The consumer electronics industry is incredibly competitive. Speed to market determines who wins and who loses in an environment where consumer demands are becoming increasingly sophisticated. As OEMs search for every possible competitive advantage in this demanding marketplace, design engineers are under greater pressure to design products using materials that balance performance characteristics and ease of processing with enhanced aesthetics and design flexibility.
In the US, 31% of adults own an array of consumer electronics, from smartphones and tablets to laptops and DVD or Blu-ray players, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. A further 19% are likely to own at least a smartphone. This huge number of technology-focused adults have advanced expectations of what their equipment should be capable of. They want to consume data on the go with products adjusted to suit their needs. In a world where smartphones are becoming a commodity, as well as a fashion accessory, today’s consumers want an affordable device they can slip in their pockets without worrying about it breaking when it inevitably drops. They also want a device that is really “theirs,” one that matches their favorite color or their outlook.
Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi Inc. selected three SABIC materials for developing the frame for its Mi2A smartphone: two THERMOCOMP compounds that helped integrate the antenna with the frame and LEXAN EXL resin that enabled a variety of rich color options.
Users of equipment such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops want their products to be light yet high-tech, aesthetically appealing yet hard-wearing, and, of course, they want them to be affordable. If a manufacturer cannot meet their needs, a consumer will go elsewhere. Engineering thermoplastics play a significant role in the development of increasingly thin, compact, and lightweight smartphones and tablets that keep pace with growing consumer demand.
In addition to consumer electronics, thermoplastics are used in a wide range of industries, from automotive to construction, from medical devices to packaging. They help design engineers create innovative products that address the challenges facing their industries, whether that’s achieving lighter-weight components that help improve fuel efficiency, or replacing glass windows with polycarbonate (PC) sheeting that has the same clarity but is less likely to break.
Increasingly, engineering thermoplastics are becoming the material of choice within these industries. They not only offer higher performance in key areas, but they also allow for creativity in aesthetics, since often they can be customized in a range of colors and designs. It is this combination of desirable properties that makes engineering thermoplastics so appealing to today’s design engineers who are working to satisfy the demands of manufacturers and consumers, and also to develop future-proof products that meet as-yet unanswered needs. Indeed, these properties have given thermoplastics their place in the consumer electronics industry.