Series production of decorated plastic parts with integrated sensor

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  • Overcoming drawbacks of OCA (optically clear adhesives) technology
  • Metal structures on polyester carrier are significantly more elastic
  • Surface decoration and sensor function seamlessly combined

There is an increasing trend towards replacing mechanical knobs, buttons and switches in cars, household appliances and consumer electronic devices. In response to this trend, the company Leonhard Kurz has developed series-production ready systems for the manufacture of decorated plastic components with embedded sensors.

Overcoming drawbacks of OCA (optically clear adhesives) technology

Until now, plastic parts have predominantly been manually equipped with sensors using mainly the expensive OCA (optically clear adhesives) technology. Integration processes developed by Kurz, however, enable sensors to be applied very quickly and economically by machine.

7-inch touch control panel on curved plastic face plate

7-inch touch control panel on curved plastic face plate with PolyTC sensor foil (source: Leonhard Kurz)

Metal structures on polyester carrier are significantly more elastic

The sensors, including electrical connection (tail), are permanently bonded to the component and are immediately functional. This is achieved using the PolyTC sensor films developed by the Kurz subsidiary PolyIC. Compared to the ITO (indium tin oxide) films commonly used for sensors, the PolyTC films with high-resolution metal structures on a polyester carrier are significantly more elastic. This makes the sensors more deformable and thus suitable for curved surfaces.

A further advantage of PolyTC films is their high transparency and conductivity. This characteristic makes them ideal for use in automotive cockpits, where plastics with thicknesses of 2.5 and more millimeters may be used. While ITO films are no longer applicable at these thicknesses, PolyTC films remain reliably functional.

Surface decoration and sensor function seamlessly combined

Kurz has developed plastic component decoration systems that are tailored to the application of sensors. When metallic designs are employed, Kurz uses so-called NCVM (non-conductive vacuum metallized) films that do not interfere with the function of the capacitive sensor field. For surfaces with a dead front effect, translucent designs have been developed that are opaque when the illumination is inactive, but allow a backlit control panel to become visible on activation of the sensor. In the case of injection molded parts, a combined process has been developed that enables the component to be decorated and equipped with a sensor film in one shot.

At K 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, Kurz will be presenting series production ready, and series produced plastic parts with integrated sensor functionality.



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