If you take a quick glance at your surroundings, chances are one of the items within your reach was created, in part, at least, by overmolding. A critical process across manufacturing industries, overmolding gives engineers and designers the opportunity to explore unique product features like innovative designs, ergonomic solutions, and functionality enhancements while saving labor hours and material costs.
Overmolding with suitable materials provides a number of benefits to communication device users. We’ll explore those benefits while covering the basic material considerations when leveraging overmolding for communication technology.
Designing Communication Devices
Communication devices are designed through computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. This process creates machine-precise and complex mold cavities.
When assembling a communication device, there are a few basic components to keep in mind during drafting. Having an idea of what materials you’ll ultimately need allows you to be better prepared for that part of the process.
For example, what options for materials can be considered for the body of the device? Are durability and weight more important than aesthetics and ergonomics? Are there buttons on the device, or other input mechanisms? How resistant to wear and tear must they be? Are they easy to clean? Is there a display? Is it scratch-resistant? Durable?
With these questions answered, you'll likely have an idea of what materials you'd consider for various components. Make a list of material options for each aspect of your project:
The most common material used to make the body of a communication device is hard plastic. It's easy to mold into different shapes and protects against physical damage. The material is durable and resists dust.
Rubber coating works well for devices needing some degree of water resistance. It prevents moisture from penetrating through to internal components. But rubber-coated devices are harder to clean and can be a bit slipperier than hard plastic.
When it comes to ruggedness, silicone works well. The only way to destroy a molded piece of silicone is to drop something on it with enough force to smash it into pieces.
Silicone also makes for excellent water resistance and is non-toxic to humans. But, it's difficult to get detailed designs, and it attracts dust and lint.
Glass is famous for screens on communication devices. It's scratch-resistant and durable if treated well. But it can shatter if dropped. Also, glass is a poor conductor of heat, so devices with glass screens can often get quite hot to the touch.
The creation of chemically strengthened glass like Gorilla Glass can make suitable replacements for certain communication applications that require more durability.
LCD screens are popular because they offer durability, scratch resistance, and produce less heat. This is due to its low power consumption. But they are more expensive than other types of screens and can be prone to breaking if dropped.
Overmolding Communication Devices
Not too long ago, our cell phones could withstand a drop from a multi-story building. Now, our heart stops when it slips out of our pockets and hits the floor. Thankfully, recent product releases have been a bit more resilient, making that moment when we look at the screen after a fall a bit less painful. The screen aside, chances are, your phone will still work and it's thanks to innovations in technology and materials, as well as processes like overmolding, which in the case of PCBs will keep all the inside components in place, ensuring that most major functions will remain intact.
Communication devices improve the quality of life for people. Some are for emergency use, and others for gathering information in real-time. Regardless of their intended use, dependability is top of mind for manufacturers.
To achieve this, they need to take into consideration different types of materials for the construction of the device, the priority of which should be:
Some people might not see aesthetics as an essential consideration but for some, it may play a critical role in the usability of a product. Hearing aids, for example, can come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. Silicon or some other material overlay impacts the comfortability but can also come in a variety of designs. Having the choice between a rainbow and camo pattern can make all the difference to a child being fitted with their first hearing aid.
Cost & Availability
Certain materials are lower cost because they’re more highly available. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re less durable than a higher value, harder to acquire option. However, where conductivity or environmental resistance is critical, certain products require more expensive materials.
Some materials aren’t consistently available. A shortage in silicon metal in 2021 caused a 300% surge in prices over two months. Designing custom devices demands research that looks at all factors related to materials.
The device needs to withstand a variety of conditions and natural abuse. Custom devices might need several stress factors assessed. Durable materials that can withstand years of wear and tear may be necessary.
Devices for rugged environments have different needs than a device for indoor use. Another consideration relates to how often a device might need maintenance or repair.
Satellites, planes, and cars all have weight considerations that need to be taken into account during design. From the smallest component to the largest, the communications devices within these larger applications go under stringent quality reviews to guarantee their seamless fit into the whole assembly.
In commercial applications, like razor-thin phones or paperweight tablets for hand-held use, the move to low-weight technology was a must. From the plastic to the PCB to the encasing, each of these is made to be as small and light as possible.
Evaluating the environmental conditions that the product will likely endure on a day-to-day basis is a key aspect of determining whether or not its weight should be cut.
Overmolding Process and Uses
In overmolding, one material is placed over another for a finished product. Overmolded parts use two or more different materials that are thermoplastic or rubberlike. The process is often used to improve the product's appearance or performance.
The most common reason for overmolding is to protect a component from wear and tear. A plastic part might get overmolded with rubber for a surface that resists abrasion.
Another everyday use is to attach several components into one part. This includes cell phone buttons molded to the outside of plastic housings.
Molded Connectors in Communication Devices
In any assembly, a degree of customizability can be leveraged to facilitate low weight, highly durable interconnections between devices. Standard or overmolded connectors are used to create interfaces that communicate with every element of the assembly and are an essential part of communication devices.
They provide a way for the device to connect to other devices or systems. The following are factors that should be considered when choosing molded connectors.
Type of Connector
There are a variety of connectors available, so you need to choose the one that is best suited for your needs. Some connectors lock in place, while others can separate with a gentle tug.
Size of Connector
The connector should be large enough to be visible and accessible. Material of Connector The connector should be a durable material that can withstand wear and tear.
Color of Connector
The connector's color should contrast with your device for visibility.
Connector's Overmolding Process
The connector used in the overmolding process should have a snug fit and be easy to remove. The correct connector ensures your device connects well to other devices or systems.
Overmolding for Custom Communication Devices
This article has covered a lot of ground on communication devices. You've learned about the technology, engineering, and creation of the devices. We've even given you some insight into molded connectors.
Overmolding lowers manufacturers' labor rates by reducing hand-touched connections. It can also enhance the grip and the product aesthetics.
If you’re considering overmolding for your next project, and need a reliable partner to help identify the best materials and connector solutions, look no further than Bead Electronics. We are a global manufacturer of electronic connector pins and have been manufacturing in Connecticut for over 100 years. Click here to speak to a connector pin specialist today.