slim and uniquely shaped to enable elegant human-machine interfaces. In many cases, the electronics must also be protected from moisture, vibration and extreme temperatures. A new approach to manufacturing was needed to enable electronics and surfaces to be integrated into a single part.   Enabling innovative electronic designs EARTO member VTT developed just such a solution by bringing together a mixture of well-known production technologies. Its IMSE technology enables electronic functions to be integrated inside injection-molded plastic to create smart structures with innovative contours. Easily configured for mass production, IMSE reduces manufacturing costs, bulk and weight – and increases performance and possibilities. The integrated electronics are inherently protected from the outside environment, for example, and, being closer to the surface, more sensitive to touch. They can also be combined with surfaces such as wood and leather to create beautiful fully-functional surfaces.   Inspiring new customised products VTT spin-off TactoTek was named winner of the 2017 Global Technology Innovation Award by Frost & Sullivan and its impact supports this endorsement. The company adapts customer designs into IMSE solutions and develops prototypes for mass production in-house or by a licensed manufacturer. It has 12 projects ongoing with major brands and 100 in the pipeline. These include creating a natural wood trim with touch and lighting functions for car interiors and a smart connector capable of withstanding harsh environments for motion sensing solutions integrated into clothes and shoes. The market’s response to IMSE enabled TactoTek to secure $23m funding and predict a doubling of its workforce to 150 in 2018.  
More information about this innovation
  VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is among the major research and technology organisations in Europe.  Our research and innovation services give our partners, both private and public, all over the world a competitive edge. We pave the way for the future by developing new smart technologies, profitable solutions and innovation services. We create technology for business – for the benefit of society.     TactoTek® is the leader in Injection Molded Structural Electronics (IMSE™) technology. IMSE solutions integrate and encapsulate printed electronics and standard electronic components within durable 3D injection-molded plastics. We adapt customer concepts into IMSE solutions and develop production-ready prototypes which can be mass produced by TactoTek or a TactoTek Licensee.  
© Photos Credit: VTT, TactoTek