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With the dawn of the era for 5G, the plastics industry is ready toembrace emerging opportunities. New high-performance plastics can beincorporated into new smartphones and other wireless devices, as well as new 5Gantenna infrastructure. They are ready to become the material of choice for 5G applications. 

Emerging 5G applications present big opportunities for high-performance plastics.
Emerging 5G applications present big opportunities for high-performance plastics.

The 5G (fifth-generation wireless cellular technology) revolution not only changes the smartphone industry, but also presents a golden opportunity for the plastics industry, with the expected rocket-growing shipment of 5G smartphones and building of new antenna infrastructure.

According to Strategy Analytics, global 5G smartphone shipments will grow 250% year-on-year from two million units in 2019, reaching 1.5 billion in 2025. Meanwhile, up to 150 antennae will be required per square kilometer in the densest urban areas, according to Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

5G promises more data throughput, faster. To achieve this it will use a shorter wavelength signal boosted by dense antenna network. Because higher performance is demanded to implement the 5G technology, higher performance requirements are in place for smartphone and antenna materials.

For better radio signal permeability, materials for 5G applications have to have low dielectric constant and loss tangent. Furthermore, for better signal flow through walls, windows and outdoors, the base infrastructure needs to be as “transparent” as possible. Shorter wavelengths and a dense antenna network will drive architectural designs and choice of materials.

LCPs to have very positive outlook

Among the new materials with a very positive outlook are liquid crystal polymers (LCPs) for mobile phone antennae.
The market of LCPs is driven by the increasing demand of electronic products.
Among those commercialized engineering plastics, LCPs are exceptionally fluid, can fill small and thin-walled products, and have high thermal stability and excellent environmentally friendly flame retardancy in the lead-free reflow process. Also, they possess characteristics such as extremely low water absorption, short molding cycles and low shrinkage rates.

LCPs are aromatic thermoplastic polyesters. They are available in two types, one of which being lyotropic liquid crystals, which display liquid crystal characteristics when dissolved in solvents. The other type is thermotropic liquid crystals, which have liquid crystal characteristics when melted.

At present, thermotropic LCPs are mainly used in the electronics industry because LCPs have outstanding performance for small electronic devices and are mainly suitable for injection molding in mass production.

However, the rapid developments of the electronics industry have placed many new requirements on LCPs. Dielectric performance is one of these requirements because LCPs are known for having a low dielectric constant intrinsically.

As the communication speed is ever increasing and the 5G technology transmits in the high frequency range (1-20GHz), device materials are required to be low in dielectric constant and dielectric loss while having good processing properties to allow for the manufacture of parts with complex designs.

Despite a lower dielectric constant, most LCP grades do not meet industry standards for the specification of low dielectric constant.

New LCP grades to meet industry standard

To satisfy the emerging needs of the industry, Shenzhen Wote Advanced Materials Co Ltd, a significant enterprise in the research and manufacture of special performance polymer materials in China, has already developed several new LCP grades to cover the required range of dielectric constants.

The dielectric constants of these new grades at 10GHz fall in the range from 2.5 to 8.0, whereas those of most conventional LCPs are between 3.7 and 4.5.

Meanwhile, engineering thermoplastics global supplier Polyplastics has also launched a new series of low-dielectric LCPs for next-generation communication devices.
Polyplastics expands its series of low-dielectric LCPs to meet broader performance requirements for connectors.
LAPEROS E420P is the first in a series of low-dielectric grades which also possesses inherent high heat and chemical resistance, strong mechanical properties, high flow, and low warpage for films and connectors in cabling, antennas, and circuit boards.

Polyplastics developed the new LCP series amidst the increasing demand for low dielectric and low dielectric tangent materials to satisfy the needs of 5G technology, V2X telecommunications for autonomous automobiles, and materials applicable for high-speed and high-frequency transmission components.

As introduced, LAPEROS E420P makes use of an optimum combination of filler and formulation technology to achieve a low dielectric constant of less than 3.0 measured perpendicular to the flow direction for the 1-20 GHz frequency band. Furthermore, the dielectric loss tangent is stable over the entire frequency band.

The material also fulfills downsizing requirements and increasingly complex designs in connector applications, and can be used in Surface Mount Technology (SMT) processes.

Polyplastics will expand its series of low-dielectric LCPs to meet broader performance requirements for connectors. The company plans to extend its product portfolio to include grades with enhanced low warpage, higher heat resistance, and greater flow for compact, fine-pitched connectors. Since connectors are the primary target application, these grades are formulated with good flowability.

Polyplastics reported that in tests using the company’s connector molds, the new grades are molded at lower packing pressure than conventional grades.

The coming of the 5G era and the rapid penetration of all-screen displays will lead to a further increase in the demand for LCP soft board antennae as a solution to the demand of smart end-products for high speed and high frequency transmission, and lightweighting.

Fluoropolymer technologies for 5G networks

The Chemours Company, a global chemistry company with leading market positions in titanium technologies, fluoroproducts and chemical solutions, believes that its fluoropolymer technologies are essential for 5G era.

To help meet the significant rise in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, 5G networks will provide the infrastructure to support increased demand for big data, faster speeds and more reliable connections, says Chemours.

As designers and manufacturers continue to innovate on electronic devices, 5G networks will become even more crucial. High-performance fluoropolymers have fueled this growth by enabling the development of faster, smaller and more durable microprocessors, semiconductors, and transistors.

According to Chemours, its customizable Teflon fluoropolymers and Viton fluoroelastomers provide essential benefits behind the evolution of 5G networks, such as high performance and safety for computer cables, smart devices and wearables.

As said, incorporating Teflon fluoropolymer resins into cable insulation and jacketing improves electrical performance and adds an unmatched level of fire safety performance. These properties are essential in cabling systems for local area networks (LAN), data centers, and other high-performance telecommunications applications such as high-speed cables.
Viton fluoroelastomers have excellent chemical inertness, UV resistance and anti-corrosion properties.
Teflon fluoropolymers are also important in the semiconductor manufacturing process, as 5G is already impacting the semiconductor industry growth and modifying its requirements.

In addition, printed circuit boards (PCB) may rely heavily on high-performance fluoropolymer materials in the 5G telecommunications era. From data centers to cell towers to personal devices, fluoropolymers' superior dielectric properties and low dissipation factors provide ultra-high frequency and high speed performance.

As people increasingly wear their electronic devices like digital watches and activity trackers, fluoropolymers help make those devices more comfortable and more efficient.

Viton fluoroelastomers have excellent chemical inertness, UV resistance and anti-corrosion properties. Their multiple color solution is widely recognized on wearable devices in the watchband market for its luxury haptics and proven bio-compatibility.

To meet every changing consumer preferences for improved quality and cosmetic appearance, Chemours continues to innovate by having agile tailor-made color matching.

Integrated solutions meeting different needs

To DuPont, 5G service is all about speed, reliability and flexibility, and it provides solutions across the 5G ecosystem covering infrastructure, devices and use cases.

As 5G is the real buzz in the E&E and telecommunications sectors, DuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers (T&AP), a business unit of DowDuPont Specialty Products Division, showcased its integrated solutions for future 5G service at CHINAPLAS 2019.

DuPont offers a series of solutions to meet the requirements of high speed connections, including antenna technology, high-speed connector solutions and Optical Distribution Networks (ODN).

DuPont Crastin PBT is used for mobile phone antenna split, providing excellent antenna performance.DuPont Crastin product families provide balanced Dk/Df, creating excellent antenna performance, delivering outstanding signal transmission to ensure high-speed, low-latency 5G communications and operation quality.

High speed connector is an established solution for most connector manufacturers. High-temperature nylon connector solutions offer high speed and are compatible with the most popular SMT assembly processes. DuPont Zytel HTN provides superior flowability, which is good for miniaturization design.

Meanwhile, ODN Solutions featuring on the optical fiber cable (DuPont Hytrel) and interconnect material (DuPont Zytel RSHTN), offer outstanding mechanical properties and reliability that enable the fast connection service provided by ODN.

Increasing demands for greater power and higher speed data transmission will result in more need for thermal management.

Thermal management solutions make 5G devices more reliable and functionally stable, minimizing malfunctions and system failures. It also significantly improves the 5G user experience by reducing heat at the hotspots.

DuPont's wide range of thermally conductive products, including Zytel RSHTN, Zytel, and Crastin, have various mechanical properties that cater to different customers' needs.

Several trends are evolving in the consumer electronics device market, e.g., lighter and thinner designs for easy carrying and wearing and a wide range of color and hardness offerings.

Elastomer solutions provide better comfort and enable a fashionable look for applications like smartwatch wristbands, gaming device bezel covers, earbuds and protection covers. DuPont Hytrel and DuPont TPSiV product families offer a wide range of softness and color choices.

Lightweight solutions for consumer electronics products offer effective weight reduction. DuPont Zytel RSHTN enables thinner designs for applications like AR/VR goggles, which are 25% lighter than traditional glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate materials. Zytel HTN has excellent mechanical properties to replace metal for electrical and electronics product covers and structure parts.

Innovative PC materials facilitate efficiency design freedom

As one of the world's largest provider of polycarbonate (PC) material solutions, Covestro has been working to develop these solutions for high-end applications in recent years, including the 5G technology.
Covestro’s PC material solutions can be customized in a wide range of E&E applications.
The huge infrastructure investments and downstream applications under exploration make 5G operators and equipment manufacturers pay close attention to the return on investment.

According to Covestro, the companyhas been investing to research and develop innovative PC material solutions for 5G applications since a few years ago. The use of high quality shell materials to reduce the damage caused by repeated repair or replacement of equipment is an important part of improving operational efficiency and controlling risks.

At present, Covestro provides customers with advanced signal penetration testing for materials to help customers clearly understand the design freedom. The company’s innovative research in lightweighting, adjustmentof dielectric properties, heat dissipation and electronic integration will also help customers explore the broad prospects of 5G technology.

PPA particularly suitable for FR connectors

BASF is further extending its polyphthalamide (PPA) portfolio and launched the new PPA Ultramid Advanced T2000 at CHINAPLAS 2019, Guangzhou. The compound group based on PA 6T/66 combines excellent mechanical with dielectric strength at high temperatures, which is a combination which is particularly needed for connectors in the E&E industry.

Due to its partially aromatic chemical structure, Ultramid Advanced T2000 is the solution for parts that require high, constant stiffness and strength over a broad temperature range in combination with resistance to heat and humidity as well as optional flame-retardant (FR) properties. Such applications can be found in the E&E connector industry where high resistivity is required.

According to BASF, in the E&E industry, the trend for further miniaturization drives the development of the next generation of high-performance parts, especially in the connector market. The challenges for these parts so far made of standard materials now lie in combining dielectric with mechanical strength, and this in very demanding conditions and on a performance level that standard plastics have not been able to reach so far.

BASF introduced new PPA particularly suitable for flame-retardant connectors in E&E devices.With Ultramid Advanced T2000, BASF offers customers another PPA when choosing the right plastic for the right part, especially to enable the latest E&E devices supported by state-of-the-art FR competency.

Thanks to its excellent mechanical and dielectric performance across a broad temperature range, Ultramid Advanced T2000 is the material of choice for a lot of new applications in the E&E industry: from delicate flame-retardant connectors via structural laptop parts to switches and miniature circuit breakers.

In addition, with its high flowability in injection molding, Ultramid Advanced T2000 enables thin-wall design and good surface quality. The new BASF PPA also enhances part integrity: structures resist melting when exposed to transient extreme heat and are resistant to external mechanical shock.

The new PPA shows improved impact strength on par with standard PA66 and a lower water uptake than standard aliphatic polyamides resulting in high dimensional stability. Its high melting point (310°C) and heat deflection temperatures of >280°C (HDT-A) make it the ideal material for lead-free soldering without part deformation.

As introduced, Ultramid Advanced T2000 can be efficiently processed. Its flowability is significantly higher than that of other high-temperature polyamides without compromising flexibility or toughness. Several post-processing methods like welding with other Ultramid Advanced T2000 grades, polyamides or PPAs in general, as well as laser marking are possible.

For broad application possibilities, BASF developed a special range of flame-retardant grades reinforced with 30% to 40% glass fibers and with UL 94 V-0 rating available for all colors. In addition, there are several grades with reinforcement levels ranging from 30% to 50% glass fibers and improved impact resistance, available both as uncolored and laser-markable black.

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