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The prototypes for IME have been diverse, ranging from simple devices for wearable technology, automotive light heating, antennas, and white goods touchpads to more complex sensors, actuators, and displays.
The prototypes for IME have been diverse, ranging from simple devices for wearable technology, automotive light heating, antennas, and white goods touchpads to more complex sensors, actuators, and displays.

In-mold electronics (IME) – or in-mold structural electronics (IMSE) – is about to enter a period of rapid revenue growth, with IDTechEx forecasting the overall market to exceed US$1.11 billion by 2029.

IME is a process of integrating printed decorations and electronic circuitry with thermoforming and molding. The results are 3D-shaped objects with embedded circuits of differing degrees of complexity. This is part of the global emerging trend to 3D structural electronics and the progression away from the rudimentary solution of components encased in a box.

The advantages of IME are numerous and include: lightweighting, space-saving, robustness, accelerated time-to-market, and high throughput capabilities. However, the technology does not come without its drawbacks in: shape limitations, yield, software immaturity, environmental stability, and post-processing.

The prototypes have been diverse, ranging from simple devices for wearable technology, automotive light heating, antennas, and white goods touchpads to more complex sensors, actuators, and displays.

IME is not the only technological solution to 3D electronics. Aerosol jet printing, Mold Interconnected Devices (including laser direct structuring, two-shot molding, and film inserting), and 3D printing electronics are all rapidly emerging and gaining traction.

Market outlook for applications

IDTechEx expected automotive interior applications, for things like overhead control units, will be the major high-volume orders in the medium-term.

The shorter-term will be in consumer electronics and other industries that can bring a product to market much faster.

In the longer-term, not only will they infiltrate across the more affordable transportation, but are also expected to be seen in even more everyday devices. This includes opportunities in household appliances and white goods.

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