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Rapra Industry Analysis Report Series

Polymers for
Electronic Components

K. Cousins

Europes leading plastics and rubber consultancy

with over 80 years of experience providing
industry with technology, information
and products

Polymers for Electronic


A Rapra Industry Analysis Report


Keith Cousins

July 2001

Rapra Technology Limited

Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 4NR, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1939 250383

Fax: +44 (0)1939 251118

The right of Keith Cousins to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by
him in accordance with Sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

2001, Rapra Technology Limited

ISBN: 1-85957-281-2
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form or by any meanselectronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwisewithout the prior permission of the publisher,
Rapra Technology Limited, Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY4 4NR, UK.

Polymers for Electronic Components

1 Introduction .................................................................................................................... 1
1.1 Background ............................................................................................................. 1
1.2 The Report .............................................................................................................. 1
1.3 Methodology............................................................................................................ 2
2 Executive Summary ....................................................................................................... 3
3 Review of Materials and Properties................................................................................ 9
3.1 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 9
3.2 Polymers for Electronic Components..................................................................... 10
3.2.1 Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)............................................................. 10
3.2.2 Acetal Copolymer (POM) ................................................................................ 10
3.2.3 Polyarylamide ................................................................................................. 10
3.2.4 Liquid Crystalline Polymers (LCPs) ................................................................. 11
3.2.5 Polyamide (PA) ............................................................................................... 11
3.2.6 Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) .................................................................. 12
3.2.7 Polycarbonate (PC)......................................................................................... 12
3.2.8 Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) ......................................................................... 13
3.2.9 Polyetherimide (PEI) ....................................................................................... 13
3.2.10 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) ................................................................ 13
3.2.11 Polyethylene (PE) ......................................................................................... 13
3.2.12 Polypropylene (PP) ....................................................................................... 13
3.2.13 Polyphthalamide (PPA) ................................................................................. 14
3.2.14 Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS) ........................................................................ 14
3.2.15 Polystyrene (PS) ........................................................................................... 14
3.2.16 PS-Modified Polyphenylene Oxide (PPO) ..................................................... 15
3.2.17 Polysulfone (PSU)......................................................................................... 15
3.2.18 Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) ..................................................................... 15
3.2.19 Polyurethane (PU)......................................................................................... 16
3.2.20 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) ............................................................................... 16
3.2.21 Polyvinylidine Fluoride (PVDF)...................................................................... 16
3.2.22 Styrene-Acrylonitrile Copolymer (SAN) ......................................................... 16
3.2.23 Elastomers .................................................................................................... 16
4 Electronic Components ................................................................................................ 19
4.1 Enclosures............................................................................................................. 19
4.2 Batteries ................................................................................................................ 22
4.3 Cable Glands......................................................................................................... 23
4.4 Cable Ties and Markers......................................................................................... 23
4.5 Capacitors ............................................................................................................. 23
4.6 Coil Formers.......................................................................................................... 27
4.7 Connectors ............................................................................................................ 27
4.8 Heaters.................................................................................................................. 32
4.9 Membrane Keypads .............................................................................................. 32
4.10 Plugs and Sockets............................................................................................... 32
4.11 Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) ............................................................................. 33
4.12 Relays ................................................................................................................. 37
4.13 Resistors ............................................................................................................. 37

Polymers for Electronic Components

4.14 RFI Screening ......................................................................................................38
4.15 Sensors................................................................................................................39
4.16 Switches ..............................................................................................................40
4.17 Terminals .............................................................................................................40
4.18 Touch Screens.....................................................................................................40
4.19 Other Components...............................................................................................41
5 Overview of European Electronic Component Markets.................................................43
5.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................43
5.2 Market Analysis......................................................................................................44
5.3 Telecommunications ..............................................................................................50
5.4 Automotive Applications .........................................................................................56
5.5 IT ...........................................................................................................................58
5.6 Fuel Cells...............................................................................................................59
5.7 Contract Electronics Manufacturing........................................................................61
5.8 Component Distribution..........................................................................................66
6 Key Trends and Developments.....................................................................................67
6.1 Moulding, Machining and Fabrication.....................................................................67
6.2 Polymer Developments ..........................................................................................67
6.3 Supercapacitors .....................................................................................................69
6.4 Lithium Polymer Systems.......................................................................................70
6.5 Flat Panel Displays ................................................................................................71
6.6 Other New Technologies........................................................................................74
6.7 Recycling ...............................................................................................................77
6.8 Chemical Safety.....................................................................................................79
7 Future Outlook..............................................................................................................81
7.1 Optical Applications................................................................................................81
7.2 Bio-Based Polymers...............................................................................................82
7.3 Self-Repairing Polymers.........................................................................................82
7.4 Search For New Products ......................................................................................82
7.5 Bluetooth Technology ............................................................................................84
7.6 QTC Material..........................................................................................................85
7.7 Superconducting Plastics .......................................................................................86
7.8 Low Molecular Weight Liquid Crystals....................................................................86
8 Company Profiles .........................................................................................................87

Polymers for Electronic Components

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
The European plastics manufacturing industry employs more than 70,000 people and has
investment in research and development estimated at  ELOOLRQ $FFRUGLQJ WR WKH
Association of Plastics Manufacturers (APME), total plastics consumption, including nonplastics applications (use of fibres or coatings in products which are not seen as plastics
products in their own right) was 38,803,000 tonnes in 1998. The percentage division by
end-use market is shown in Figure 1.1.







Large Industry





Source: APME
Large industry represents non-packaging uses including machinery not covered by other sections

Figure 1.1 Plastics consumption by end-use market, 1998

According to the APME, plastics represent 20% of the weight of modern electronic
electrical applications with this percentage forecast to rise still further due to
unbeatable properties of plastics. Plastics materials are claimed to make a
contribution to weight reduction, thermal insulation, electrical/electronic power control
reduced transportation costs.


Figures from the APME for 1998 show that 2,381,000 tonnes of plastics were used in the
European electronics and electrical sector. Plastics waste, weighing 675,000 tonnes,
accounted for less than 0.1% of the sectors waste by weight. Of this, plastics containing
halogenated compounds represented 11% of the total.

1.2 The Report

The key findings of the report are summarised in the Executive Summary (Section 2).
Brief notes on the properties and applications of the most commonly used polymers by the
component makers form the basis of Section 3. Requirements for individual components
are considered in Section 4. An overview of European electronic component markets is
presented in Section 5 which goes on to review the major component users:

Polymers for Electronic Components

the telecommunications sector, boosted by its constituent mobile phone sector,

the automotive sector, with the increasing electronics content of new models
compared to predecessors, and

the information technology (IT) sector.

The growing use of contract electronics manufacturing is reviewed in this section, which
also identifies issues of significance in individual European markets.
Key trends and developments affecting the current and future use of polymers in
electronic component applications are considered in Section 6, including their use in
batteries, capacitors, transistors, displays, fuel cells and rapid prototyping processes.
Plastics recycling is also discussed.
The future outlook for the use of polymers in the components sector is reviewed in Section
7, and a selection of company profiles of the leading suppliers and consumers in this
sector is given in Section 8.

1.3 Methodology
This report has been compiled largely by the extensive use of desk research, the internet
and the Rapra Abstracts database. I would also like to express my thanks to the many
company and trade association representatives I met, mainly at trade exhibitions, and to
those companies who responded to my requests for information.

Polymers for Electronic Components

2 Executive Summary
Designers of electrical and electronic components have a wide choice of polymers at their
disposal and this report lists the most commonly used with brief notes on their properties.
Industry studies have shown the most popular polymers in Europe for electronic and
electrical applications, including wire and cable, to be polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is
used mainly for cable sheathing but also used for cable clips, grommets and shrouds,
polyethylene (PE), acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), polystyrene (PS) and
polypropylene (PP).





Figure 2.1 Breakdown of materials used in electronic/electrical applications

Cost is a prime consideration but competition in the market place is imposing ever more
stringent specification criteria on the equipment designer who, in turn, is demanding
significantly improved performance from his polymer supplier.
The mobile phone industry, currently said to be the largest market for electronic
components, demands ever smaller components which are lighter in weight. This
translates into component outer cases which have thinner, but equally strong, walls which
may withstand the handset being dropped on a concrete floor, for example. Mobile
phones now incorporate moulded interconnected device (MID) technology which enables
functions or tracks to be directly incorporated into the housings.
The outer case of a mobile phone handset must also be resistant to everyday chemicals,
e.g., sun tan oil. If the owner is sunbathing on a sandy beach, then the mobile phone must
be able to tolerate the ambient beach temperature, be sealed against the ingress of sand
and also withstand the temperature of the car seat on which it is placed for the journey
Environmental concerns are also at work as exemplified by the planned (2008) enforced
adoption of lead-free solder in Europe for environmental reasons. This will result in higher
reflow soldering temperatures with the result that components designed to come into
contact with higher temperature solder must now be made from polymers with a higher
temperature tolerance. Components built to satisfy military standards have always needed
to comply with tighter specifications.

Polymers for Electronic Components

More compact designs are often accompanied by heat dissipation problems; these have
been addressed by the greater use of thermally conductive polymers. Electrically
conductive polymers also have their place and may be one solution for components
whose outer cases must act as a protective screen against the passage of
electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI).
Most components are produced by injection moulding where ever smaller parts demand
ever tighter moulding tolerances and such factors as freedom from shrinkage, warpage,
creepage and water absorption. These constraints effectively limit the choice of polymers
for specific applications. Further constraints in some applications include the use of
halogen-free flame retardant materials, again limiting the choice of polymer. The net result
is that an electrical connector manufacturer, for example, will offer products moulded from
different polymers depending on the end-use for which the connector is being used. For
example, a budget design may use PS whereas a top-of-the-range model may be made
from polyetheretherketone (PEEK).
The European Union market for electronic components, according to the industrys trade
association (European Electronic Component Manufacturers Association, EECA), is
dominated by three countries which collectively account for 67% of the total market.
Germany leads (with a national market of around  ELOOLRQ  IROORZHG E\ WKH 8. DURXQG


The telecommunications sector is seen as the most important growth element though
Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) services will not make a
measurable contribution to the figures in 2001. The President of the EECA added his
belief that the automotive sector will remain the second strongest market for passive
components and will continue to grow. Further growth is to be found in the subcontracting
sector. Major growth in the mobile phone sector is tied to the successful launch of third
generation (3G) UMTS systems. However, the European Commission (EC) has criticised
the high cost of licences and lack of harmonisation in licence conditions from country to
country. The Commission believes that this could handicap the launch of 3G services
across Europe.
The customers for electronic components manufacturers can be categorised in four major
groups: catalogue distributors, contract equipment manufacturers (CEMs), original
equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and overseas distributors. It has been reported that
CEMs now account for between 35% and 40% of the component sales of some
distributors. However, with the total European components market reported to exceed
US$45 billion, the picture across Europe is that distributor sales accounted for only a
quarter of the business in 1999, the remainder going to OEMs. The picture is changing
dramatically and it is forecast that the distributor percentage will rise to 40% before the
end of the decade.
A growing number of electronic equipment suppliers have opted to sub-contract their
manufacturing operations to specialist contractors. These fall into two distinct categories:
the small specialist serving niche markets with an annual turnover of around US$5 million
and the major multinationals which move their volume business round the world, largely
favouring low labour cost countries notably in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.
Growth in the world contract manufacturing market is exemplified by the 67.5% rise from

accounts for 18%, America accounts for 31% and South East Asia accounts for 28%.

Polymers for Electronic Components

Business-to-business e-commerce polymer operations have started with the Omnexus
collaboration between leading thermoplastics suppliers, including BASF, Bayer,
Blasterfeld, Clariant, Dow, DSM, DuPont, PolyOne, Solvay and Ticona/Celanese, to
create a customer-focused global e-market. This will be established as a stand-alone
business with an initial investment of US$50 million. Following its US launch in 2000,
Omnexus has started its Europe-specific services in France, Germany and Spain as the
initial phases of a pan-European launch. Eventually a complete package of business-tobusiness functions (including electronic invoicing, multi-currency purchasing and order
tracking) will be available.
The main electronic components market for polymers is for passive components which
represent around 85% of the number of components on a typical printed circuit board. In
1999, passives accounted for 9% of the world sales of electronic components with active
components taking 71%, and electromechanical components taking 20%. However,
because of the much higher unit costs of semiconductors, passives only account for
around 5% of the total component cost. The year 2000 generated record sales with some
suppliers reporting sales turnover increases over the previous year of between 30% and
40%. 2001 is unlikely to be as successful but double-digit percentage sales increases are
still expected. Suppliers have brought additional manufacturing capacity on stream and so
price levels may come down.
The health of the components sector is dependent on the market for electronic products.
The consumption of polymers in the communications sector is reported to have grown
from 500,000 tonnes in 1996 to an estimated 800,000 tonnes in 2001.
Another major market for electronic components is the automotive industry where demand
for components is reported to be growing at 17% per annum with up to 10,000 passive
components installed in a typical current model of luxury car. The value of the electronic
systems in a typical car is said to represent a quarter of its sales value, with the electronic
content of the vehicle growing by around 8% per annum to reach around 30% of the cars
value by 2005. In recent years, there has been a move away from thermosets to
thermoplastics for automotive components. Thermoplastics are now the preferred choice,
usually reinforced with glass fibre. Germany is the dominant location of the automotive
electronics manufacturing sector and accounts for approximately 60% of the market.
The most successful moulders are those who have been shown to collaborate closely with
mould makers and machinery manufacturers. This is because of the growing trend
towards partnership between the moulder and his customer in order to react swiftly to
changes in market demand.
In the field of contract manufacture the most successful companies have been shown to
be those with the most up-to-date machinery. Companies in Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand have scored highly in this respect. The major American
injection moulding companies have exported their manufacturing expertise to Asia, often
owning or investing in those companies which are the beneficiaries of their expertise.
The search for greater operating efficiency involves working at higher temperatures thus
putting the pressure on polymer suppliers to deliver products with superior performance.
DuPont offers high-temperature polyamide (PA) grades with a melting point of around
300 C, compared to 275 C for PA. These high-temperature grades are claimed to offer
better dimensional stability and greater thermal resistance than PA 66.
The arrival of electrically conductive polymers in the late 1970s and now thermally
conductive polymers, both of which derive these properties from additives, has opened up

Polymers for Electronic Components

new application opportunities especially where heat dispersion from an electronic
component is a significant design factor. Research is proceeding into the use of
conducting polymers in ultracapacitor, also known as supercapacitor, applications. The
capacitors will act like batteries to deliver high pulses of power and store energy.
Supercapacitors have minimal contact resistance because the conducting polymers can
be synthesised directly on to the current collector. The electrode material can be formed
as thick films, powders or sub-micron coatings with the latter offering the possibility of
diffusion times of the order of microseconds.
Polymers have long been used in the manufacture of capacitors with their incorporation in
supercapacitors being an extension of this application. However, their employment in
batteries, other than as battery container material, is a new trend exemplified by the
lithium-ion polymer types. The latest technologies include rechargeable lithium polymer
systems in both flat and curved versions. The cathodes are basically lithium nickel cobalt
oxide (LiNiCoO2); the polymer construction technology is licensed from Motorolas energy
systems group. Developments in this sector have been driven by the strength of the
mobile phone and portable computer markets, stimulated by the need for ever more
efficient battery power systems. Not only are polymers being used for power storage but
they are also being used for memory storage. Sony has introduced a Memory Stick the
size of a stick of chewing gum.
Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) have traditionally dominated the flat panel display market
along with active matrix LCDs (or AMLCDs), which were originally designed for the
personal computer market. The polymer dispersed liquid crystal display technology
(PDLCD) from Philips is claimed to be a reflective, high-contrast, low-power display which
permits the manufacture of flexible displays. The advantages of this polymer-based active
matrix include lower production costs, because fewer production steps are involved and
the clean room conditions are not as demanding as the more usual production process
involving amorphous silicon-based thin film transistors (TFTs) which account for the major
cost component of the complete display. The technology of light emitting polymers (LEPs)
is another new technology destined to revolutionise the displays sector.
Rapid prototyping, a growing products and services market worth around US$500 million
worldwide, involves the computer generation of solid components using the technology of
stereolithography, which is capable of production tolerances of 0.1 mm.
The pervasiveness of polymers throughout the electronics industry is illustrated by reports
of the commercialisation of Cambridge University research which has discovered the
technology to manufacture low cost plastic micro-chips involving plastic transistors. Plastic
Logic, a company funded by venture capital and Dow Chemical, has been created to
commercialise the technology with the objective of launching demonstration prototypes in
the summer of 2001. The process is said to utilise exotic plastic materials with the
manufacturing technique similar to that of ink-jet printing. These materials come from such
families as the polythiophenes and oligothiophenes which can be doped to change their
fundamental insulating properties and thereafter become semiconductors.
Polymer recycling is not a feature of the components industry because reprocessed
materials may lose their Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rating. However, the European
Confederation of Telecommunications Manufacturers (ECTEL) is operating a voluntary
take back scheme in collaboration with four network operators. The scheme accepts
mobile phones for recycling at shops displaying the schemes logo. The returned items
are separated into handsets, batteries, chargers and other accessories for recycling. The
European Union and Norway intend to introduce a compulsory take back scheme.

Polymers for Electronic Components

On 13 June 2000, the EC published the latest issue of its proposal for the Directive on
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which seeks to establish high
recycling targets for certain categories. Such figures are not feasible if several polymers
are combined in the same product because of the costs involved in dismantling.
Consequently it is unrealistic to expect significant recycling savings in the small
components sector. The WEEE draft proposals, which involve separate collection and
selective treatment of all components containing halogenated flame retardants, is
considered to be neither practical or economical because of increasing integration and
miniaturisation in the electrical and electronic sector.
The electronics industry is constantly seeking new products which will attain must have
status. Having recognised that sales of mobile phones cannot maintain their current
growth rates, the search is on for new products which will generate greater sales of
components. One of the problems manufacturers face is that, in their infancy, these new
products are invariably expensive. Volume sales bring down prices but even the most
powerful marketing campaign may not generate sufficient sales to build up sales to the
levels at which dramatic price cuts become possible.
One possible product in this category is the new multipurpose IC-R3 receiver from Icom
which combines the functions of television set, video display and radio in one small handheld package powered by a rechargeable battery which provides twenty seven hours of
viewing time per charge on a two-inch liquid crystal display.
Toshiba is one of the promoters of small molecule light emitting diode (SMLED)
technology which offers better visibility and lower power consumption than LCDs.
Currently only monochrome screens are on offer but Toshiba has announced the 2002
launch of a six inch full colour screen with laptop full colour screens to follow in 2004 and
television set screens to follow shortly afterwards.
One of the latest technologies to hit the market is the Bluetooth short range wireless
technology networking standard developed by Ericsson and allows personal computers,
laptops, hand-held computers, mobile phones, printers and other electronic controlled
products to communicate with each other by means of radio links of up to ten metres.
More than two thousand companies have signed up to the Bluetooth standard special
interest group with many, including Johnson Controls and Visteon, being key members of
the Bluetooth Automotive Expert Group which is working on automotive applications of the
technology. On average, a car contains approximately fifty embedded chips which could
be linked by Bluetooth technology in the future.
New materials with great potential include superconducting plastics which have been
discovered at Bell Laboratories in America after research extending over twenty years.
The material, whose superconducting temperature is below 270 C, is made by
depositing a solution of polythiophene in a thin film. The organic polymer will only act as a
superconductor when all its molecular chains are lined up like uncooked spaghetti, to
quote the researchers involved. Future applications have been cited as quantum
computing and extremely fast, low power integrated circuits.

Polymers for Electronic Components

Polymers for Electronic Components

3 Review of Materials and Properties

3.1 Introduction
The selection of polymers for component use is governed by the need to manufacture,
cost-effectively, a high quality product at high speed with daily production volumes of up to
30,000 units. The criteria for the selection process are summarised below:

Wall thicknesses are frequently less than 1 mm so the polymer must have good melt
flow properties during the moulding process without sacrificing performance in other

Having designed the wall thickness to be less than 1 mm, the resulting product must
have the necessary mechanical strength to fulfil its design purpose. Within the normal
parameters of wear and tear products, made from plastics will have a service life of
between five and twenty years though many will have been discarded or replaced by

Dimensional stability is important so shrinkage and warpage should be minimal since

typical tolerances are below 5 m. This feature is particularly important in the case of
printed circuit board (PCB) material

Flame resistance should be secured by the use of halogen-free flame retardants

where possible.

The need to solder components calls for the material to have high thermal stability
since the temperature of solder baths is around 270 C and the reflow soldering
process involves brief exposure to high temperatures.

The material must be resistant to any chemicals which may splash on or immerse the
component. These typically include hydraulic oils, cleaning agents and lubricants.

In view of the occasional need for sliding components to work within an enclosure,
such sliding should not produce dust and so good tribological qualities are required.
These qualities can be varied by the selective use, for example, of additives and
modifiers, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) powder, silicone oil or molybdenum
disulfide. PTFE is banned as a lubricant in some areas because of the Blue Angel
environmental standard. The Blue Angel environmental standard is linked to ISO
14001:1996 (Environmental management systems-Specification with guidance for
use). The Blue Angel is a symbol modelled on the United Nations environment
symbol which dates back to 1972. Environmentally-friendly products are awarded and
carry the symbol for three years. The symbol is awarded by a non-governmental jury
on payment of a fee.

Complex product geometry, readily attainable with thermoplastics, may be

unavoidable in order to achieve the required product specification.

The polymers electrical performance is also important in applications where the

resistivity and tracking performance figures may be laid down in the product

Humidity may be a problem in some instances because some polymers are subject to
hydrolytic degradation, which results in embrittlement.

Polymers for Electronic Components

This report also covers the use of composites where a polymer may be combined with a
fibre and the choice of fibre type, fibre orientation and matrix options determines its overall
physical properties. The objective is to secure optimum performance with minimum
weight. Typical advantages possible from the use of composites include equivalent
strength and stiffness to steel, high chemical resistance, definable electrical and thermal
properties anywhere between an insulator and a conductor, good mechanical
performance up to 250 C and the ability to generate complex shapes.
The individual volume of the majority of components involved is less than 1 dm3 and the
individual weight is less than 2 kg. Many of the electronic components described below
are produced by injection moulding using a variety of polymers. Alternative manufacturing
methods include low-cost dip moulding, for which PVC is particularly suitable. Industry
studies have shown the most popular polymer in Europe for electrical and electronics
applications, including wire and cable, to be PVC (25% of the market), which is used
mainly for cable sheathing but also used for cable clips, grommets and shrouds, followed
by PE (19%), ABS (14%), PS (13%) and PP (12%).

3.2 Polymers for Electronic Components

3.2.1 Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)

ABS is a popular choice of polymer for the production of intricate parts and the many
manufacturers offer different grades according to the end use. Bayer grades include
Lustran and Novodur; Dow offers its Magnum range. Component applications include
antenna clips, sealed maintenance free battery containers and transparent window plugs
for inspection purposes.

3.2.2 Acetal Copolymer (POM)

POM is widely used and has a melting point of 163 C whereas the related acetal
homopolymers have a higher melting point of 175 C with greater mechanical strength.
However, POM is a strong enough material to be used for the manufacture of plastic
fasteners of all types. It is resistant to attack by oxidation and by solvents and fuels. POM
may also be used for such components as push buttons where there is a sliding contact
with a housing. In such an application, the housing would be made from another polymer,
typically polybutylene terephthalate (PBT).
Several grades of POM are available (including Ultraform (BASF) and Hostaform (Ticona,
which claims to be the worlds largest manufacturer). Other branded polyacetals include
Delrin (DuPont), an acetal homopolymer, and Ertacetal (DSM).

3.2.3 Polyarylamide
This product family, available as IXEF from Solvay, includes some of the stiffest
thermoplastics available and which are claimed to have properties almost equal to metal.
Applications include growing use in mobile phones where, despite the case getting
smaller and lighter in weight, there is still a need for stiffness in order to protect the
IXEF is also used in other applications where extra stiffness and precision are needed
notably connectors, switches, housings, motor end frames and telecommunications parts.


Polymers for Electronic Components

3.2.4 Liquid Crystalline Polymers (LCPs)

LCPs offer, at a higher price than some competing polymers, better flow characteristics to
fill the thin walls of modern connectors, for example. LCPs also possess the improved
thermal performance needed by printed circuit boards to withstand the high temperatures
experienced during the soldering process. LCPs are sufficiently tough to accept
interference fit loading of contacts without cracking and enable production operations to
be carried out marginally faster than with other polymers. The toughness should also be
sufficient to prevent protruding catches or other projecting items from breaking off.
The standard formulation used in the electronics industry involves the addition of 30%
glass fibre reinforcement (GFR). Experiments with 45% GFR have also been carried out
but the higher glass fibre content was found to lower the tensile strength of the material.
The general effect of glass fibre reinforcement on thermoplastics is to improve their
mechanical characteristics. Potential benefits include greater strength, better radiation
resistance and lower water absorption rate. Electrical benefits include greater dielectric

3.2.5 Polyamide (PA)

Polyamides are selected for use in electrical components because of their good electrical
and mechanical properties, flexibility and relative immunity to fracture. They are inherently
fire resistant without the use of flameproofing agents. AlliedSignal has been developing
several grades of non-halogenated, flame-retardant PA 6 which deliver improved
environmental performance and reduced corrosion in moulding equipment compared with
halogenated PA. Grilon PA 6 is used by the connector maker Lemo for bridge plugs and
plugs with parallel sockets, available in a range of nine colours viz. blue, white, grey,
yellow, brown, black, red, orange and green.
The dimensional stability of PA may be inadequate for interconnected parts. Sales of PA
engineering polymers have achieved double-digit sales growth over the past five years
with projected further growth of around fourteen per cent over the next few years. Dow
estimates that the world market for PA for electrical and electronics applications is around
300 million per annum with annual sales growth of five to seven per cent within the
electrical and electronics sector.
Of the grades used in component manufacture, the markets for PA 6 and PA 66 are
relatively mature with greater sales growth in PA 12. PA 68, PA 11 and PA 46 are also
available. Leading suppliers of PA 6 include AlliedSignal, BASF, Honeywell and Rhodic.
The main suppliers of PA 66 include DuPont, Radicci, BASF/Bayer and DSM. Dow offers
Vydyne PA 66 resins, in partnership with Solutia Inc., for a wide range of electronics
applications including cable ties, connectors, housings and screws. PA 6 may also be
used for some of these applications.
DSMs Stanyl PA 46, made from adipic acid and 1,4-diaminobutane, has been described
by the company as a material which bridges the gap, in terms of heat resistance, between
PBT and PA 6, PA 66 and the higher end resins, notably LCPs, polyphenylene sulfide
(PPS) and PEEK. Stanyl competes with LCPs for use in connectors. As the temperature
beneath car bonnets rises to levels which PA 6 and PA 66 are unable to tolerate, Stanyl is
able to take over because it uses the same moulds and the same tooling. Stanyl sales
have been growing at an annual rate of between 10% and 12% and DSM increased the
manufacturing capability of its Geleen plant in the Netherlands in 1995, 1998, 1999 and


Polymers for Electronic Components

DuPonts Zytel HTN grade competes with Stanyl and the company is experiencing
growing demand for the product to the extent that it is doubling the capacity of its
Canadian compounding facility at Maitland, Ontario.
High viscosity grades of PA 12 are selected for extrusion and low viscosity grades for
injection moulding A glass fibre content of either 10%, 20% or 30% will increase stiffness,
improve the temperature rating and increase creepage and shrinkage resistance. A layer
of PA 12 confers ballistic, rodent and termite resistance to a product.

3.2.6 Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT)

PBT, branded by Ticona as Celanex and by DuPont as Crastin, is used in components
because of its high dimensional stability, good electrical and mechanical properties and
absence of dioxin- or furan-forming substances. Some PBT grades have improved flow
performance which enables much smaller parts to be moulded. DuPonts Crastin HR PBT
grade also benefits from good hydrolysis resistance. PBT also has a high continuous
service temperature of 130 C and a UL rating of UL94 V-0 (tests for flammability of
plastic materials for parts in devices and appliances). PBT is typically used with 15% or
30% glass fibre reinforcement.
Qualities claimed for Celanex include high strength, heat deflection temperature and
rigidity, good creep behaviour, absence of stress cracking and extreme hardness. It is
also said to have good electrical characteristics and good resistance to chemicals and
weathering. Favourable anti-friction and anti-abrasive behaviour together with high
dimensional stability and a gloss finish, even if glass-reinforced, are further qualities
claimed for the material. Ticona also offers Vandar (PBT-HI) for technical injection
mouldings and extrusions. Vandar offers good resistance to organic solvents, automotive
fuels, lubricants and brake fluid. It is also claimed to have good processing properties and
high abrasion resistance.
GE Plastics Valox 71 is unusual in that it has a 600 volt continuous tracking index (CTI).
This is an important quality for electrical and electronic components to possess and is
unusual to find in thermoplastic materials.

3.2.7 Polycarbonate (PC)

PC has high impact resistance, a wide processing temperature range, good resistance to
chemicals with the further option of transparency. Around 30% of glass fibre may be
added. Brands include Calibre from Dow, Lexan from GE Plastics, Makrolon from Bayer
and Xantar from DSM. If the use of PTFE as an additive to assist lubrication is ruled out
for environmental reasons, alternatives exist including Lubriloy from LNP in the
Netherlands, a lubricated, PTFE-free, halogen-free, flame retardant PC.
PC may be blended with ABS to produce a rigid material with a good appearance and
good flow properties. One such PC/ABS blend is Bayblend from Bayer, which is used for
a wide range of products including thin-walled telephone handsets where its strength and
light weight combine to produce a very cost-effective product. Magnetic shielding can be
provided by inserting a metal film or metallised plastic film within the housing. Mobile
phones now incorporate MID technology which enables functions or tracks to be directly
incorporated into the housings.
Fire is a potential risk with many polymers but now PC users have the opportunity to
specify Nucycle from Dow, which resulted from collaboration between NEC Corporation
and Sumitomo Dow Ltd. Nucycle is free of halogen compounds and employs a proprietary

Polymers for Electronic Components

silicone as its ignition resistance additive. This allows the material to have a UL 94 V-0
rating at 1 mm. Furthermore, the impact strength of Nucycle was found to be much higher
than that of PC containing traditional halogen additives though the costs are broadly
similar. In the USA, Dow Plastics is marketing Nucycle under the designation PCX. Three
grades are available. The first targets a V-0 rating at 0.95 mm and 5V at 2.5 mm. The
second grade offers V-0 at 1.5 mm and 5V at 2.5 mm. The third grade contains 20% glass
fibre and meets V-0 at 1.5 mm. Dow and NEC have also developed transparent grades of
these materials with a flammability rating of V-0 at 2.0 mm.

3.2.8 Polyetheretherketone (PEEK)

PEEK is a semi-crystalline polymer, insoluble in all common solvents, and can be used at
temperatures of up to 300 C. It can be injection moulded and because of its cost tends to
be used by engineers and designers as a material of last resort.

3.2.9 Polyetherimide (PEI)

PEI is one of the intrinsically flame resistant polymers used to manufacture injectionmoulded printed circuit boards.

3.2.10 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET is one of the materials used in flexible printed circuits. In other applications where
higher temperatures are likely to be encountered, flame retardant PET may be used.
Brands include Impet from Ticona, which has good flow properties enabling complex and
thin-walled injection-moulded parts to be easily produced.
Impet with glass fibre reinforcement is widely used in the electrical and electronic sectors
where it offers high heat deflection temperature, resistance to chemicals and weathering,
rigidity and hardness. Other claimed qualities include excellent creep strength, favourable
anti-friction and anti-abrasion properties together with very good electrical characteristics.

3.2.11 Polyethylene (PE)

High density polyethylene (HDPE) is typically used to produce push-in cable tie clips for
insertion in pre-drilled holes in wood masonry and other materials. It is also used in cable
clips with small pre-fitted nails to enable cables to be clamped to masonry, wood and
plaster surfaces. PE is also used to mould the bushings which insulate the rough cut
conduit ends in flexible moulded cable and flexible metallic conduit.

3.2.12 Polypropylene (PP)

PP is a relatively low-cost material available in different grades for different applications.
For example, the Novolen grade from Targor (now Basell) is claimed to have a wellbalanced relationship between toughness, stiffness and hardness with the additional
benefits of high heat resistance, excellent resistance to chemicals, low water absorption
and low permeability to water vapour, easy processing and low density. These qualities
enable PP to be used for a wide variety of electrical and electronics applications including
battery containers, cable retention clips, screws, nuts and washers. Alternatively, long
fibre reinforced thermoplastics, including Celstran from Ticona, may be used for battery
trays and components because these materials are acid resistant, of low density,
lightweight as well as providing high stiffness and stability over a wide range of


Polymers for Electronic Components

Inspire Spheripol process-based PP is manufactured by Dow Plastics in Germany and are
used in electronics and a wide range of other applications.
Borealis offers its PP homopolymer for use as a biaxially orientated dielectric capacitor
film which may be metallised. Two super-high quality, ultra-low ash content grades are
available with claimed good stiffness, low dissipation factor and outstanding processing
capabilities. The metals and chloride content are close to the detection limit. Whilst both
the HB311F and HC312BF grades may be used for metallisable film, the latter grade will
produce highly consistent rough surface films with easy surface roughness control.
Unusual applications include the use of LNP Engineering Plastics Verton MFX long fibre
reinforced PP injection-moulded cones for Tannoy loudspeakers. The high strength-toweight ratio of Verton MFX enables the cones wall thickness to be just 0.4 mm and this
feature is claimed to deliver real improvement in sound clarity and a superior performance
to that achieved with standard and mineral-filled grades of polypropylene.

3.2.13 Polyphthalamide (PPA)

PPA offers the user relatively high operating temperatures and good physical properties.
PPA injection mouldings have been selected to replace metal alloy diecastings with the
40% glass fibre grade being comparable to aluminium and brass castings. Leading
manufacturers include BP Amoco which offers the Amodel brand and EMS whose Grivory
GV grade is seen as a metal replacement. Grivory GV is a high-rigidity PPA material.
The high-temperature Grivory HT grade will tolerate up to 270300 C and so is suitable
for reflow soldering. The adoption of lead-free solder in Europe for environmental reasons
will result in higher reflow soldering temperatures. Grivory is also selected for hightemperature tolerant injection mouldings operating below the bonnet of a motor vehicle.
Other grades include Grivory HTV, a glass fibre reinforced version with a glow wire
resistance of 960 C, and mineral-reinforced Grivory HTM grades which are claimed to
have an excellent surface finish.

3.2.14 Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS)

PPS is a crystalline engineering plastic especially known for its high heat performance
with heat deflection temperatures in excess of 260 C. It is claimed to have exceptional
processability when injection moulded on conventional equipment. It is also claimed to
have outstanding dimensional stability and so is particularly suitable for precision
moulding to severe tolerances. It can also be used as a replacement for high-performance
thermosets or metal, especially brass, in some applications.
Ryton PPS, produced by Phillips Petroleum Chemicals, is used by connector
manufacturer Lemo for the over-moulding of some elbow socket shells for printed circuits.

3.2.15 Polystyrene (PS)

PS offers good dimensional stability with low water absorption and shrinkage. It is also
Dow claims to be the worlds largest producer of PS resins for the injection moulding,
extrusion and thermoforming markets. Its Styron range includes general purpose, high
impact and ignition resistant properties with formulations designed to meet the
requirements of specific applications.


Polymers for Electronic Components

BASF offers a range of PS for office and IT equipment including the new Polystyrene
495F grade.
BP produces both crystal and impact grades of Empera PS. Its plants at Marl (Germany),
Trelleborg (Sweden) and Wingles (France) have a combined PS annual capacity of
400,000 tonnes.
Questra, Dows proprietary syndiotactic PS engineering polymer, is a metallocene-based
crystalline polymer. Questra has a high heat tolerance and relatively low density. It has a
high flow characteristic which Dow claims is better than PBT or PPS and which
approaches that of LCP over which it has price and weight advantages. Questra is offered
for automotive lighting and electronics, electronic connectors, fuse holders, printed circuit
boards and circuit breakers. Questra resins are claimed to have the same density of 1.05
g/cm3 in both their amorphous and crystalline regions and to have the same shrinkage
rates in both regions. Consequently moulded parts will conform more precisely to the
tolerances of the tooling facilitating the production of flat parts immune from warpage.
Typical applications include printed circuit board input/output switches and connectors.
Questra is recognised as being more expensive initially than some of its competitors but is
seen to outperform them in ease of processing and yield.
Questra has been targeted at both medium-, where it competes with PBT, and hightemperature applications where it competes with high-temperature PA, LCP and PPS.

3.2.16 PS-Modified Polyphenylene Oxide (PPO)

PS-modified PPO is produced by GE plastics and marketed under the trade name Noryl.
Applications include UL94 V-0 flame retardant PCB enclosures and glass fibre filled selfextinguishing UL94 V-1 relay bases. The latter application permits 600 V operation with an
operating temperature of 110 C and a short-term tolerance of 135 C.

3.2.17 Polysulfone (PSU)

PSU, branded by BP Amoco as Udel, may be 30% glass filled and can also be blow or
injection moulded, extruded or thermoformed. Polyethersulfone (PES) is a related
polymer, which also may have a 30% glass fibre content, and is exemplified by BASFs
Ultrason grade; other manufacturers include BP Amoco and DuPont. This is a relatively
expensive engineering polymer with good heat resistance, used where other polymers are
found wanting.

3.2.18 Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

PTFE is outstanding in terms of its chemical and thermal stability, biocompatibility and
superb dielectric properties.
PTFE is used in connectors and printed circuits, especially in hostile environments calling
for heavy duty models. It can also be used to produce computer chip packages and
shielding gaskets, where it can be employed in an expanded form.
The selection of PCB material is determined by the application and to achieve the
required performance ceramic-filled PTFE composites, with or without the addition of
woven or non-woven glass fibre, may be used. PTFE may also be used in heavy duty
electrical connectors, and when connectors are moulded on to cables.


Polymers for Electronic Components

PTFE has a reputation for being difficult to process but researchers at ETH Zurich, the
Swiss University of Technology, are reported to have discovered a new moulding
technique involving the combination of PTFE powders of different molecular weights and
viscosities into a dense form capable of being moulded when warm. This technique opens
up the possibility of using PTFE to make mechanically strong and complex components
which cannot be produced in other ways.

3.2.19 Polyurethane (PU)

Polyurethane potting compounds are used to encapsulate electronic devices and their
components to give them enhanced mechanical and electrical stability.
Polyurethane/polyester copolymer spacers are used for cable retention with polyurethane
used for cable ties.

3.2.20 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is a partially crystalline plastic which melts at approximately 240 C and has a glass
transition temperature of about 80 C. Processing is normally in the range 170-200 C.
The polymer often requires the use of lubricants to modify the rheological and frictional
PVC is used in the manufacture of enclosures and low-cost flexible components.

3.2.21 Polyvinylidine Fluoride (PVDF)

PVDF is a fluorinated semi-crystalline thermoplastic which has a continuous use service
temperature of up to 150 C and a very low dielectric constant. The Solvay company has
been making and marketing PVDF, branded as SOLEF, for more than twenty-five years.
PVDF is used for the manufacture of high-capacity capacitor film and is also used in
lithium batteries and telecommunications applications.

3.2.22 Styrene-Acrylonitrile Copolymer (SAN)

SAN has the properties of clarity and toughness. It is a stiff resin with good chemical
resistance, high heat resistance and good dimensional stability having excellent
processability and good surface finish. Dow claims major economic advantages are
possible using its Tyril SAN resins, adding that the low cost for such broad engineering
property performance is unmatched by any competitive polymer.
SAN is used in electrical components and suppliers include Bayer (Lustran), Dow (Tyril)
and Enichem (Kostil). SAN can also be blended with other resins including ABS.

3.2.23 Elastomers
Elastomers used for connector insulators include polychloroprenes, silicones,
fluorosilicones and heat-setting compounds which enable the special characteristics of
flame resistance, low toxicity and low smoke, for example, to be incorporated.
Polychloroprene is used as spacer material and also for washers where its sealing
qualities, good resistance to cracking, rotting, oils and petrol and its good low-temperature
flexibility may be beneficial in specific applications.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Silicone rubber is used for key pads of hand-held devices, process controllers, access
control panels, military communications and other equipment. Other options include the
combination of plastic keytops with a rubber mat.
Blending, alloying and compounding are especially important in the production of
materials to fulfil demanding specifications. These involve the addition of various fillers
and reinforcements, including glass fibre, in order to build in the desired properties.
Another option is to use two-component injection moulding techniques, advocated by
Ticona, to produce optimised hard/soft combinations. This design development reduces
the need for subsequent assembly and favours the production of multifunctional
components. Alternatives offered by Ticona include

Celanex PBT with nitrile rubber, styrene elastomers or polyurethane elastomers,

Fortron PPS with nitrile or acrylate rubbers after pre-treatment or silcone rubber
without pre-treatment, and

Hostaform POM with nitrile rubber, styrene elastomers or polyurethane elastomers.

Applications include locating clamps for car CD players and cable clamps for car floor

Composite shapes can be produced by the hot bonding of elastomers on to substrates of

different materials including metal alloys, PTFE, polyimide (PI), carbon fibre, and aramid
and other textiles.


Polymers for Electronic Components


Polymers for Electronic Components

4 Electronic Components
Components are allocated an ingress protection (IP) number, laid down in IEC 60529:
2001-02 (Degrees of protection provided by enclosures (IP code)), which denotes their
protection against the ingress of foreign bodies or water as per Table 4.1.
Table 4.1 Component IP number
(defined by selecting the first digit from the first column and the second digit from
the third column)
Degree of Protection
Degree of Protection
No protection against accidental
contact, no protection against
No protection against water.
intrusion of solid foreign bodies.
Protection against contact with
any large area by hand and
Protection against water drips.
against large solid foreign bodies
with diameter greater than 50
Protection against contact with
Protection against water drips
the fingers, protection against
large solid foreign bodies with
(up to an angle of 15)
diameter greater than 50 mm.
Protection against tools, wires or
similar objects with diameter
Protection against diagonal
greater than 2.5 mm. Protection
water drips (up to angle of 60)
against small foreign bodies with
diameter greater than 2.5 mm.
As above but with diameter
Protection against splashed
greater than 1 mm
water from all directions.
Full protection against contact.
Protection against water spray
Protection against interior
from all directions.
detrimental dust deposition.
Total protection against contact.
Protection from temporary
Protection against intrusion of
Protection against temporary
Protection against water
Source: IEC 60529: 2001-02

4.1 Enclosures
Portable electronic equipment of all types is invariably packaged within an enclosure,
which may be an off the shelf standard design or a customised special. The requirements
of the application, and price, will determine the selection of suitable polymers and a
selection of these is shown in Table 4.2.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Table 4.2 Polymers for enclosures

Easy to machine lightweight enclosures with good resistance
to chemicals, wide temperature range, transparency option
Enclosures for hostile atmospheres, good resistance to
Polyester reinforced with
chemicals, good temperature range capability, can be used
glass fibre
both indoors and outdoors
Plug cases and enclosures with good resistance to
chemicals, lightweight, normal temperatures. ABS can also
be flame retardant
Standard cases including wall-mounted versions
Where transparency is required
High heat and chemical resistance, good dimensional stability
and low melt viscosity
Note: Plug cases incorporate a built-in mains plug to enable the whole enclosure to be plugged into
a suitable wall socket, as in the case of a switched mode power supply or compact charging unit for
rechargeable batteries.
Source: Industry Sources

As in other applications, pressure on costs leads manufacturers to seek savings by

reducing wall thickness thus reducing the polymer content of the product. Samsung
design engineers faced this problem when seeking to reduce the cost of computer monitor
housings. With the help of polymer supplier, GE Plastics, they brought the wall thickness
down from 3.2 mm to 2.3 mm. An added bonus was Samsungs ability to mould the 2.3
mm thick housings on the same machines as those used to mould the thicker housings.
Over the course of the six-month project, features were incorporated into the design to
maintain the required mechanical strength. These included modifications to the existing rib
and boss features with re-design of the vents on the top of the monitor also being
necessary. Early fears that warpage and shrinkage would occur were not fulfilled.
Another GE Plastics customer was a Samsung competitor who managed to reduce the
wall thickness of his product from 3.18 mm to 2.03 mm. This reduced the material cost by
over 5%. Further savings in processing costs enabled a total cost saving of approximately
10% to be achieved.
The hazards of the polymer selection process are illustrated by the example of an
electrical enclosure manufacturer that had been using PBT resins. These proved too
difficult to mould to the required dimensional tolerances. Polycarbonate was substituted in
order to improve productivity and meet the required tolerances. However, this polymer
also proved to be unsuccessful because its higher viscosity made it too difficult to
process. The OEM went on to evaluate Dows Questra crystalline resin because of its
ability to satisfy the dimensional requirements of the specification with further added
benefits. These include Questras hydrophobic qualities which deliver cost savings
because the resin does not have to be dried prior to moulding. This property prevents
dimensional changes taking place in the moulded parts during use. Lower resin density
than other semi-crystalline resins results in less material, by weight, being required to fulfil
production requirements.
Before selecting a polymer for a specific application thorough testing is necessary. For
example, a mobile phone manufacturer had to switch to PA after discovering that the PC
he was using was not resistant to sun tan oil.

Polymers for Electronic Components

Protection against EMI can be achieved by applying a conductive coating. Electrodag
coatings from Acheson Colloids include silver-plated copper, silver-plated copper and
silver flake, and silver and tin options.
The alternative is to use metal-loaded paints with those containing silver being most
commonly specified. In the past the use of harsh solvents, usually methyl ethyl ketone
(MEK), aided adhesion to the substrate. With the trend towards the employment of
PC/ABS blends to produce thin-walled mouldings has come the need to minimise the
effect of the coating on the substrate. This has resulted in the development of safe-onsubstrate paints which use mild solvents and which can be mechanically removed to allow
the plastics to be subsequently recycled.
In some high volume applications, notably mobile phones, the value of the silver
recovered, after removing and burning off the coating, is sufficient to finance the recycling
process. Water-based paints are being evaluated and may be introduced towards the end
of 2001.
Chomerics, a division of the Parker Hannifin Corporation, offers a family of ready-to-spray
conductive, acrylic paints. Cho-shield 2054 is a water-borne coating, comprising
acrylic/urethane polymer and a silver-plated copper filler, suitable for solvent-sensitive
plastics whereas Cho-shield 2056 is a low-cost solvent-based acrylic polymer system
containing silver-plated copper and silver flakes. Both systems are claimed to adhere to
various substrates including PC, PC/ABS and ABS. They provide a shielding
effectiveness of more than 75 dB between 100 MHz and 10 GHz. Chomerics also offers a
range of Soft-Shield 4000 EMI protective gasket materials.
Other EMI shielding products from Chomerics include EmiClare LF 65 EMI shielded
windows which are specifically designed to address EMI problems involving plasma
display panels. The product achieves optical clarity by combining the use of a proprietary
shielding mesh with precision lamination. Each fully laminated window incorporates front
and rear UL94 V-0 rated, optical grade PC, or glass, substrates with optically matched
Shielding is provided by the enclosed mesh layer, optimised to provide exceptional optical
clarity. It is also possible to incorporate an optional infrared (IR) filter at the rear for use in
applications where IR transmitting devices, wireless headphones for example, are being
used close by. The maximum window size is said to be 95 cm x 150 cm with standard
thicknesses in the range 4.4 mm to 4.8 mm. The electrical termination options for these
EmiClare windows include a mesh extension over a CR gasket, copper tape over a silver
busbar or copper tape over a mesh extension. Applications for this product are in
commercial avionics, high definition television displays or other environments where there
is a need to comply with specified radiated emission requirements.
Chomerics has linked up with Nypro Inc., in a strategic alliance with a joint manufacturing
operation at Oldenburg in Germany, to produce insert-moulded conductive gasket
products. These shield against EMI interference in mobile phones and other electronic
devices. The venture supplies components assembled from Nypro plastic mouldings and
Chomerics conductive elastomer over-moulds.
Alternatively, DuPont is offering conducting grades of its Zytel DMX modified PA to be
moulded into EMI/RFI shielded housings and other devices. These resins are claimed to
be able to produce thinner mouldings than PC/ABS alloys whilst still delivering suitable
strength toughness and effective shielding. The resulting mouldings are claimed not to


Polymers for Electronic Components

need subsequent coating or painting. A further option is to use electroplating by
chemically or electrically depositing a layer of nickel over a layer of pure copper.
Other manufacturers of EMC screening products include Schlegels Kemtron subsidiary
whose 100-300 Series range includes knitted wire mesh over an elastomeric core which is
normally silicone or CR. An alternative 400 Series comprises a solid or sponge silicone
elastomer (fluorosilicone to special order) in which is embedded Monel or aluminium wires
orientated perpendicularly to the mating flange surfaces. A further 500 Series option
comprises a thin composite sheet of woven aluminium, expanded Monel, or aluminium
mesh impregnated with CR or silicone rubber.
To be fully effective, the shielding of an enclosure needs to involve the gasket materials of
any sealed apertures. For example, the Schlegel E/E (Environmental/EMI shielding)
hybrid gasket utilises a single-flange format and comprises highly conductive cladding
over ethylene propylene diene terpolymer (EPDM). This provides both EMI and
environmental shielding and gives good weatherproof protection. Alternatively, highly
conductive silver-plated PA yarn may be knitted over a soft flexible fire retardant UL 94
approved polyester foam core. Other options are available.
Other polymers being promoted for use in enclosures include PVC and rigid
polyurethanes. The latter may be cast at room temperature using a mixture of polyol resin
and an isocyanate hardener. Benefits of the material include the ability to cast
economically in small quantities with low-cost tooling, coupled with the capacity to
produce precise and complex three dimensional components. Accuracy and repeatability
are good, as is machineability and the facility for thick to thin wall sections. Injectionmoulded polyurethane is also used as a seal material between the enclosure and its
cover. Where cost is a prime consideration a general-purpose, black polystyrene may be

4.2 Batteries
Polymers are use in battery construction in three distinct ways. The polymer may be part
of the electrochemical operation of the battery as in the case of the new lithium-ion
technology. The polymer may be used in the manufacture of the battery separators, used
in traditional cells to provide physical separation of the positive and negative plates whilst
permitting electron flow through the electrolyte. The third function is as a battery container
material which must resist chemical attack by the electrolyte and give the container
mechanical strength.
Lithium-ion polymer batteries are rechargeable and offer significant advantages over lead
acid and silver zinc batteries in terms of both weight and power. The batteries may be
moulded into the shape most applicable to the end product and so are likely to prove
particularly attractive to manufacturers of mobile phones, hand-held computers and other
physically small electronic products.
Lithium-ion polymer batteries are being selected by the US Navy to power its underwater
vehicles because they offer a longer cycle life than silver zinc types and this leads to a
lower lifecycle cost. Major advantages over lead acid types are a substantially improved
energy density and freedom from gassing during the charging process.
A wide variety of battery separator materials are on offer including PVC, PE and PE
including a small natural rubber content of approximately 20%.


Polymers for Electronic Components

4.3 Cable Glands

These are used to protect and often anchor cables where they enter housings or pass
through panels. The polymers selected for their manufacture are governed by the
environmental conditions and include PA 6, which may be reinforced with glass fibre, with
CR seals. Low-cost glands are made from glass fibre reinforced PS with soft rubber or PE
The Skintop ST PA cable gland from Contact Connectors offers IP 68 protection up to a
pressure of 0.5 MPa with an operating temperature range from 30 C to +80 C with a
short-term temperature peak of +150 C according to model. The gland incorporates a
Neoprene (CR) seal, and depending on application possibly a Perbunan (NBR) O-sealing
ring, and features an anti-vibration lock with a multi-entry thread for speedy insertion since
only one turn is needed to tighten and protect the cable. Budget-priced designs are made
from PS with rubber sealing rings. Accessories include PS blanking plugs to close up preengineered threaded holes no longer required and polyamide hexagon lock nuts.

4.4 Cable Ties and Markers

This is an application where PVC is the preferred material choice for markers with PA for
ties. UL listing may be needed for export and in these circumstances the least expensive
material option is ruled out. For the most demanding applications, polyketones offer a
temperature range from 50 C to +100 C and are impervious to humidity and exposure
to ultraviolet (UV) light.

4.5 Capacitors
Capacitors, which enjoy the status of the fastest growing sector of the passive electronic
components markets, are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and chemical
composition. Capacitor safety has recently been addressed by a new industry initiative
sponsored by the EECA, the European Passive Components Industry Association
(EPCIA) and the main interference suppression capacitor and filter manufacturers in
Europethe ENEC Group. The members will use a single European safety mark, known
as the ENEC Mark, which is being introduced in 2001. The scheme will provide the
European platform and support for the initiative. Similar initiatives are planned for other
passive products including chokes. Speciality polymers are used in solid aluminium
electrolytic capacitors. Polymers used in capacitor design include:

Metallised Mylar

Mylar polyester film is a product of the 50:50 joint venture, dating from 31 December
1999, between DuPont and Teijin Limited. DuPont Teijin claims to be the worlds leading
supplier of PET and polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) polyester films and also supplies
Melinex polyester film.

Metallised PC

This category includes extended foil wound, non-inductive types with Mylar tape outer
wrapping and specially formulated conductive epoxy end fill to maximise heat exchange.
Switch mode power supply applications are available with a choice of axial and tab
terminations with a grounded copper shielding option. In these applications 50 V dc, 75 V
dc and 100 V dc versions are available in capacities ranging from 1 F to 50 F.


Polymers for Electronic Components

However, according to one leading manufacture, polycarbonate types are being phased
out in favour of polypropylene.

Metallised polyester film

This category includes high voltage, 1 kV dc to 15 kV dc, 0.001 F to 1 F designs which

are self-healing, lightweight and compact with excellent capacitance stability. They will
hold charge for several days and so need to be handled with care. They are produced in a
wrap and fill tubular configuration with axial leads. Applications include electrostatic
copiers, oscilloscopes and high voltage power supplies. The operating temperature range
is from 40 C to +85 C.
Lower voltage versions, extending to 200 F/30 V dc or 5 F/400 V dc are constructed
from bi-oriented metallised polyester film with Mylar tape outer wrapping with specially
formulated conductive epoxy end fill to maximise heat exchange. An option of axial leads
or tab terminations is offered. Features of these designs include compact configuration,
high current carrying capability, high operating temperature (up to 85 C), low equivalent
series resistance (ESR) and low equivalent series inductance (ESI). The capacitors will
also withstand rapid rates of voltage increase.
Applications are primarily for use in dc circuits such as blocking, coupling, decoupling,
bypass and dc line filtering where the radio frequency and audio components are small in
comparison with the dc rating. They have also been used successfully in such alternating
current (ac) power applications as power factor correction and ac line filtering. They may
be operated at all temperatures from 55 C to +85 C with derating to 50% at 125 C.
They are intended for use in sealed encapsulated assemblies.
Panasonic Industrials metallised polyester film capacitors are claimed to have an inherent
safety mechanism which limits the loss in capacitance in the event of any dielectric
breakdown. The capacitor structure is composed of a number of discrete units to confine
and isolate any dielectric breakdown. The area affected is disconnected by the action of
the fuse at the head of each electrode unit. This prevents complete capacitor failure by
confining the fault to a localised area.
Metallised polyester film types are also offered by Vishay Intertechnology whose
capacitance range extends from 1000 pF to 4.7 F, the latter model rated at 40 V dc and
capable of operating between 55 C and +100 C.
The Electronic Concepts metallised polyester range extends to 200 F/30 V dc to 5
F/400 V dc at operating temperatures from 55 C to +85 C.

Metallised PP

These designs utilise a non-inductive, extended foil winding with Mylar tape outer
wrapping. Manufacturers offering this technology, with its self-healing properties, include
Electronic Concepts (USA), Ducati Energy (Italy), BC Components International (the
Netherlands) and Evox Rifa (Sweden), which has production plants in Finland and
The PP dielectric separates the electrodes and is able to surround holes created in the
electrodes by power spikes. This maintains the insulation and helps to prevent short
circuits thus prolonging the life of the capacitor. Capacitor performance deteriorates with
time as the number of holes increases.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The Electronic Concepts metallised PP 5MP2 range extends from 10 F/600 V dc to 1.2
F/2,000 V dc at temperatures from 55 C to +105 C. The MP80 range extends to 50
F/400 V dc to 5.6 F/1,500 V dc at temperatures from 55 C to +105 C.
Special manufacturing techniques may be used to optimise use in high current, high
capacitance and low ESR applications.
Advantages claimed for PP types include low losses, low dielectric absorption, long-term
stability and high insulation resistance.
For 450 V ac electric motor applications, the capacitors can be supplied in metal or plastic
case styles with stud mounting if required. UL94 V-0 flame retardant materials are used
and the capacitors comply with VDE (Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker), IEC
(International Electrotechnical Commission) and SEV (Schweizerischer Elektrotechnischer
Verein) internationally recognised standards. Added operating safety results from the
provision of an internal anti-pressure mechanism.
Medium and high power TPC (formerly Thomson-CSF Passive Components) aluminium
metallised polymer film capacitors from AVX are available with PP, which account for 90%
of its metallised polymer film capacitor sales. PP with higher crystallinity extends the
upper working temperature to 120 C. Versions are available without impregnation or
impregnated with rapeseed oil.
These designs have controlled self-healing whereby the capacitance is divided into
several million capacitor elements. The weak points of the dielectric are insulated and the
capacitor continues to function normally free of any short circuit or explosion. The
capacitor acts in a similar manner to a battery. It ages during use, suffering a decline in
capacitance, finally falling to 5%, or even 2%, of its nominal value at the end of its working
Medium power designs are available for printed circuit board and also rigid mechanical
mounting with voltage ratings from 75 V dc to 3 kV dc; high power designs extend from
1.4 kV dc to 2 kV dc. According to type classification, the medium power capacitor case
may be plastic or aluminium and be filled with a thermosetting resin. High power designs
may be packaged in rectangular stainless steel cases with brackets.
Applications include power supplies, motors and drives, induction heating and military
use. These designs are preferred to electrolytic types because of their longer life, high rms
(root mean square) current ratings and superior tolerance of surge voltages.
Electronic Concepts claims to have developed a new capacitor construction in this sector
which incorporates heavy metal electrodes in a very densely packed configuration. The
technique is claimed to be able to extract significantly more current per microfarad at rated
voltage than competing brands.


PS acts as an extremely loss dielectric material with low loss dielectric absorption. It offers
good long-term stability, with very high insulation resistance and a small negative
temperature coefficient. The capacitor construction involves the use of extended foil radial
PS in a flame retardant epoxy resin case. High-performance, low-cost, axial PS types are
also available, e.g., from LCR Components.

Other Types


Polymers for Electronic Components

Traditional tantalum capacitors have employed a manganese dioxide cathode plate but
this is now being superceded by a conductive polymer cathode which offers very low ESR




The polymer technology is claimed by Hitachi to offer a more stable dielectric layer which
can reduce the necessary level of voltage derating to 20% with consequently better space
utilisation. At the manufacturing stage, a forming voltage is applied to the tantalum chip to
produce a layer of tantalum pentoxide on its surface. The capacitors operating voltage is
defined as a percentage of the forming voltage and so 20% derating means that the
operating voltage is 80% of the forming voltage. In other types of tantalum capacitor, the
operating voltage is much less than the forming voltage and this represents far greater
These capacitors have improved capacitance retention at high frequency. One reason is
that the resistivity of manganese dioxide is at least 160,000 times that of tantalum.
Furthermore, the use of conductive polymers delivers the desired capacitor self-healing
properties without the undesirable ignition failure mode. The two main self-healing
theories are that localised heating leads to the evaporation of the polymer at that point
leading to a breakdown in the connection there. The second theory put forward is that
polymer absorbs oxygen and creates a high resistance at that point as would be the case
with a manganese dioxide cathode. The manufacturing process involves building up the
polymer thickness by repeated dipping and drying.
The mobile telecommunications boom led to lengthening delivery times for tantalum
electrolytic chip capacitors. The lead time immediately prior to Christmas 2000 was six
months but the market downturn early in the New Year brought this figure down to
between two and three weeks.
There is a world shortage of tantalum and demand in 2000 exceeded supply with some
users seeking ceramic and other alternatives. One alternative to tantalum is the closely
related element niobium, which in contrast is abundant and inexpensive. Epcos claims to
be the first manufacturer to launch capacitors using niobium. These new designs are
claimed to offer superior volumetric capacitance with greater capacitance in a smaller
space. In high denominations, 100 F for example, the niobium version is said to be
capable of providing between two and three times the capacitance possible from a
tantalum version, in the same package volume.
Sanyo recently claimed an industry first with the launch of a new family of aluminium
electrolytic capacitors with hybrid cathode electrolytes produced by adding
electroconductive polymer to the cathode electrolyte. The American NIC Components
Corporation offers Surface Mount Specialty Polymer Solid Aluminium Electrolytic
Capacitors to replace multiple tantalum chips in high current power supplies and voltage
regulator applications.
Polymers which are normally insulators can become electrically conductive, and suitable
for use in capacitors, by appropriate doping. These polymers include, for example,
polyacetylene and polypyrrole where the polymer is employed as a cathode instead of
manganese dioxide. This also reduce the capacitors ESR.
Passive elements may be manufactured using conductive polypyrrole formulations. These
formulations, which may include photoinitiators, solvents and additives to give flexibility,
can be used along with the methods of the invention to form passive circuit elements
including capacitors, resistors and inductors in multichip modules or printed wiring boards.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Other conducting polymers available to the component designer include polythiophene,
polyparaphenylene, polyaniline and polyparaphenylene vinylene (PPV).
Kemets KO-Cap range extends from 150 F to 220 F, with a tolerance of 20%, to
voltages of 3.3, 5 or 8 V dc. The absence of manganese dioxide eliminates the oxygen
source which can fuel ignition in the event of device failure due to a short circuit or
excessive fault current. Polypyrrole cathodes also reduce the capacitors ESR.
Premature ageing is one of the problems encountered when using reflow soldering to
attach polymer aluminium capacitors to a printed circuit board. Nippon Chemi-Con claims
to have avoided the problem, whereby the organic polymer electrolyte breaks down due to
the heating effect of the surface mounting process, in its PX capacitor range. The 4 to 25
V dc PX series is designed for digital equipment and incorporates a new conducting
functional polymer as its electrolyte. It has a high heat reflow capability and is claimed to
be solventproof.
The F55 capacitor range of resin moulded, solid organic polymer chip tantalum types from
Nichicon extends from 68 F at 2.5 V to 330 F at 10 V and will also operate at 105 C, or
down to 55 C.
Solvays SOLEF polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) is a fluorinated semi-crystalline
thermoplastic which the company has been making and marketing for more than twentyfive years. It has a continuous use service temperature up to 150 C, a very low dielectric
constant and is used for the manufacture of high capacity capacitor film. It is also used in
lithium-ion polymer batteries and telecommunications applications.

4.6 Coil Formers

Coil formers, which carry windings in inductors, motors and transformers, must be tough
and able to withstand the temperatures experienced. Polymers used include PBT and
phenolic resins.
Moves to the use of Litz triple insulation wire, which can permit the move to smaller
bobbins, mean that the wires to be terminated must spend a longer time in a higher
temperature solder bath in order to burn off the insulation prior to tinning. Consequently it
is necessary to use higher temperature tolerant materials.
UL approved materials include glass reinforced LCP, PA 46, PA 66 and high-temperature
PA with and without glass reinforcement, glass reinforced PBT and PET and glass/glass
and mineral reinforced PPS.

4.7 Connectors
In 1999, the EU connector market grew by approximately 3% in value and 8% in volume
indicating a fall in unit costs. This is largely due to the distinct trend from customised to
standard off-the-shelf products.
A wide range of polymers is used in electrical connectors. The criteria used by a leading
connector manufacturer for polymer selection include:

dielectric strength,

comparative tracking index,

surface and volume resistivity,


Polymers for Electronic Components

continuous service temperature,

water absorption,

radiation resistance,

flammability rating, and

resistance to hydrocarbons.

Military standard connectors from Nanonics have recently been redesigned to utilise new
high temperature LCP insulator material. The new interconnection system is reported to
have passed MilPrf 83513 level qualifications and is said to be ideal for applications where
space, weight and reliability are critical. The polymers temperature stability has been
selected to withstand in-line, pick-and-place, surface mount technology (SMT) solder
processing and is rated for applications from 200 C to +225 C.
The end use of the connector has a strong influence on polymer selection. For example,
the heavy duty, environmentally sealed Buccaneer design range from Bulgin
Components, which offers IP68 sealing and is rated at up to 600 V ac or dc with a current
carrying capacity of up to 32 A per pole, is made from a UL94 V-0 rated PA with impact
resistance and flame retardant properties. UL94 V-0 rated flame retardant PA 66 is also
used by other connector manufacturers.
Edge connectors for printed circuit boards are often used; the connector housings are
typically made from PBT or PC. The US connector manufacturer, ITW, opts for
syndiotactic PS (SPS) or PPS insulation.
The German connector manufacturer, Wago, a PA 66 user for forty years, now employs a
modified version which is free of halogens, fluorocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons,
silicone, asbestos, cadmium and formaldehyde. It has a CTI of 600 V, according to the
IEC 112 standard, and so it is possible to reduce the air and creepage distances thus
making smaller components possible. An average moisture content is 2.5% (absorbed
from the surrounding atmosphere).
The material will not corrode and has a FV-2 self-extinguishing rating according to UL 94.
It is temperature stabilised to permit continuous operation at 105 C according to the IEC
216 standard parts 1 and 2. The short-term upper temperature limit is approximately 170
C for grey, dark grey, orange, red, blue and green/yellow designs and 200 C for the light
grey version. The lower temperature handling limit is 35 C with a mechanically stressfree storage temperature of 50 C.
The basic stabilisation provides sufficient protection against ozone or ultraviolet light over
many years of service life. Other inherent protection exists against adverse, notably
tropical, weather conditions, earth bacteria and termites. The material is also resistant to
fuel, most oils, fats and detergents.
The Buccaneer connector is made by Bulgin Components, a medium-volume
manufacturer of connectors, switches, battery holders, fuseholders, indicators and filters
with an annual output of up to 20 million pieces from a range of 3,000 products. Bulgins
fuseholders are made from UL94 V-0 flame retardant PA and glass-filled polyester
materials which achieve an ac breakdown voltage of at least 2 kV and an insulation



turnover increase to 10.4 million.


Polymers for Electronic Components

AB Connectors uses CR as an insulation material whilst the Swiss company, W.W.
Fischer, offers PTFE, PBT or PEEK insulator material options in its 405 series of
cylindrical connectors according to the requirements of working temperature and other
criteria. PEEK is an expensive polymer which tends to be employed when other materials
fail to meet the specification requirements of the application. Other Fischer connector
types employ polyamideimide (PAI) or POM. Elastomeric seals used by Fischer in
conjunction with their connectors are made from acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber (NBR),
fluoroelastomer, CR, EPDM or styrene-ethylene-butadiene-styrene thermoplastic
elastomer (TPE-S).
PBT is also used by Conec in its range of waterproof connectors which meet IEC 529
specifications by means of a hood sealing mechanism and an internal rubber coating to
the connector. The moulded PBT GF 30 UL94 V-0 frame is attached to the mounting
panel with an O-ring inserted in-between. Frameless types are also offered and these can
operate at up to 130 C. These connectors may be used in environments where moisture,
high humidity and dust are present. They are also resistant to various commonly
encountered chemicals.
BASF offers Ultramid PA and Ultradur PBT for use in automotive connectors.
PEEK has been selected by the connector manufacturer Tyco/AMP for the switching jack
inside its recently introduced coaxial connector for use in connection with its hands-free
mobile phone kit in cars. The function of the connector is to switch the phone signal from
the phones own internal antenna to the vehicles external antenna since this significantly
improves the clarity of the signal. Factors for the selection of PEEK include its excellent
dielectric strength over a wide range of environmental conditions together with its inherent
strength and wear resistance with a capability to deliver an estimated 30,000 switching
The switching jack is cost-effectively injection moulded incorporating a central signal pin,
with stainless steel switching contacts embedded in the base. The high-temperature
resistance and dimensional stability of PEEK enable it to withstand the soldering
operations. Furthermore, its long-term mechanical properties are claimed to render it
ideally suited to fully automated pick-and-place assembly.
Material suppliers include AlliedSignal which offers two grades of glass reinforced V-0
rated polyester, the copolymer based Petra 130 FR and the homopolymer based Petra
330 FR. This product is targeted at connector, coil bobbins and coil encapsulation.
Connector sealing gaskets tend to be made from silicone rubber with a vacuum-tight
requirement being satisfied by the use of fluorosilicone rubber. Epoxy resins are used for
sealing purposes.
Viewed from the polymer manufacturers perspective, the trend in connector use is
towards SMT versions where soldering temperatures of between 220 C and 240 C are
likely to be encountered. These call for the use of high-temperature PA such as DuPonts
Zytel HTN and LCP resins which are forecast to experience sales growth rates of between
fifteen and twenty per cent over the next few years.
European legislation to ban the use of lead and other harmful substances in solder is
likely to come into force in 2004, a date said to have been further deferred to 2008, with
Japan expected to introduce its own legislation. Whereas peer pressure, and the desire to
appear environmentally green, will motivate some companies to adopt lead-free solders
relatively quickly, others will wait until the last minute before making the change. Higher


Polymers for Electronic Components

soldering temperatures allow less margin for error in the soldering operation so precise
temperature control of the manufacturing will become imperative.
Some Japanese companies have been using lead-free solders in their flow soldering
processes since 1997. Sony uses lead-free solders in its MZ-E900 Walkman and
Panasonic, for example, has committed itself to the removal of all lead solder from its
products by March 2003. The Japanese solder manufacturer Senju is to market its full
range of lead-free solders in Europe. Senju, which has manufacturing facilities in Asia,
America and Europe, claims that its lead-free solders are compatible with existing
production processes.
Other Japanese manufacturers of copper/silver lead-free solders include Nihon Almit,
which has lowered the melting point of its LFM8 grade to 219 C by adding a small
quantity of bismuth rendering the solder suitable for applications where assembly is reflow
temperature sensitive. However, brittleness becomes an increasing problem as the
percentage of bismuth is increased and 3% bismuth is a realistic maximum percentage
(which could lower the solder melting point by up to 5 C). The new lead-free solders
include tin/silver/copper formulations and the addition of bismuth makes the
manufacturing process more difficult.
Advocates of lead-free soldering include the SMART (Surface Mount and Related
Technologies) Group which claims to be Europes largest technical trade organisation with
over five hundred corporate members. In February 2001, the Group, in collaboration with
the UK Government Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), sent a group of industry
experts on a lead-free soldering fact finding mission to Japan where they discovered that
most Japanese companies are likely to produce lead-free products within eighteen
months. The information obtained during the mission is being widely disseminated through
seminars, reports and CDs.
The US congress has yet to involve itself in the lead-free solder question to any significant
extent though, should it do so, there would be a major impact on European importers and
Lead-free solders typically involve even higher temperatures around 260 C, which have
major implications for moulders and polymer suppliers. However, lower temperature leadfree formulations are available, where the lead content has been replaced by unspecified
percentages of silver and copper.
This market for materials which will tolerate lead-free solders is also addressed by
Eastman Chemical whose polycyclohexyenedimethylene terephthalate (Thermx PCT) has
a heat deflection temperature of 260 C and is thus in competition with PPS and hightemperature PA. Other high-temperature, high-performance and easily processed resins
from Eastman include Thermx LCP and PET. These resins are available in both flameretardant and non flame-retardant grades.
Electronic applications of Shells Carilon aliphatic polyketone semicrystalline resins, which
may be extruded or injection moulded, include miniature mobile phone connectors. The
material previously used by Tycos AMP subsidiary in the Netherlands had experienced
problems with moisture take-up in humid environments. This had led to loosening and
failure of interlocks. Changing to a thin-wall moulding grade of Carilon cured the problem
by providing moisture resistance and elasticity thereby satisfying AMPs wear and
endurance requirements.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Automotive connectors operate in a hostile environment involving periods of excessive
heat and humidity. Whilst polyester and PBT have traditionally been used, even higher
temperatures and more demanding test criteria from automotive manufacturers are forcing
components to consider other polymers. These must also take into account the
diminishing size and the higher thermal resistance required.
PA is favoured by Weidmller which also uses Wemid, a thermoplastic specially modified
to meet the requirements of the companys products. The modifications include superior
flame retarding properties to PA, an increased continuous operating temperature of 120
C as opposed to 100 C for PA, halogen- and phosphorous-free flameproofing agent and
no dioxin- or furan-forming substances.
Medical applications require connector casing materials which may be sterilised in an
autoclave at temperatures around 134 C thus necessitating the use of PEEK or LCP. The
Swiss manufacturer Lemo uses black POM, grey or white PSU and beige PEEK, which is
said to offer excellent mechanical properties whilst being suitable for gas or vapour
sterilisation. Some models are fitted with an outer shell of cream-coloured
polyphenylsulfone (PPSU), which is especially recommended if the connector is to
withstand hundreds of vapour sterilisation cycles. Other connector manufacturers use
PPS which is selected because its ease of flow enables delicate but extremely stiff
components to be produced.
For the majority of applications involving a temperature range from 40 C to 120 C, PBT
may be used as is the case of connectors supplied by Siemens to Volkswagen. PEEK and
PTFE are also used in the harsh environments to be found in the nuclear and chemical
industry sectors. PVC is often used when a connector is moulded on to a cable.
The Japanese Shin-Etsu Polymer Company offers an interesting interconnection
technology using silicone rubber. The company has long-term experience in the
manufacture of solderless elastomeric interconnectors to mount LCDs. The z-axis
conductive silicone rubber is supported by insulating silicone rubber in the interconnector,
which is inserted between the contact surfaces with a slight degree of compression.
This technology has been developed by the company into the GB-type design where a
number of 50 m- or 100 m-pitch fine gold-plated brass filament wires installed adjacent
to each other in or around silicone rubber support material. The individual wires are 30 m
or 40 m thick and can each carry 50 mA with two or more wires per contact pad
providing a good electrical connection. In a typical interconnection application between
two parallel printed circuit boards, each with a row of contact pads with a minimum pitch of
0.2 mm, the minimum distance between the boards would be 1 mm. The interconnector
would be sandwiched between the two boards with a recommended compression of
between 5% and 15%.
Typical applications for this technology are to be found in small-scale, high-volume
products including mobile phones, pagers and watches. Medium-volume applications
include computers, instruments, integrated circuit testers and sensors.
Another derivative of the technology uses a matrix configuration of gold-plated wires to
connect chips, modules and arrays without the need for complex soldering processes.
These are sometimes used to carry out hardware or software upgrades. In these
applications the minimum distance between the board and the chip or module falls to 0.3


Polymers for Electronic Components

Yet another derivative involves the use of U-shaped interconnectors wrapped around a
core of silicone sponge rubber.

4.8 Heaters
This most unusual application involves the enclosure of thin, radiant heating, electric
elements within dielectric, high temperature resistance silicone rubber, which is able to
withstand temperatures of up to 200 C. The heaters, manufactured by FlexHeat use
printed circuit board technology to etch the elements photochemically with precision. This
permits exact watt densities and powers to be defined to a customised size and level of
heating for virtually any application. The flexible heaters can be wrapped round the object
to be heated with hot and cold zones as required. Rapid heating is possible because of
the high thermal mass of the heaters.
Applications invariably involve the creation of localised optimum working conditions for a
device when the ambient environmental temperature is too low. The silicone cover of the
heaters provides a moisture, chemical and ozone resistant electrically insulated barrier.
Peel-and-stick adhesive backing can be used to attach the heater to the device to be
heated. The heater may be sandwiched between, attached or even vulcanised to the
surface to be heated. Standard types are available for those users who do not need a
customised design.

4.9 Membrane Keypads

These are typically built on a polyester base membrane (PETP 35 m Cu-laminated) with
polyester spacer membrane, safety chamber and front membrane. The snap disc is goldplated stainless steel. Other designs use electrical contacts made from silver, silver on
carbon or carbon only. Keypads may also be made from conductive silicone rubber.
Conventional computer keyboards, made from ABS, polyester or other polymers, may be
covered by a polymer overlay to protect it against dirt, dust, water or other substance
present in a hostile environment. Polyester and PVC overlays are used in a wide variety of
applications. Typical casing materials include PC and CR.
The size of the keyboard market is vast with one leading supplier, Cherry, making around
five million each year.

4.10 Plugs and Sockets

Polymers used to insulate plugs and sockets include PA and TPEs. However, for plugs
moulded on to cables the universal polymer choice for plug bodies is PVC, which can
tolerate temperatures up to 60 C. One leading German socket manufacturer analysed
sales as being ABS or PC (80%), high-temperature PBT (10%) and high-temperature PA
Domestic mains sockets are moulded from tough materials designed to withstand abuse
during the installation process. Polymers used include PBT, which may be used with glass
fibre reinforcement, in the manufacture of lamp sockets where its resistance to
discolouration and heat are valuable qualities. In applications where higher temperatures
are likely to be encountered, flame-retardant PET may be used.
Polyester and glass fibre reinforced polyester bodies are a popular choice for industrial
plugs and sockets, especially those destined to be used in hazardous environments
where ATEX (from the French atmospheres explosible) directives apply. The relevant


Polymers for Electronic Components

Article 100a of ATEX Directive (94/9/EC) was issued by the EC in 1994 and will become
law from 1 July 2003.
The Directive is designed to ensure that installers of connectors (and other electrical and
mechanical equipment) in any areas where a risk of explosion exists must be diligent in
fitting compliant products. The essential design feature of such plugs and sockets is that
the electrical connection/disconnection takes place within a flame proof chamber. These
plugs and sockets will normally comply with IP65 or IP66 sealing ratings. The connectors
will be marked with a classification standard, typically EexdellC T6 (E indicates European
certification, Exde indicates hazardous area equipment, flameproof enclosure with
increased safety components, II C indicates Category 2 (Zone 1), and T6 indicates a
maximum surface temperature of 85 C. The details of the designation are subject to
amendment by ATEX). Another of the key design features of connectors for hazardous
areas is that connection/disconnection when the power supply is on is impossible.
It is important to note that no guarantee of safety or protection will exist if the plug and its
mating socket are sourced from different manufacturers. Furthermore, any on-site product
modification will invalidate the certification. The ATEX classification of hazardous
environments is as follows:

Zone 0 is where an explosive mixture of gas, vapour or dust is always present.

Zone 1 is where an explosive mixture of gas, vapour or dust is likely to occur during
normal operation.

Zone 3 is where an explosive mixture of gas vapour or dust is not likely to occur
during normal operation and, if it occurs, it will only exist for a short time as in the
case of a leak.

Zone 21 is when a cloud or layer of combustible dust is present.

Zone 22 is when a cloud or layer of combustible dust is present for short periods.

4.11 Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)

According to the EECA, in 1999 Europe accounted for 22.9% of the  billion market for
PCBs with America taking 31.1%, Japan taking 23.4% and South East Asia taking 18.9%.
In general-purpose applications, competitively priced thermosets are used for the PCB
material. The most common type of PCB produced today, with approximately 90% of the
market, is said to be FR4 multilayered board made up from woven glass fibre and epoxy
resin. Traditionally bromine additives, e.g., tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBA), have been
used as flameproofing agents, but the trend towards less hazardous, halogen-free
materials has stimulated the search for alternatives which include phosphorus
One of the critical properties when selecting PCB laminate materials is its glass transition
point, which becomes increasingly important in the event of a move to the use of lead-free
solders with higher melting points than traditional lead-based formulations. High
temperature FR4 material has a glass transition point of 150 C, a continuous operating
temperature of 130 C, and will also withstand temperatures of between 260 C and 280
C for brief periods. However, the use of polyimides will permit continuous operation at
such elevated temperatures. Other materials used in special applications, involving single
chip carrier modules for example, include cyanide esters and bismulemit triazine (BT). BT

Polymers for Electronic Components

epoxy laminates, marketed by Polyclad Technologies, are compounds of FR4 material,
polyimide and cyanide ester with a glass transition point of 200 C.
For those companies requiring rapid prototype production, the UK Sigtronics company
offers its Quickboard service claiming to offer delivery within 24 hours to anywhere in the
UK. Computer-aided design (CAD) files can be submitted to the companys website which
will respond with a quotation within one hour during the working day. The boards are not
produced in the normal manner which involves etching unwanted copper from copper clad
laminate. Instead a conductive copper-filled polymer is applied to an engraved bare
laminate. The surplus polymer is wiped off leaving the polymer filled tracks. The board is
then cured and the polymer changes colour from copper to silver. The production process
can normally be completed within three hours.
Automotive applications may involve PCBs within close proximity to or inside the engine
compartment where the elevated temperatures may subject the boards to considerable
thermal stresses. At 260 C, in the so-called T260 test, standard FR4 material will
delaminate after fifteen minutes. However, a German company, Isola AG, has produced a
resin formulation which confers a far better thermal stability. Isolas Duraver-E-Cu 104 TS
and Univer-E-Cu 104TS will withstand 260 for more than an hour before delamination
occurs whilst featuring the same favourable properties as standard FR4.
The selection of the board material is governed by the end-use of the product with
ceramic filled PTFE composites being selected for high frequency applications. Other
PTFE composites with or without the addition of woven or non-woven glass fibre can be
provided. In high temperature applications PPA may be used.
Materials offered by GE Electromaterials include GETEK laminates which incorporate
epoxy and PPO resins which are claimed to provide processability and the improved
thermal and electrical properties required for sophisticated circuitry. They also deliver
significant cost savings and are suggested as replacements for polyimides, PTFE and
other substrate materials in many existing applications.
Lower cost flexible printed circuits use polyester base materials with more expensive
polyimide, including DuPonts Kapton, selected for applications where higher performance
is required. It is not possible to solder polyester so connections must be made by
clamping, by the use of zero insertion force (ZIF) or simple crimp-on connectors, or by
other methods including conducting adhesives though epoxy and acrylic adhesives are
said to have a short shelf life. Flexible/rigid laminates are available with up to twenty-two
layers. Advanced printed circuits are used in missiles and the Eurofighter where
applications include aircraft engine control and management systems.
Manufacturers of flexible printed circuits include Chichester, UK-based Teknoflex, which
selects materials according to application, with PI being used because of its thermoset
characteristics and tolerance of higher temperatures (e.g., in the engine compartment and
exhaust system and for sensor use in the braking system). PI is also preferred if high
flexing cycles are involved. For less arduous automotive applications, as in instrument
clusters, headliner and door panel circuits, lower cost PET would be chosen. In
intermediate conditions, PEN may be selected. This material is growing in popularity
because of its performance profile between PI and PET. Should EMI/RFI screening be
necessary, arguably the best solution is to use silver polymer screens encapsulated with a
screen-printed or photo-imageable coating. Multilayer flexible circuits involving layers of
copper/adhesive/polyamide/adhesive/copper are also available from Teknoflex.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The benefits of flexible circuitry when set against conventional wiring harnesses are
considerable. The cost of flexible circuitry is around 70% of the cost of a comparable
wiring harness, its weight is around 30% of that of the comparable wiring harness and it
will only occupy 40 % of the space required by the comparable wiring harness.
Adhesives are used to attach surface mount components to the printed circuit board prior
to the soldering process. These include PD977 from Heraeus which has been specially
developed for the purpose. It is a single component, solvent-free, epoxy-based,
thermosetting polymer which cures quickly at low temperatures in the range 80 C to 120
C with a suggested optimum temperature of 90 C when the curing time is three minutes.
The adhesive may easily be removed from unwanted areas with a number of water and
solvent-based cleaning compounds prior to curing. The residual thermoplasticity of the
adhesive allows defective components to be replaced by means of spot heating.
Flexible printed circuits may be produced using polymer thick film (PTF) technology where
Poly-Flex Circuits claims world leadership. The company uses lead-free attachment
technology involving Poly-Solder, a silver-loaded isotropic conductive adhesive. PolyFlex
prodces more than fifty million circuits annually with both US and UK manufacturing
facilities and employs 350 people worldwide. It was formerly a subsidiary of Cookson plc
which sold it to the US Parlex Corporation in October 2000.
Whereas traditional printed circuit boards are flat or flexible, injection-moulded three
dimensional versions, also known as MIDs, have been developed with an estimated world
market size of around  PLOOLRQ 7KH EHDXW\ RI WKH FRQFHSW LV WKDW Lt combines into one
unit a circuit board, enclosure, connector and cable. The only limitation to its shape and
size is said to be the available injection moulding capability. Customers for products
utilising the technology include BMW, Braun, Deutsche Telekom, Philips and Siemens.
The technology lends itself to automotive applications and favoured resins for the
performance parts include LCPs and PEI, with ABS to be used elsewhere. Cost is a
consideration in polymer selection.
The techniques of installing the electronic circuitry on to the MIDs include laser imaging,
two-component moulding or hot foil stamping. The laser technique lends itself to fine line
work on small parts. The technique is flexible because design changes involve
amendments to the software rather than to the hardware. Furthermore, it is relatively easy
to draw circuitry to 50 m width.
Two-component moulding should only be considered for parts with complicated
geometries where the annual unit volumes exceed 250,000, because of the high tooling
costs involved. The process involves the combination of one plateable material with
another non-plateable one. The plateable material can only be seen where circuit traces
are desired.
In some cases PA is used for both. For example, a glass-reinforced, impact-modified PA 6
may be used as the plateable material and an unfilled PA 12 used as the non plateable
material. The PA 6 is etched by an acid and the metal is attached to the exposed filler
whilst the PA 12 remains intact.
The hot foil stamping process is more suited to simpler parts since it is fast, of low cost
and usable on all plastics, though part dimensions are limited.
The manufacture of moulded electronic circuits uses another technology for the
production of three dimensional printed circuit boards which lends itself to mass
production. The process allows the manufacture of the circuit and its moulding on to a


Polymers for Electronic Components

rigid thermoplastic base to be carried out simultaneously. The first of the five production
stages involves the definition of the required interconnection patterns by the plating of
copper on to a low-cost aluminium foil through a pattern of light-sensitive photoresist.
The patterned foil is then rinsed and dried before being placed in the mould cavity of an
injection moulding machine. The molten thermoplastic resin is forced into the cavity
against the plated pattern. Then, after cooling, the chemical removal of the foil reveals the
three dimensional moulded circuit.
Whilst this is the basic process it is also possible to include connectors, heat sinks or
other metal sections in the moulding. The selection of the right polymer is crucial to the
success of this process and the polymers heat deflection temperature (HDT) provides an
indication of its suitability.
Whilst reinforced crosslinked thermoset resins traditionally have high HDT ratings and are
thus suitable for the production of solderable printed circuits, thermoplastic resins have, in
the past, had low HDT ratings. However, it is now possible to incorporate additives and
thereby raise the HDT figure. The use of certain fillers provides sufficient resistance to the
high temperatures encountered in modern soldering processes.
Additives may also be incorporated to improve flame retardancy. For example, the USbased supplier, the Albemarle Corporation, offers Saytex HP-7010 brominated
polystyrenes to be used in the production of printed circuit boards. Albemarle has also
introduced proprietary brominated and halogen-free flame retardant materials. It considers
HP-7010 to be particularly suited to be used with thermoplastics in applications such as
The choice of polymer includes two distinct product categories: high-temperature
amorphous plastics and semi-crystalline plastics. The former category includes PEI, PES
and polyarylsulfone (PAS). Typical HDT figures of these acid and alkali resistant polymers
are below 220 C with a continuous operating temperature of 180 C. The semi-crystalline
category includes LCPs, PA, polyesters and PPS with continuous operating temperatures
ranging from 130 C (PBT) to 220 C (PPS). PPS is claimed to offer outstanding
resistance to acids and alkalis with no known solvent below 200 C. A further important
factor in the selection of suitable polymers is water absorption since the presence of water
vapour during the process could affect its success. HT amorphous polymers absorb
between 0.1% and 1% water whereas the absorption figure for PBT and some other semicrystallines is less than 0.01%.
Moulded circuits produced by this process are used in aerospace, automotive and military
applications; all areas where hostile environmental conditions may be encountered. Less
arduous applications include cordless and mobile telephone headsets and remote
controllers for television sets and video recorders. The fact that the surface of the circuitry
is flush with the surrounding plastic makes these mouldings particularly suitable for
applications involving a wiping action or sliding contact with other components.
The system has been used in domestic television sets by Grundig and its partner
company, Thomson-Brandt. A comparison of the MIDs made with relatively expensive
materials and conventional printed circuit boards revealed that, despite material costs
being up to 2.5 times the cost of conventional printed circuit board material, the MID
system using thermoplastics offers cost savings. A galvanic process can be used to
deposit the copper tracks rather than employing foil lamination, etching, drilling or
punching. Furthermore, the galvanic process uses less chemicals and can thus be
considered more environmentally friendly, especially since it is recyclable by grinding


Polymers for Electronic Components

scrap parts to a powder with particle sizes less than 1 mm. Gravitational separation is
used to secure 99.9% separation of the metal from the plastic. The usage of MID
technology is being promoted by the 3-D-MID research organisation which is based in
Germany at Erlangen.

4.12 Relays
In the selection of plastics materials for use in relays, invariably compliant with UL94 V-0,
low degassing properties are required. The requirement arises because some polymers
are inherently hygroscopic and so must be dried thoroughly before use. Other polymers
may absorb gases during the manufacturing process and these may be subsequently
released by the mouldings used as actuating combs, base plates, coil elements and
housings of the finished sealed relays. The sealing prevents the ingress of polluting gases
from the environment. However, the long-term reliability of the relay would be affected if
moisture, for example, were to be released by the plastic components and corrode the
relay contacts.
Pickering reed relays use a polybutadiene polyol inside with an epoxy exterior though
silicone rubber is sometimes employed.

4.13 Resistors
The main polymer use in chip resistors relates to the encapsulation material, which is
frequently PA but may be epoxy resin. Silicone rubber encapsulation, which provides a
cushioning layer to isolate the resistive element from external stresses, and polymerised
moisture protection layers are two other uses of polymers in resistors. Encapsulated
resistor capacitor (RC) networks utilise epoxy/anhydride conformal body material.
Conformal implies a coating of uniform thickness as would be obtained by a dipping
process for example.
Small wire-wound resistors are made by winding the resistance wire round a proprietary
bobbin and then encapsulating it in silicone rubber over which an epoxy shell is moulded.
Other resistor formats use foil elements with Kapton insulation coated with epoxy enamel.
An interesting development in variable resistor design is the use of a conductive polymer
as the resistive element of the design. The polymer used is effectively a thick film ink
similar to the cermet (ceramic/metal) compounds which are also used in variable resistors.
Conductive polymers are superior to cermet in respect of their dynamic noise
characteristic but have inferior moisture resistance, temperature coefficients, power
dissipation and wiper current capacities. The temperature coefficient and power handling
capabilities of wire-wound resistors are higher of course.
The cost of conductive polymers is low and they offer minimal contact resistance variation
coupled with a long rotational life (i.e., several million operating cycles). There is virtually
no friction or wear, even after a few million operating cycles of the wipers movement over
the resistive element, due to the polymers surface which is smoother than that of cermet.
The user has a choice of a wide range of resistance values and tapers.
Further benefits of the conductive polymer design include essentially infinite resolution,
good high frequency operation (because of its low inductance due to the flat design) and
absence of a coil. In conclusion, the limitations include low wiper current ratings, low
power capabilities and a moderate temperature coefficient.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The Hybritron design combines the qualities of wire and plastic since a conductive plastic
coating is added to a wire-wound element. The temperature coefficient and resistance
stability approach that of a pure wire-wound element. Furthermore, it benefits from the
long operational life, essentially infinite resolution and low noise characteristics associated
with pure conductive polymer elements. Although the design combines the best features
of both technologies, it is not recommended for applications involving high wiper currents
and so should be confined to voltage divider use.
Polymer-based positive temperature coefficient (PTC) resettable devices, from Bourns,
Littelfuse and other suppliers, may be coated in a flame retardant epoxy polymer
insulating material, which meets UL94 V-0, and cured. PTC devices act as circuit
protectors because, provided the current flowing through the device is lower than its
specified level, the resistance of the device will be negligible and no self heating will
occur. In a fault condition the current will exceed the specified value, self heating of the
device will occur, its electrical resistance will rise and therefore reduce the current flowing
through the circuit thus protecting other circuit components.
PTC devices are available in a range of specifications to meet defined requirements in low
voltage electronic circuits where they may, for example, protect automotive electronic
circuits, cellular phones, laptop computers, loud speakers, power transformers,
rechargeable battery packs, security and fire alarm systems and other products.
Raychems PolySwitch VTP battery protection devices are polymeric PTC resettable
fuses, 5 mm wide or less, which operate as low resistance series elements between
battery cells and circuitry. They are particularly useful when used in conjunction with
lithium-ion batteries where an accidental short circuit in the load could have serious
consequences. If this happens with the fuse in place, the electrical resistance of the fuse
will increase rapidly thus reducing the current flowing in the circuit.

4.14 RFI Screening

Screening against RFI may be provided by incorporating nickel-coated particles, a lower
cost option than silver particles, in an elastomer. RFI Shielding offers a gasket material
using silicone and fluorosilicone resins in two grades Supershield NG1000 (nickel/graphite
in silicone) and NG1000F (nickel/graphite in fluorosilicone).
An XY800 variant is also available for use with the Xyshield form-in-place gasketing
process whereby small section RFI/MI (magnetic interference) seals are formed directly
on to intricate electronic enclosures. XY800 can be vulcanised at room temperature and is
cured by reaction with water vapour in the atmosphere. It is applied in fluid form through
computer-controlled dispensing heads thus obviating the need for additional gasket fitting
Warth International is another specialist suppler of thermally conductive polymer
insulators. The companys Kool-Pads are supplied as discrete pads for insertion between
metal electronic components, typically transistors, and a metal heatsink in order to allow
the heat generated in the component to be dissipated whilst maintaining electrical
isolation. Some designs also incorporate an integral RF shield. These include oriented
Monel or aluminium in silicone or fluorosilicone rubber, carbon-loaded elastomer, nickelor silver-plated aluminium loaded elastomer and copper or aluminium/polyester.


Polymers for Electronic Components

4.15 Sensors
Sensors enable equipment operating conditions to be measured and monitored. Some
types of thermocouples are inherently fragile and may be mounted on a temporary PA film
carrier, which is tough, flexible and dimensionally stable with a continuous rating of 230 C
and peeled off prior to installation. Other models are constructed on an insulated PA
carrier. Housings may be made from glass-filled PA, PBT, PC or ABS.
Temperature sensors are non invasive and can be attached to either flat or curved
surfaces. Platinum resistance temperature detectors may be used to measure the
temperature of items with a low mass where it is importance that the sensor itself does not
affect the temperature being measured.
Occasionally permanent magnets are needed in sensor applications. Ferriflex from
Groupe Carbone Lorraines Ugimag subsidiary is produced from hexaferrite bonded into
an elastomer which may be NBR for continuous use at 100 C or EPDM for continuous
use at 75 C.
General-purpose sensors for air flow temperature measurements may be encased in
black ABS housings. However, sensors in relatively heavy polyester cases are selected
for applications requiring a delayed time response as in process controls for refrigeration
and heating. Should small size, low cost, versatility and fast response be required then
durable epoxy encapsulation should be selected. The size of the assembly will governed
by the choice of thermistor and wire size. Sensors with polyacetal housings are
considered excellent for environmental controls and applications involving temperatures
below 100 C. PA pipe sensors are used in environmental and water heating/cooling
Some sensors have to operate in harsh chemical environments and the German
manufacturer, Hans Turck GmbH & Co., KG, is offering capacitive sensors made from
PVDF for such applications. These are claimed to reliably detect all metallic and nonmetallic materials including water, metal, wood, glass, cardboard, plastic, concrete block,
glue, thin wire, silicon wafers and numerous other materials.
Ticona has supplied its two-shot Vectra LCP for sunlight sensor holders. The grade used
for the first shot is able to be permanently metallised and the second shot employs a high
flow capacity grade.
In an interesting new application under development at the University of Illinois, USA,
fibre-optic sensors are being promoted for the detection of faults in train wheels and
railway tracks (including buckling). They can also be used to detect the presence and
speed of trains passing over the tracks. Such sensors already monitor pedestrians
approaching road crossing points.
The operating principle is that fibre compression limits the light from a laser source
reaching a photodetector along sensitive optical fibres attached to the rail track. The
University has developed three types of fibre-optic sensors including a twisted pair of
optical fibres sandwiched between two metallic plates and held in place with an epoxy
filler. The second type is constructed around a coil of polymer optical fibre and the third
type involves the use of single-mode optical fibre in a more complex design incorporating
optical polarisers, quarter-wave plates laser diodes and photodetectors.
The benefits of optical fibres include their immunity to electromagnetic interference.
Optical sensors and couplers are often encapsulated in PC housings.

Polymers for Electronic Components

4.16 Switches
Outdoor switches and sockets must withstand severe weather and other adverse
environmental conditions. Suitable protection can be secured by installing high impact,
chemical and UV resistant housings. Hagers IP56 rated Ashley range incorporates a
specially developed gel seal and will withstand dust, heavy seas or even water jets. Other
materials used include glass-filled phenolic resins, thermosets and thermoplastics.
Indoor applications are less demanding and Bosch-Siemens uses Ticona Hostaform
polyacetal in its domestic appliance switches. Ticona also supplies Vectra LCP for use in
miniature short stroke switches where its high flow capacity confers high production safety
Typical materials for normal switches and fuseholders include PA 6, glass-filled PPA and
PC where transparency is required. Heat-resisting and self-quenching (UL94 V-0)
materials include diallylphthalate (DAP) and PSU.
Miniature switches mounted on printed circuit boards variously use glass fibre reinforced
PBT, PA, LCPs, high-temperature PPS as base materials and glass fibre reinforced POM,
glass fibre reinforced PBT and PA as actuator materials. Polyester film is used to provide
a top seal with epoxy employed as a potting material.
EAO employs self-extinguishing PEI for actuator casings selecting polymethyl
methacrylate (PMMA) or PC for the lenses of its pushbutton switches.

4.17 Terminals
Crimped terminals are a popular way to terminate cables. The choice of polymer for the
terminals themselves will be governed by environmental circumstances. Normally PVC is
used but high-temperature applications will call for PA or PC insulators.
Terminal blocks are made from glass-fibre reinforced PA, polyester or PE. PA 6/66 may
be self-extinguishing to UL94 V-2 whereas a brown glass filled PA could conform to UL94
V-0. The latter material is better suited to operate at elevated temperatures. PA 68 is also
Camden Electronics, which claims to be the prime UK source of PCB terminal blocks uses
UL94 V-0 flame retardant Lexan PC with an operating temperature range from 20 C to +
125 C and a short-term temperature tolerance of 160 C.

4.18 Touch Screens

Whilst the mouse is the preferred control option of many personal computer users, touch
screens are increasingly being used in industrial and other applications including
computer installations in post offices. The various control technologies do not invariably
involve the use of polymers. Those which do include the resistive system whereby a clear
acrylic, PC or glass substrate is attached to a second flexible polyester layer.
Alternatively, two flexible layers may be mounted on a solid clear window. The surface of
the clear substrate is coated with indium tin oxide (ITO) on to which a small electrical
current is constantly applied. The ITO coating is also applied to the polyester overlay
whose surface is covered by a pattern of hundreds of microscopic dots which keep the
substrate and the overlay apart. Finger or other pressure on the outside of the overlay
produces a local short circuit in such a way that the computer recognises the X and Y
coordinates of the point of contact and acts accordingly.

Polymers for Electronic Components

IR technology operates by means of miniature LEDs which are mounted beneath the
bezel which surrounds the computer screen. LEDs are housed in epoxy packages which
may be water clear or tinted. LEDs offer significant advantages over incandescent lamps.
Whilst they are more expensive, LED clusters will operate for around 100,000 hours
before they have to be replaced whereas incandescent lamps will need replacement after
1,000 hours. LEDs are also more reliable and have a lower power consumption. They now
have higher brightness and are available in a wider range of colours than in the past.
Alternative systems operate on the basis of acoustic, capacitive or laser technology. The
Zytronic touch screen is capacitive with fine wires and polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or PU layers
sandwiched between glass panels. Touching the screen affects its local capacitance.
Applications include automated teller machines (ATMs) for cash withdrawal.

4.19 Other Components

Other components include protective covers for components operating in hostile
environments. For example, switches operating in the food industry can be protected by
fluorosilicone rubber boots against frequent washing down. Circuit breakers and push
buttons cab be protected from the corrosive effects of dust, dirt and salt spray by the use
of caps made from suitable elastomers. Insulating pillars to mount a printed circuit board
above a panel, for example, are moulded from PA 66. PA mouldings are also widely uses
for the manufacture of miscellaneous hardware including nuts, bolts, washers, clips and
other fasteners and blanking plugs. Occasionally glass filled polyester is used in heavy
duty versions of some components.


Polymers for Electronic Components


Polymers for Electronic Components

5 Overview of European Electronic Component Markets

5.1 Introduction
The European Union market for electronic components, according to the EECA, is
dominated by three countries which collectively account for 67% of the total market.
Germany leads, with a national market of around  ELOOLRQ IROORZHG E\ WKH 8. ZLWK D
market size of around  ELOOLRQ DQG )UDQFH ZLWK DQ DSSUR[LPDWH ILJXUH RI 7 billion. In
1999, passive components accounted for 9% of the world components sales with active
components taking 71% with 20% for electromechanical components. Growth of
European passive component sales in 1999 was reported to be around 5%, the switches,
panels and keyboards (SPK) sector reported a similar growth figure. European SPK
production is concentrated in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Market sizes are becoming increasingly difficult to define due to the increasingly panEuropean activities of both suppliers and users, notably companies central purchasing
departments, contract electronic manufacturers moving production between countries and
component distributors operating seamlessly across national boundaries. Multinationalism
involves dedication to securing the best price and delivery by exploiting economies of
The EECA illustrates the current state of affairs with a hypothetical example of product
ordered from a company in Germany with payment to be made in France, shipment to be
made ex-works in Italy with delivery via the UK to the end-user in Ireland. Traditionally the
country where the invoice was paid satisfied the market criterion for statistical purposes
but this definition is no longer valid in 2001.
Despite the difficulties of definition, there is universal agreement that the European
electronic components market, in sales terms, has grown every year since 1988 with the
sole exception of 1992, the aggregate growth from 1988 to 1999 being 146% in value
terms. Growth rates have varied significantly from year to year with a relatively small 1.8%
increase in 1998 and a far higher 10.6% in 1999.
Component production in Europe has grown more slowly with an aggregate 116% rise
from 1988 to 1999. Dividing production statistics into their domestic and export
components reveals, according to EECA, that the tripling of exports during the period has
been accompanied by a tripling of imports. Since the value of imports is approximately
double the value of exports, the net result has been a loss of market share by domestic
For some sectors of the market, notably connector and PCB manufacture, the year 2000
was a vintage year, better than any of the past fifteen or even twenty years. This was
because, exceptionally, the three major markets of Europe, the Far East and the USA
were all busy at the same due largely to the impact of growth in all sector of
telecommunications and internet businesses. The normal situation is for one of the three
major markets to be depressed with its manufacturers dumping their products at low
prices in the other two major markets.
PCB manufacturers saw their turnover increase by 30% in value over the previous year
with prices rising by between 8% and 15%. The price increase meant that the board area,
or quantity, sold did not rise to the same extent. Semiconductor manufacturers did not
share the success of the PCB producers.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Whilst the strength of sterling against the euro has been blamed for much of Britains
manufacturing weakness, the dollar, which has remained reasonably stable against
sterling, has also risen by around 25% against the euro. Consequently US manufacturers,
seeking to retain their markets in mainland Europe, have had to lower their prices
significantly in order to remain competitive. Another option for them has been to transfer
their export manufacturing activity to their European subsidiaries. Component
manufacturers in the Far East, with exchange rate problems of their own, have not
lowered their prices to the same extent.
The state of the UK manufacturing activity is illustrated by reports that the sole source of
growth since 1995 has been the electronics and telecommunications manufacturing
sectors where technology linked output has grown by 37% since 1995. Now even these
sectors are going into reverse with a January 2001 fall of 4.8% in electronics and
telecommunications output as these mainly foreign owned companies cut investment in
the UK. Output in other manufacturing sectors has fallen by 1%.
In some cases, particularly in consumer electronics, manufacture and assembly in the UK
is no longer economically viable and so companies have closed their UK plants or else
have moved their manufacturing operations to low labour cost countries. One of the most
recent announcements, by Compaq in April 2001, is of the transfer of computer assembly
operations at Irvine in Scotland, with the loss of seven hundred jobs, to a Taiwaneseowned contract electronics manufacturer in the Czech Republic. Compaq is to retain a
workforce of 2,400 at its plant in Ayr.
The German injection moulding specialist, Inotech, has sought to achieve the best of both
worlds by siting its German and Czech plants seventy kilometres apart. Consequently, the
processes with a high labour content are located on the low wage cost, Czech side of the
border whilst other services are performed on the German side.
The claimed advantages of this system include:

German headquarters staff are continuously on the spot,

daily deliveries between the two plants,

no border hold-ups because customs clearance is carried out in the company, and

German-speaking staff trained at the German headquarters.

A revealing survey conducted by Mori for the UK Engineering Employers Federation

(EEF) showed that 35% of those interviewed already had part of their manufacturing
production carried out overseas and that this figure was destined to grow to 49% in five
years time. The surveys 500 respondents were selected from chief executives, managing
directors and board members of EEF companies with 26% of companies being engaged
in electronics and electrical engineering.
The European electronics sector has benefitted to the extent that its exports are relatively
cheap and this has resulted in a growth in the numbers employed of around 15% with
German companies in particular seeking employees.

5.2 Market Analysis

In January 2001, EECA, with affiliated members in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany,
Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK, evolved into a new, more focused,
industry association where it seeks to promote and defend the vital interests of the


Polymers for Electronic Components

European electronic components industry and to support its competitive position in the
global market place. The EECA claims to represent more than 95% of European
electronic components production involving more than one thousand companies, mostly
small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which directly employ more than 235,000
The new organisation comprises four autonomous industry associations with members
drawn from the national trade associations of the member countries as well as from
manufacturing and related industries. The associations are:

European Semiconductor Industry Association (ESIA),

European Display Industry Association (EDIA),

European Packaging and Interconnection Association (EPIA), and

European Passive Components Industry Association (EPCIA).

The February 2001 EPCIA newsletter reports on the Associations General Assembly
which took place in January 2001, where the President stated that the 40% sales growth
was clearly driven by tantalum and ceramic multilayer capacitors with price increases due
to the strength of the US dollar, the palladium price and the excess of the demand. The
President went on to forecast continued growth in 2001 with growth in the second quarter
questionable. There was also a question mark over the development of the US dollar.
However, he saw a possible restart of demand in the second half of the year; he
estimated overall growth in 2001 to be within the band 5% to 10%.
The telecommunications sector is seen as the most important growth element though
UMTS services will not make a measurable contribution to the figures in 2001. The
President added his belief that the automotive sector will remain the second strongest
market for passive components and will continue to grow. Further growth is also to be
found in the subcontracting sector. However, the universal, and serious, concern from
passive component manufacturers relates to the ongoing price increases in almost all raw
materials. Polymer manufacturers have been imposing price increases due largely to the
rise in the cost of oil.
The customers for electronic components manufacturers can be categorised in four major
ways as catalogue distributors, CEMs, OEMs and overseas distributors. It has been
reported that CEMs now account for between 35% and 40% of the component sales of
some distributors. However, with the total European components market reported to
exceed US$45 billion, the picture across Europe is that distributor sales accounted for
only a quarter of the business in 1999, the remainder going to OEMs. The picture is
changing dramatically and it is forecast that the distributor percentage will rise to 40%
before the end of the decade.
Some CEMs and OEMs show a marked lack of enthusiasm for the assembly of
electromechanical components, which may be more time consuming and less amenable
to automated processes than printed circuit board assembly. The fitting out of enclosures
with cables and connectors, fans and heaters, front panels and backplanes, adds another
customer sub-category where pioneers include Radiatron Engineering Design Solutions
(REDS) and Time 24 (which has 320 employees and has seen its turnover grow annually
by around 38% to its current figure of over 11 million).
Business-to-business e-commerce polymer operations have started with the Omnexus
collaboration between leading thermoplastics suppliers including BASF, Bayer,


Polymers for Electronic Components

Blasterfeld, Clariant, Dow, DSM, DuPont, PolyOne, Solvay and Ticona/Celanese, to
create a customer focused global e-market. This will be established as a stand-alone
business with an initial investment of US$50 million. Following its US launch in 2000,
Omnexus has started its Europe-specific services in France, Germany and Spain as the
initial phases of a pan-European phased launch. Eventually a complete package of
business-to-business functions including electronic invoicing, multi-currency purchasing
and order tracking will be available.
Ticonas resins are already distributed by GE Plastics distribution operation, GE
Polymerland, which also has an on-line operation. Polymerland has taken the whole GE
Plastics operation onboard and is aiming for sales of over a billion dollars from its on-line
operations. The Polymerland operation is being used as a model by other GE divisions.
Enhancements of the operation include the monitoring of customers silos such that
deliveries are made when stocks fall to predetermined levels.
A parallel operation exists for elastomer e-commerce. The technology is also used for online auctions where bidders steadily reduce their bids in  VWHSV XQWLO WKH SXUFKDVHU
is left with a sole supplier. In one bid for plastic bottles, Bayer secured a 25% reduction in
the offer price. Bayer uses this process widely in its purchasing operations via the
Chemplorer chemical industry one-stop shopping site where 100 traders and distributors
representing over 2,000 manufacturers trade in more than 800,000 frequently needed
articles. Purchases are made at the pressing of a button. Chemplorers simplified systems
have securing savings of over 60% compared with traditional purchasing methods. Bayer
is also using the internet to sell its products and will soon sees annual sales of up to 
billion annually using this route. By the end of 2000, around one hundred of Bayers
largest customers in the plastics and polyurethanes business sector were able to buy via
the groups and the enlargement of these activities is ongoing.
The main electronic components market for polymers is for passive components which
represent around 85% of the number of components on a typical PCB. However, because
of the much higher unit costs of semiconductors, passives only account for around 5% of
the total component cost. Ironically, athough the number of integrated circuits (ICs) on a
typical PCB has fallen dramatically in recent years, the number of passive components
has hardly changed.
The year 2000 generated record sales with some suppliers reporting sales turnover
increases over the previous year of between 30% and 40%. 2001 is unlikely to be as
successful but double-digit percentage sales increases are still expected. Suppliers have
brought additional manufacturing capacity on stream and so price levels may come down.
The health of the components sector is dependent on the market for electronic products.
The consumption of polymers in the communications sector is reported to grown from
500,000 tonnes in 1996 to an estimated 800,000 tonnes in 2001.
The electronic components market per product sector and application in the fifteen
member states of the European Union according to the EECA is shown in Tables 5.1 and


Polymers for Electronic Components

Table 5.1 EU electronic components market by product sector, 1998 and 1999

Rest of EU



























Note: ( ) denotes decline

EDP = Electronic Data Processing
Source: EECA 1999 Industry Report

Table 5.2 EU electronic components market by component type, 1998 and 1999
Electronic components
1999/1998 (%)
[ 9
[ 9
Active components
Passive components
Electromechanical components
Source: EECA 1999 Industry Report

Communications and automotive applications represent the largest markets for

components. The other major markets are the wireless and consumer entertainment
electronics, data processing and industrial sectors. The scale of the world electronics
market is illustrated by the statement from AVX that more than 110 million personal
computers were shipped in 1999, a rise of nearly 23% from the previous year with similar
sales growth expected to be reported in 2000.
Possibly the most important industrial application is in instrumentation and control where
the objective is to cut costs and economise on the use of electricity by electric motors by
the employment of electronic speed control. Efficient use of electricity is one of the ways
companies can minimise their payment of the recently introduced Climate Change Levy of
0.43 pence per kilowatt hour in the year 2001 to 2002 which, in many cases amounts to a
15% surcharge on energy bills except where dispensations have been granted. These
include a 50 million energy efficiency fund designed to help small and medium-sized
businesses. The help comprises encouragement, advice and promotion. An initial
allocation of 100 million has been made in the form of Enhanced Capital Allowances
(ECAs) for businesses to invest in qualifying energy efficient technologies.
The world market for variable speed drives is valued at approximately $6.2 billion with
typical uses including cranes, fans, machine tools and pumps. Other important areas
where electronic components are used extensively in the control systems include fire
alarm systems, heating, lighting and air conditioning.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The energy savings attainable by the use of variable speed drives in pumps are
particularly significant because the power required varies according to the cube of the
speed. Consequently, reducing the pump speed by 20% will result in a 50% saving in
energy consumption.
Few power-operated consumer products are now sold without electronic controls of some
description being installed to improve efficiency and ease of operation. Pure electronic
controls have taken over from electromechanical systems since they are invariably less
expensive and more reliable.
In the data processing sector, the manufacture of personal computers and laptops in
Europe is largely a case of building the finished product up from sub-assemblies made in
Asia or other low labour cost countries. Until quite recently set-top boxes, designed to
convert in-coming digital signals received from the transmitter into an input for an existing
analogue signal television set, have been manufactured in the UK. Now the manufacturer,
Pace Micro Technology, has decide to outsource all production and close its factory at
Saltaire in Yorkshire with the loss of 470 jobs. However, the company will continue to
employ 670 non-manufacturing employees in the UK with the intention of adding a further
80 employees to this side of the business later in 2001.
Seen from the perspective of the component manufacturer, a capacitor manufacturer for
example, where the largest companies in the sector are Matsushita, Epcos, NisseiArcotronics, BHC Aerovox, BC Components, Vishey and Wima, the strength of the
competition and the state of the market will be seen to vary from one type of capacitor to
Film capacitors, which are made by approximately four hundred companies around the
world, use polymer films including polyester and polypropylene as the non-conducting
dielectric layer. Film capacitors are used in audio and video equipment, automotive
electronics, lighting, measuring equipment, industrial electronics and telecommunications
equipment. The market for film capacitors is expected to grow at an annual rate of about 5
% during the next three years.
In the case of paper capacitors, which are used for interference suppression in mains
electricity supplies for example, the market size is expected to remain stable during the
coming three years. The leading manufacturers of paper capacitors are Evox Rifa and
Wima, a German company.
Aluminium electrolytic capacitors are sold for applications in telecommunications, lighting
and automotive electronics and for the electronic controls of electric motors. The markets
are growing rapidly in Europe and less so in North America, especially in the automotive
industry. The largest companies in the sector are Matsushita, Epcos, Nissei-Arcotronics,
BHC Aerovox, BC Components, Vishay and Wima.
Most dramatic of all has been the increasing demand for tantalum capacitors which
showed compound annual growth of 20% over the three years to 2000.
In its report for the first half of 2000, Epcos, the leading German passive electronic
component manufacturer, reported that growth was being driven, above all, by
telecommunications and automotive electronics. Consequently those countries with the
greatest manufacturing presence in these sectors will benefit from the greatest growth.
The company went on to report that its expansion was also being boosted by
developments in industrial and consumer electronics. However, high labour costs in some
Western European countries are driving television set assembly, for example, from


Polymers for Electronic Components

Western Europe to Eastern Europe and further afield. The situation is not clear cut
because the production of traditional designs with a 4:3 screen format is moving offshore
whereas production of the more modern widescreen 16:9 screen format is growing in
Europe in response to greater consumer demand. Similarly, set-top box (digital decoder)
production for digital television reception is growing but this activity is often outsourced to
CEMs and so the exact manufacturing location may not be known.
Manufacturers seeking the lowest cost manufacturing base in the euro zone have
selected Portugal where the government provides an incentive package to attract
business. Philips, Siemens and Samsung are amongst the major electronics companies
which have major manufacturing subsidiaries in Portugal. Samsung also has a mobile
phone handset manufacturing plant in Spain where production output rate has doubled to
1.5 million handsets per annum. The unit began production in January 2001 and is
currently operating two production lines on a three shift day basis.
Austria is at the opposite end of the euro-zone engineering component manufacturing cost
spectrum from Portugal with the highest figures in the zone according to data published in
The Engineer magazine [D. Fowler, The Engineer, 1998, 287, 7420, 17]. However, as the
following paragraph shows, this is not an impossible burden to bear.
Austria is the home of Austria Technologie & Systemtechnik AG (AT&S), one of Europes
leading major circuit board manufacturers, with annual sales of  PLOOLRQ DQG WKUHH
thousand employees (2,130 in Europe) and which claims market leadership outside
Japan. Under the auspices of the R&D Austrian Technology Platform programme, which
was set up in 1999, AT&S linked has linked up with a group of companies including
DuPont, Ciba Geigy, Atotech AG and Isola AG, together with universities in Austria and
Germany, to advance the development of the printed circuit board by the adoption of new
materials and processes. AT&S has an impressive customer portfolio including Ericsson,
Motorola, Nokia and Siemens (from whom it has secured a licence for the embedding of
passive components into printed circuit boards).
The companys base is at Leoben-Hinterberg and it has three other plants in Austria as
well as a plant in Germany in Augsburg. Around 34% of AT&Ss business is generated in
its domestic market. In 1999, it bought a PCB plant at Nanjangud in India and is currently
stream early in 2002. The output from the plant in China will include a variety of PCB
designs destined for the Chinese mobile communications market and will include cellular
handset and base station components. Plans also exist to establish production facilities in
North America, the Far East and elsewhere in Europe.
The split of the customer base of AT&S has been reported as 54% hand-held devices
including mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), just under 10% in
telecommunications infrastructure, nearly 10% in industrial applications and a further 10%
in automotive applications. Its objective is to increase the hand-held device component to
60% with major growth in the telecommunications infrastructure and automotive sectors.
An indication of the extent to which downturn of the US economy could affect European
companies is provided by estimates by analysts that Alcatel relies on the US market for
around 22%/23% of its sales, Marconi between 20% and 30% of its sales with Ericsson
and Nokia in the mid to low 20% range. Multinational companies see the world market
dominated by the three major constituent markets of America, Asia and Europe. It is
unusual for all three to be in a growth phase so the normal practice is to move marketing
effort and resources from the weakest to the strongest. Consequently growth in Asian and
other markets has compensated Ericsson and Nokia for weakness in the US market.

Polymers for Electronic Components

The extent to which the structure of the Asian electronics market has changed is
illustrated by the fall in Japanese manufacturers share of the copier market from a 70.6%
peak to a current 40.7%. Formerly Japanese companies made nearly 100% of the active
matrix liquid crystal displays used in top-of-the-range laptop and desk top computers. The
sales efforts of LG and Samsung reduced this figure to just over 50%.
In a move designed to strengthen the position of Taiwanese companies vis--vis their
Japanese competitors, Acer Display Technology and UMCs Unipac Optoelectronics are
to merge their thin film transistor liquid crystal displays (used in computer screen
applications) operations. The new company, AU Optronics, will be capitalised at T$29.7
billion (approximately US$919 million) and will be second only in production terms to
Samsung Electronics of South Korea and of a similar size to the current number two, LG

5.3 Telecommunications
One of the major businesses driving the market at the present time is mobile
communications where the world market for telephone handsets is said to have grown
from an estimated figure of 280 million units in 1999 to a projected figure of more than a
billion in 2004 rising still further to reach 1.34 billion in 2006. This figure may not be
achieved because some sectors of the industry have detected a slowing down of the pace
of expansion. Passive component manufacturer Epcos put the market size into
perspective when it stated in its 2000 Annual Report that the volume of the mobile phone
market was four times that of the entire computer market.
One factor stimulating demand for mobile phones is the trend of users to upgrade to the
latest technologies. Industry sources expect a user to replace his mobile phone every
eighteen months or so. A typical mobile phone handset, with an approximate 50%
polymer content, will contain approximately 500 discrete components of which around 200
will be passives. There are also around 200 passive components in a notebook computer
with a conventional colour television set containing approximately 400 passive
Productivity improvements have been achieved by applying a hard coating to the tools
used for injection moulding. Balzers claims that the service life of an ABS telephone
handset moulding tool increased from approximately 150,000 shots to 700,000 without
wear when a coating of Balinit A was applied. Balzers claims that the tool and reworking
costs amounted to  ZLWK DQ DGGLWional gain of twenty production days.
The growth in demand for telephone handsets has forced manufacturers to invest in stateof-the-art assembly operations using multi-axis robots which, unlike traditional pick-andplace operations, can be readily re-programmed to accommodate design changes.
Robots currently load and unload injection moulding machines as well as being utilised for
gasket and display protection tape positioning, display window assembly, inspection and
cover handling. One of the leading robot manufacturers, Stubli Unimation, has increased
its production of RX robots, used by handset and other manufacturers, to over one
thousand machines per annum.
World semiconductor sales grew by 18% from US$136 billion in 1998 to US$160 billion in
1999 with more rapid growth projected in 2000. Sales grew fastest in Asia with sales in
Europe rising at around 10% per annum. However, there has been a sales slowdown in
2001 with memory chip sales particularly affected. Nokia is also seeking to secure
leadership of the 3G Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) infrastructure
market with a 35% targeted market share. Nokia is working towards a 3G system launch

Polymers for Electronic Components

in 2002; W-CDMA faces competition from an incompatible third generation standard,
In 2000, Nokia reported sales of 128 million handsets when the world market volume was
reported to be 405 million units. Nokia is also the worlds second largest provider of
mobile phone infrastructure installations after Ericsson. Nokia continues to be seen as a
key factor in its countrys national economy. In cash terms, Nokias worldwide sales have
doubled on a year-to-year basis and reached US$30 billion in 2000.
Nokia sources injection-moulded parts from all over the world and carefully seeks out
those suppliers which are prepared to put themselves out in pursuit of the support of
concept development. Nokia has stated that it is looking for technology partners who can
offer new solutions in the fields of product design, materials selection and the ability to
bring designs to market more quickly.
Typical materials for Nokias cell phone mouldings include PC, ABS and PC/ABS blends.
The company considers that third-generation formats, including video capability and larger
screens, may pose material challenges. One of the companys research executives
admitted that it was scary to design a product with a new material for a production run of
100 million units.
In the competitive world of mobile phones product variety and decoration are of prime
importance. Development, tooling and processing times are getting ever shorter. Pressure
on price is also intense with Hewlett-Packard, for example, aiming to reduce prices by ten
percent every calendar quarter. This translates to pressure on moulders and plastics
processors to reduce their prices by up to five per cent per calendar quarter.
World handset sales in 2001 have been forecast to be between 400 million and 500
million. Market penetration in Finland must be approaching saturation with 73% of the
population said to own mobile phones. In the UK, there are reported to be approximately
forty million mobile phones in use; this represents use by around two-thirds of the
population. The figures for the first quarter of 2001 (Table 5.3) illustrate the state of the UK
mobile phone market.

BT Cellnet

Table 5.3 UK mobile phone market, 2001

First quarter
2001 increase

Market share

Source: Industry Sources

An indicator of impending saturation is the revelation from Vodafone that 9% of its

customers had neither received nor made a call on their mobile phones during the course
of the previous three months. This is probably a reason why the phone companies are
dramatically reducing the subsidies provided to purchasers of pre-pay mobile phones who
contribute nothing to the networks when they are not using their phones. The higher cost
of pre-pay phones is to encourage potential users to take on a contract arrangement.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Scope for expansion in the use of mobile phones is greater in France where market
penetration is reported to be 49%, or in the USA where penetration is only 48%.
Penetration rates in most West European countries are forecast to be heading towards
85% over the next two to five years so saturation is likely to occur if these projections are
Motorola and Ericsson, each with a 14.4% market share at the end of 2000, follow Nokia
in second and third positions respectively. Siemens was the worlds fourth largest
manufacturer in 2000, up from eighth position in 1998, but component shortages limited
production and were expected to do so again in 2001 prior to the market downturn.
However, the manufacturing outsourcing decisions by Ericsson and Motorola are believed
to have propelled Siemens into the number two European handset manufacturing slot
behind Nokia. The April 2001 announcement by Siemens that it was to reduce by two
thousand the total workforce at its three German mobile phone manufacturing plants
shows that it is not immune to the business downturn.
Ericssons weaker position is confirmed by its admission in March this year that its mobile
handset sales in 2001 would be considerably lower than in 2000 when it incurred
considerable losses on handset production. By contrast, Ericsson reported profits of SEK
27 billion from its production of telecommunications systems.
Philips, with estimated mobile phone sales in 2001 of between 16.6 million and 17.3
million units, is also expecting to lose money on this area of its operations and may even
decide to withdraw from this sector. Philips also has a joint venture with the South Korean
LG company in the field of liquid crystal displays. Results from this activity are
disappointing due to a market slowdown and low selling prices.
Other handset manufacturers include Alcatel which reported a loss on this area of activity,
which represents 7% of group sales revenue, in the first quarter of its current financial
year. The year-on-year decline is attributed to excess inventory in the distribution channel
at the start of the year linked to a general slowdown in the market; the company is
reacting by closing its two handset manufacturing plants at Illkirch and Laval in France for
one week in March and one week in May. The two plants have a combined workforce of
1,500 people.
Alcatel, however, has experienced strong growth in both its networking and optical carrier
based activities. The current situation is being addressed by the implementation of a costcutting programme which seeks to streamline the supply chain and reduce operating
expenses. According to a company spokesman the programme will not involve job losses.
Materials used by Motorola for its palm-sized mobile phone range include Bayers
Makrolon DP1-1456 PC resin for the front and rear housings. This is an impact-modified
material designed for thin-walled injection mouldings down to a thickness of 0.025 inches.
It also includes a thermally stable impact modifier system to allow greater residence time
in the barrel.
New products from Motorola include its P8767 Timeport model which is claimed to be the
first mobile phone to have a plastic semiconductor display, a Tohoku Pioneer organic
electroluminescent display which uses Kodak technology. Ironically, other companies
have gained more benefits than Philips, the inventor. Philips has also been active in the
development of computer displays, the polymers being used are under development by
Merck (a German chemicals company) and others.


Polymers for Electronic Components

In 2000, Motorola launched its Timeport 260 model which was the first to use the socalled 2.5G General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) standard which is claimed to be an
intermediate step in the transition from todays Global System for Mobile Communications
(GSM) digital mobile phone standard, with 700 million users worldwide, and the eagerly
awaited 3G technology. When a GPRS phone is used to access the internet it is faster
than its predecessors and users are charged according to the volume of data used rather
than the time they spend on line. Consequently services such as e-mail become more
The reported opinion of Motorolas European Vice-President and Director of Marketing of
the companys personal communications segment (PCS) is that GPRS rather than 3G is
the real revolution since nine out of ten mobile phone applications do not need 3G. Five of
the six new mobile phone handsets being launched by Motorola in 2001 are dedicated to
GPRS technology so success in this field is extremely important to the company. Most of
the new sets will be available this summer with the Timeport 288, for example, targeted at
business users who will be able to access fax, data and e-mail services. Users will also
benefit from a relatively large, high resolution screen which will facilitate presentation of
stock market prices and other information. An added benefit is the provision of an optional
Bluetooth facility to permit wireless connection to a computer or headset. Other new
models include the V120 designer version with a built-in MP3 music player and a facility to
download tunes and screensavers. Motorola has a brief lead over Nokia whose GPRS
products will not reach the market before the end of 2001. Ericsson and Samsung also
exhibited GPRS mobile handsets at the March, 2001 CeBIT exhibition at Hanover in
At the end of March 2001, Motorola claimed that there were already more than thirteen
operators in Europe with GPRS networks. They state that they have already shipped more
than 150,000 GPRS handsets with orders from one major European customer for a further
500,000 handsets in the second quarter of the year.
Major growth in the mobile phone sector is tied to the successful launch of 3G UMTS
systems. However, the EC has criticised the high cost of licences and lack of
harmonisation in licence conditions from country to country. The EC believes that this
could handicap the launch of 3G services across Europe. Eleven of the European Unions
fifteen member governments have allocated licences and received total licence fees of
39% and 29.5% of this total respectively. Handicapped by the large fees which they paid
for their licences, the successful bidders in Germany and the UK are seeking permission
from their respective regulators to reduce their 3G infrastructure costs by seeking some
form of collaboration between competitors. There is also press speculation that the
European Unions European Investment Bank may be called in to assist with the financing
of the new networks.
The European UMTS technical specifications have undergone radical revision with the
final versions set to be confirmed in early April 2001. Some industry sources are
concerned that UMTS performance may be inferior to that of the GSM equipment it is set
to replace. The critics maintain that this complex development should have been given
more development and testing time than the European authorities have allowed.
3G systems offer fast data transmission, CD-quality sound and video services. The
worlds first 3G service, designated FOMA (Freedom of Mobile multimedia Access) is
scheduled to be launched in May 2001 in Japan by NTT DoCoMo the Japanese operator.
FOMA is based on W-CDMA and is being built on the success of its I-mode service which
has attracted over twenty million customers since its Japanese launch in February 1999.

Polymers for Electronic Components

DoCoMo reported over twenty million subscribers for its I-mode multimedia service by
early March 2001. This service offers PlayStation games to subscribers in Japan. In
Europe, plans exist for Vodafone to offer PlayStation games to its subscribers. DoCoMo is
already planning to launch its fourth generation (4G) system in 2006, four years earlier
than originally envisaged.
DoCoMo has teamed up with Hewlett-Packard to develop multimedia delivery and
network applications over 4G wireless broadband networks. 4G phones will be 2,000
times faster than existing phones and will even have transmission speeds ten times faster
than the forthcoming 3G system. The 4G data transmission rate is stated to be in excess
of twenty megabits per second thus enabling reception of high resolution films and
television programmes.
DoCoMo is planning to open new UK headquarters in April 2001 and also a research and
development centre in Germany within the next three months. Technical partnerships are
to be established with UK companies.
Mobile phone operators in the UK, where 3G services will start in 2002, comprise BT,
Vodafone, One-to-One, Orange and the Hong Kong based Hutchison Whampoa which
has since created a joint venture, 3GopCo, with DoCoMo of Japan and KPN Mobile of the
Netherlands. A joint venture between BT, Vodafone AirTouch and Japan Telecom has
been cleared by the European Commission to take up a 3G licence in Japan. The
financial success of 3G services in the UK is far from assured since the licensees have
many obstacles to overcome before they can even recoup their investments. Mounting
public opposition to the potentially hazardous health implications of siting masts in
sensitive areas, school premises for example, linked to greater scrutiny by planning
authorities will make it more difficult to place the 30,000 new masts needed to provide the
service in he UK.
Germany and other markets are counting the licence cost they had to pay in the auctions
to operate 3G systems. In Germany the six successful bidders each paid DM16 billion
(approximately 5 billion) for a 3G licence. Vodafones German Mannesmann Mobilfunk
D2 mobile phone subsidiary is opposed to sharing its 3G system infrastructure and has
announced that it will cut the subsidy, currently DM300 (approx. 97) per handset, it
provides to new customers. Advocates of sharing include BTs Viag Interkom subsidiary,
which is in discussions with Deutsche Telekoms T-Mobil D1 operation. Deutsche
Telekom owns the UK mobile phone operator One2One. The other German 3G licence
holders are E-Plus, Group 3G and MobilCom. Group G is a joint venture between
Telfonica of Spain and Sonera of Finland.
An indication of the dynamic growth of the mobile phone sector in Germany was revealed
by DaimlerChryslers recent sale of its Debitel mobile phone subsidiary for  ELOOLRQ WKLV
Prior to the opening of the 2001 Hanover CeBIT exhibition the President of Bitkom, the
German association for IT (Information Technology), telecommunications and new media,
stated that around fifty million people in Germany communicate with each other using their
mobile phones. The growth in mobile phone sales in German is expected to lead to a
situation where there will be more mobile phones than people in the country by the year
2003. This is because the trend is for users to have a second mobile phone using a
different technology. The so-called 2.5 G GPRS and the 3G UMTS services call for
different handsets. More than DM100 billion is said to have been invested in the
acquisition of UMTS frequencies.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The German economy is the largest in the euro zone and accounts for around a third of
the zones output. The economic outlook is dependent on the health of the US economy
which was responsible for Germanys export boom in 1999 and 2000. The exposure of the
German economy to the US market is around 25% higher than other countries in the euro
area because of its high volume of industrial goods exports to America. France has
managed to increase its GDP faster than Germany for the past six years.
The situation in France is different to the extent that insufficient bidders applied for
licences thus denying the French government its anticipated financial windfall. The
European Union is reported to have told France to issue four licences in order to maintain
a competitive market place. The successful first round bidders, France Telecom and
Vivendi, are reported to have made it clear that they will reject licences if bidders in the
second round are granted more favourable terms. The successful launch of 3G phones
across Europe is essential if the momentum of rising handset sales, and the consequent
component sales is to be maintained.
France Telecom has been conspicuously successful in its expansion strategy with fixed
line services in ten countries attracting a consumer base of 39.2 million customers. The
companys majority-owned Orange mobile phone business is Europes second largest
with 33.1 million customers in 22 countries. Internet access is offered to 2.6 million
customers in 10 countries. France Telecoms consolidated revenue in 2000 were 
billion, an increase of 24% over the 1999 figures. International business now accounts for
26% of sales revenues up from 13% in 1999.
The euro zones slowest growing economy is Italy, Europes third largest economy after
Germany and France. Bank of America data shows that economic growth in Italy has
risen each year since 1995 by an average of 1.7% whereas the growth rate for the Euro
currency zone as a whole has been 2.5%. The competitiveness of Italian industry has
declined and the countrys trade surplus, as a percentage of GDP, has fallen from 4.4% in
1996 to an estimated 0.2% in 2000.
Italians are, however, avid mobile phone users and between 1997 and 2000 the number
of subscribers rose from 6.4 million to 30 million, with an anticipated figure of 47 million by
2003. The personal computer market in Italy has been slow to develop with only 16.2% of
households having a computer at the end of 1999. Internet use has still to take off with
only 8.2 million users in the country at the end of 1999. Rapid growth is likely to raise this
figure to around 29 million users by 2003.
The Italian telecommunications infrastructure has undergone major change in recent
years initiated by the acquisition by Olivetti of a majority 55% stake, which is planned to
fall to 44%, in the countrys formerly state-owned Telecom Italia monopoly in 1997. At the
time, Telecom Italias 60%-owned TIM (Telecom Italia Mobil) subsidiary was Europes
largest mobile phone company with around fifteen million customers. Following the
Telecom Italia acquisition, Olivetti had to sell its stake in Omnitel, its partially owned
mobile phone subsidiary, to Mannesmann and which, following the sale of Mannesmann
to Vodafone, is now 76.12% owned by Vodafone. The two other mobile phone companies
in Italy, with fixed line interests, are Wind (in which the state-owned Enel electricity supply
authority has a financial interest) and Infostrada which belongs to Vodafone via
Mannesmann. Vodafone recently sold Infostrada to Enel for a reputed  ELOOLRQ DIWHU
Enel agreed to sell off extra electricity generating capacity as pre-condition for acquiring
Italys second largest fixed line network. Enel also assumes  ELOOLRQ RI ,QIRVWUDGD GHEW


Polymers for Electronic Components

Outside of its Telecom Italia interests the Olivetti Group has restructured its businesses
with the industrial and internet operations merged into Olivetti Tecnost S.p.a., with around
5,400 employees worldwide and approximate 2000 sales revenues of 2,200 billion lire.

5.4 Automotive Applications

Another major market for electronic components is the automotive industry where demand
for components is reported to be growing at 17% per annum with up to 10,000 passive
components installed in a current luxury car. The value of the electronic systems in a
typical car is said to represent a quarter of its sales value with the electronic content of the
vehicle growing by around 8% per annum to reach around 30% of the cars value by 2005.
Germany is the dominant location of automotive electronics production and accounts for
approximately sixty percent of the market.
One of the avenues for greater use of electronics in cars is the installation of multimedia
networks, formerly confined to top-of-the-range models, into mid-range vehicles. These
networks permit the coordinated operation of individual products including CD and DVD
players, mobile phones, car navigation computers, audio tuners and amplifier. The use of
a recognised industry standard networking protocol, Communication and Control
Electronics (C&CE) D2B standard, for example, allows the driver to operate the cars full
range of integrated systems from one controller using a touch screen system or even
voice recognition. The D2B standard recognises many of the industrys audio and control
standards and is claimed to be able to act with virtually any device currently available.
Microsoft is also active in this sector via its Car.NET infrastructure technology which is
based on the Microsoft.NET. Bosch and Denso are reported to be planning to build invehicle devices using Windows CE for Automotive v3 which is an integral component of
Car.NET. This is an open system which gives designers the opportunity to select the
hardware platform, user interface and software configuration appropriate to their
Microsoft, which is working in partnership with component makers Bosch, Clarion, Delphi,
Siemens and Visteon, claims that its Windows CE for Automotive technology is smart
enough to know whether or not it is operating and, if not, it does not draw power from the
It has been predicted that 50% of all new cars, and up to 90% of top-of-the-range models,
will be equipped with telematic-capable appliances by 2006. These appliances will lead to
the installation of novel in-car computers able to provide drivers with hands-free
communication, access to personalised information on the internet, the ability to summon
emergency services and a range of convenience and entertainment applications.
European growth in this sector is being promoted under the auspices of MEDEA (MicroElectronics Development for European Applications) established within the framework of
the European Unions EUREKA programme which is designed to ensure EU technological
and industrial competitiveness.
In unitary terms, electronic component demand is forecast to grow by around 20% per
annum. In 1998, a typical car was said to contain 300 connectors, 2000 terminals and a
mile of insulated wire. However, price pressures in the automotive industry are likely to
result in revenue growth more like 8% to 10%. Within a car, operations previously carried
out hydraulically are giving way to electrical and electronic solutions. DaimlerChrysler has
its own automotive electronics business unit, TEMIC, which saw its 1999 order intake rise

Polymers for Electronic Components

One response to pricing pressures is to automate processes in order to cut costs by
reducing employee numbers. For example, the automotive electric switch manufacturer,
Stoneridge Pollak (SPL), has installed a five-axis Toshiba robot to load and unload its
injection moulding presses. The robot is used to produce injection-moulded components
for the production of 7,000 switches per day to be used in VW Golf and Skoda cars.
Previously the 24 hours/day three shift process had needed two operatives. Overall the
companys moulding facility produces around two hundred different components for the
automotive market using its fifty five injection moulding presses.
In recent years there has been a move away from thermosets to thermoplastics for
automotive electronic components. Thermoplastics are now the preferred choice, usually
reinforced with glass fibre. Encapsulated components which use PA 66, PBT or PBT can
be rated at up to 155 C (Class F-IEC 371 Standard). Other encapsulants include LCPs
which are capable of continuous operation at over 175 C. PPS and LCP are favoured for
many electronic component applications including coil formers, connectors, plugs and
switch parts.
The use of injection-moulded thermoplastics for encapsulation results in lower production
costs and improved quality when compared with previous methods involving thermoset
potting and moulding technologies.
Insert injection moulding is considered to be a clean, repeatable process readily adaptable
to automation and cellular manufacturing techniques. Furthermore, the finished
encapsulated parts do not require subsequent trimming or deflashing as would be the
case from a thermoset operation. Another benefit from the process is the facility to add
mounting brackets or other features to a single multifunctional part thus creating
assemblies with lower part counts and lower assembly costs. Encapsulation grades of PA
66 have been firmly established as the workhorses for this purpose though PA 612 resins
may be a better choice to encapsulate sensors or integrated circuits.
Automotive sensors require the use of wire-friendly grades of PA 66 and PA 612 since
these are free of metal salts which could contribute to electrolytic corrosion of magnet
wire. The sensors use very fine wire (35 to 45 AWG American Wire Gauge) where
corrosion can quickly result in failure; wire-friendly resins contribute to greater reliability.
Atofina, formerly Elf Atochem, offers the R 45 HT grade of hydroxylated polybutadienes
under the Poly Bd trademark for encapsulation and casing applications. After reaction with
isocyanates it produce polyurethanes which are claimed to have excellent hydrolysis
resistance superior mechanical properties including low temperature flexibility, excellent
electrical insulation and excellent chemical resistance to mineral acids and bases. The
material is recommended for the encapsulation of fragile electrical components in a
relatively stress-free environment even at low temperatures.
DuPonts Zenite 7130, an LCP reinforced by 30% glass fibre which features a heat
distortion temperature of 285 C and low creep at high temperatures, is used by Epcos,
formerly Siemens Matsushita Components, for coil bobbins in its range of transformers
chokes and other surface mount devices.
The components for surface mounting are first glued temporarily on to the printed circuit
board before being soldered permanently in place. The coil bobbins must withstand
soldering temperatures of up to 450 C and still remain sufficiently stiff and dimensionably
stable. Zenite has been found to satisfy the companys requirements in respect of the
provision of bobbins with thin-wall flanges which are immune to fracture or deformation in


Polymers for Electronic Components

the course of the winding process. In addition, the materials should contribute to the
achievement of a high productivity surface mount operation.
Phillips Petroleum is promoting Ryton PPS as a replacement for LCPs in the electronic
connector and socket market. Recent introductions include Ryton R-4-230NA, with low
gas generation, high flow and low flash, and Xtel PPS alloys using polymer end-group
control, filler coupling and post-polymerisation additives.
Long-term factors which will increase the electronic content of cars include the
development of hybrid vehicles where the petrol engine is used to generate electricity
using an alternator and the wheels are driven by electric motors, with power being stored
in an intermediate battery. Another version of the system enables the road wheels to be
powered either directly by the petrol engine or by using battery-powered electric motors to
boost its power, the engine performing a secondary role of charging the battery. The latter
design uses the petrol engine on its own in cruising condition, utilising battery assistance
at low engine speeds, when climbing hills for example, when the petrol engine is
incapable of delivering its full torque. Battery-powered assistance is also beneficial when
accelerating. The battery is recharged by regenerative braking thus improving the
vehicles energy efficiency and minimising brake pad wear. This energy efficiency is
underlined by claims that Hondas Insight hybrid is capable of eighty miles per gallon (34
The system can be further refined by splitting the petrol engines power output so that it is
divided between driving the road wheels and charging the battery. The version which
confines the road wheels to battery power is most energy efficient because the petrol
engine speed is relatively constant at the level at which it most efficiently charges the
motive power battery.
In 2000, Pioneer launched a car radio incorporating organic light-emitting displays on the
US market. Recently in Japan, Tohoku Pioneer, the Semiconductor Energy Laboratory
and Sharp announced their intention to establish a joint venture, to be called ELDis, to
work on active matrix organic electroluminescent displays (OLEDs) which have selfgenerated luminescence and high-resolution quality claimed to be on a par with traditional
cathode ray tubes. They have a rapid response for the display of moving images with low
power consumption at low voltages. Products using active matrix displays are expected to
be launched in August or September 2002.
ELDis is to manufacture and market OLED thin film transistor TFT substrates. Production
is planned to rise to 500,000 two-inch panels per month from an initial capital investment
of 35 billion (201.5 million).

5.5 IT
Other growth areas for electronic component usage include computers, including laptop
versions whose sales will increase as prices come down. GE Plastics made a study of
fifteen laptop models to identify their design features. GE found that the average wall
thickness had dropped from 2.0 mm to 1.5 mm. The results of the study showed a
measurable but moderate reduction in impact strength as a result of the reduction. The
decline in impact performance was less for unfilled PC/ABS than for glass-filled PC.
Manufacturers are continuously searching for ways to produce thinner, lighter and
cheaper laptops. Compaq prefers to use parts moulded from amorphous PC or PC/ABS
which do not normally need to be painted thus producing cost savings. Sometimes
processing problems necessitate painting for cosmetic reasons but Compaq has reached

Polymers for Electronic Components

the stage where only one or two major plastic parts from a total of fourteen to eighteen
need to be painted. Some of Compaqs competitors use PA mouldings which do need to
be painted and so are more expensive.
The staggering increase in internet usage will also necessitate increased investment in
telecommunications infrastructure which has also had to be expanded to meet the needs
of the mobile phones companies. The major computer manufacturers protect themselves
by confining themselves to a narrow range of components which are purchased on longterm contracts thereby eliminating price fluctuations.
Dell Computer is widely admired because it is able to build, customise and ship more than
80% of its orders within eight hours. With only seven days of inventory stock, representing
around half of the industry average, the company is in the enviable position of being paid
for its products before it builds them.
One of the features of the components sector which can distort demand is the tendency
for some companies to double order when demand exceeds supply and delivery times are
extended. Furthermore, forecasting is complicated by the fact that the order situation
varies from supplier to supplier and so growth forecasts will differ.

5.6 Fuel Cells

Further into the future are vehicles powered by solid polymer, also known as protonexchange membrane fuel cells, which convert the fuel directly into electricity with only
water vapour as an exhaust gas. The leading vehicle manufacturers are already testing
prototypes including the Necar from DaimlerChrysler, a model from Toyota and a fuelcelled Focus from Ford (which hopes to start producing fuel-celled powered cars as early
as 2004). Currently the price of a car-size fuel cell is around US$35,000 partly because
they are said to be hand built to spacecraft specifications. Mass production and further
design development are necessary before the cells can be sufficiently reduced in price to
be viable car power sources.
Ford is also promoting Think plastic-bodied electric cars built by its Norwegian Pivco
subsidiary purchased three years ago. These models are already on sale for US$15,000
(10,416) in Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands with planned launches over the
coming year in Italy, France and Switzerland though not in the UK. Other Ford ecological
initiatives include a Ford Ka running on ethanol and a Galaxy MPV people carrier which
can be powered by petrol or natural gas.
DaimlerChrysler has announced that approximately thirty Mercedes-Benz Citaro city
buses powered by fuel cells will be delivered to transportation companies in Europe and
Australia within the next three years. Trials with these buses will begin at the end of 2002
and continue into 2003 in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg,
Oporto, Reykjavik and Stuttgart. Trials are also taking place in Vancouver and in
California as well as in parts of South America. Citaro buses are expected to cost
approximately  PLOOLRQ DURXQG 786,000) each which is far more expensive than the
 RU VR FRVW RI D VWDQGDUG VLQJOH-decker urban bus. Since the refuelling of the
buses will be carried out by the bus company, the lack of any national hydrogen refuelling
infrastructure is not a problem. DaimlerChrysler goes on to say that it is the first
automotive manufacturer in the world with this technology and believes that its
development programme is around two to three years ahead of its closest rival.
The potential to reduce pollution is confirmed by the US Department of Energy which has
estimated that regulated air pollutants would be cut by a million tons annually, and carbon

Polymers for Electronic Components

dioxide by sixty million tons if ten per cent of cars in the USA were powered by fuel cells.
Industry experts forecast a potential fuel cell powered car market of at least one million
vehicles by 2010.
Companies involved in the development of fuel cell membranes and membrane cell
assemblies (MEA) include a collaboration between Celanese AG and Honda R&D Co.,
Ltd., of Japan. The power of the major car manufacturers is underlined by the fact that
60% of worldwide motor vehicle output was produced by five companies and the
remaining 40% by a further eleven companies. These companies wield considerable
purchasing power which is used to drive down the price of components resulting in major
mergers of component suppliers as each endeavours to secure the cost benefits of largescale production.
Other proton-exchange fuel cell membrane research is being carried out by DuPont,
which offers Nafion membrane material, conductive plates and gasketing. DuPont is
utilising its expertise in fluoropolymers, engineering polymers and coatings to establish
itself as the premier supplier of fuel cell materials and components.
Other types of fuel cell include alkaline, molten carbonate, phosphoric acid and solid
oxide. Each type, from the miniature power source of a pocket-sized electronic product to
the megawatt rated power source device driven by sewage works methane, has its own
specific operating criteria with working temperature being particularly important.
Consequently, the projected application will determine the choice of fuel cell type.
In the electronic components sector Motorola Energy Systems, which is expected to
launch its own range in two to four years time, has stated that fuel cells would be able to
power a laptop computer for twenty hours and a mobile phone for thirty days. These
would be direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) which are less efficient than proton-exchange
membrane (PEM) types, but which have the advantage that the anode catalyst draws the
hydrogen directly from methanol, thus eliminating the need for a reformer. Motorola is
reported to have said that the fuel reservoir of its methanol-powered fuel cells would be
around the size of a fountain pen ink cartridge and be able to supply power for up to ten
times as long as the rechargeable batteries currently being used.
DMFC fuel cells are also being developed by Energy Related Devices of Los Alamos,
which is a subsidiary of Manhattan Scientifics of New York (which also owns NovArs
based in Passau, Germany, and which is working on PEM types). The NovArs pilot
production line is scheduled to begin making fuel cells in 2002 with full-scale
commercialisation estimated to follow two or three years later.
The UK Innogy company is developing PEM systems, designated Regensys, to collect
cheap surplus energy at night and release it during the day. The demonstration plant at
Little Barford in Cambridgeshire, which is due to be completed in the second half of 2002,
is to cost 14 million and is rated to provide approximately 120 MWh of energy with a
power rating of up to 15 MW which will be linked into a nominal 33 kV distribution system.
DuPont is to supply over 16,000 m2 of Nafion membrane material. The fuel cell employs
two electrolytes, sodium bromide and sodium polysulfide, one on each side of the ion
exchange membrane.
Approximately six months later a second project, for the Tennessee Valley Authority in
Mississippi, USA, is due to be up and running. Innogy is preparing to offer prospective
shareholders a stake of up to 25% in the Regensys business, estimated to have a total
value of around 1 billion, before the end of 2001. Critics of the offer feel that the share


Polymers for Electronic Components

offer is premature prior to proof that the laboratory operation can upgraded to a
commercially viable system.
In the Regensys system, the electrolytes change state and are charged with chemical
potential energy when voltage is applied across the electrolytes. The electrolytes are
stored in tanks until the potential energy is needed when they flow back through the cell
and release their stored energy via a power converter system to the national grid. The
converter is needed because the fuel cell is a direct current device. Unlike batteries, which
each have their own electrolytes, all the modules of the fuel cell share the same source of
electrolyte. Furthermore, the same electrolytes remain in the plant throughout its lifetime
and there is no discharge into the local environment.
In contrast to battery practice, the electrodes do not suffer permanent damage in the
event of a full discharge or if overcharged. The pilot plant has been running for over four
years and engineers have forecast a service life of up to 4,000 cycles over fifteen or
twenty years.
The German energy and utilities group, RWE AG, is Germanys fifth largest company and
claims to be amongst the top three providers in each of its four business sectors:
electricity, gas, water and wastewater, and waste and recycling. RWE sees gas-powered
fuel cells as potential domestic power sources and hopes to be installing small power
plants in household cellars by the year 2010, at the latest. RWE estimates that in the long
term, defined as being by around 2015, some 10% of Germanys electricity power supply
will be generated by fuel cells. The best case scenario sees this development leading to a
reduction of up to 62 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually thus assisting
the country to meet its Kyoto climate change conference commitments. RWE has stated
that it is firmly backing the technology and is committed to taking an active role in forcing
market developments forward in close collaboration with manufacturing companies and
other partners.
One of the stumbling blocks to the greater use of electronic systems in cars, the 12 V
battery system which involves component ratings of 13.8 V, is being removed with the
planned move in around 2003 to a 42 V power system (36 V battery) which will reduce the
current consumption of a component to a third of its former value whilst maintaining the
power consumption at its former value. This means that in many instances thinner wires
than at present will be able to be used with resulting savings in costs, bulk and weight.
Manufacturers are already offering higher voltage components which may also give better
performance. The move will also accelerate the change from mechanical and hydraulic
power in vehicles to the greater use of electric motors and actuators with their
accompanying electronic control systems.

5.7 Contract Electronics Manufacturing

The market for electronic components in Europe has been dramatically transformed in
Europe by the growth in contract manufacturing whereby a growing number of electronic
equipment suppliers have opted to sub-contract their manufacturing operations to
specialist contractors. These fall into two distinct categories: the small specialist serving
niche markets with an annual turnover of around US$5 million and the major
multinationals which move their volume business round the world, largely favouring low
labour cost countries notably in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. Life can be
difficult for medium-sized contract electronics manufacturers.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Growth in the world contract manufacturing market is exemplified by the 67.5% rise from
18%, America for 31% and South East Asia for 28%.
The world market for contractors electronics manufacturing services (EMS) is estimated
to be worth US$100 billion per annum, a figure which could grow to US$200 billion, plus
or minus 10%, by 2003. The current growth rate is of the order of 21%.
Sub-contracting manufacturing operations further aids the cost reduction process by
removing the need for capital investment in the manufacturing process. The final decision
on component selection, which accounts for between 70% and 90% of an electronic card,
usually rests with the client but sub-contractors, which can have considerable purchasing
power due to the scale of their operations, may propose, subject to the approval of the
clients engineers, less expensive components which comply with the buyers
specifications. Extensive use is made of the internet and computer software to devise
cost-effective solutions for customers.
The decision to outsource is critical to a company since, having relinquished its
manufacturing expertise, a subsequent decision to move back into manufacturing will be
extremely expensive to carry out. In practice, specialist sub-contractors will buy clients
existing manufacturing facilities and take on its former employees. Occasionally
manufacturers seek to buck the trend as in the case of at least two companies in the UK.
Texcel Technology combines the role of contract manufacturer with the design,
manufacture and marketing of its own proprietary products. Texcel has annual sales of
5.7 million and justifies its policy with the assertion that the contract operation makes an
essential contribution to the companys manufacturing overheads.
Siemens, via its Siemens Manufacturing Services subsidiary, is going down the same
route. The company claims that despite being part of a global organisation, Siemens
Manufacturing Services retains a close working relationship with its OEM partners and is
able to add value in such areas as market forecasting time-to-market issues and supplier
management where it can provide purchasing power. Siemens customer service
managers are dedicated to certain accounts where they act as a direct interface between
Siemens Manufacturing Services and the OEM. Siemens goes on to maintain that
everyone is treated equitably with no conflict of priority between in-house work for
Siemens and OEM business.
Celestica, Canada, spends around $8 billion annually on components from suppliers.
However, on occasion, it has difficulty in sourcing its requirements especially if the
customer has made last minute design changes necessitating alternative components. At
the end of 2000, Celestica signed an electronic trading and sourcing agreement with
PartMiner which operates the Free Trade Zone (FTZ). This is an on-line marketplace
which assists buyers to find price and availability information on the internet from a wide
range of suppliers. Not only has Celestica signed up with PartMiner. but it has also taken
an equity stake in company which is reported to have over 140,000 users. PartMiner
recently launched the Excess Trade Zone (XTZ) to assist clients to secure better prices
for their excess component stocks.
PartMiner has also linked up with users of the Yahoo Electronics Marketplace to offer
them technical design content and market making services from its Free Trade Zone.
PartMiner has a database of more than twelve million components with information on
chips, passives, connectors and electromechanical devices from eight hundred


Polymers for Electronic Components

The widespread existence of component sourcing difficulties in 2000 was illustrated by the
decision of the European Power Supply Manufacturers Association to withhold its Vendor
of the Year award because of the poor performance of component suppliers. The
Associations chairman recently stated that semiconductor and component industries have
offered very indifferent service to the power supply industry. He went on to say that in
some cases their performance had been appalling and yet many have been endeavouring
to renegotiate price increases to exploit product shortages. The situation has been
reversed in 2001 due to a slowdown in mobile phone handset and personal computer
production. The results have been lower prices and better deliveries.
The component supply problems did extend into the first quarter of 2001 with contract
manufacturers being pressed to deliver products within six weeks, for example, when
some of their constituent components are on thirty weeks delivery. Component supply
problems have affected the cash flow and profitability of UK contract manufacturing, a
highly competitive market with low profit margins of one or two percent. The cost of the
materials used accounts for around 70% of sales revenue and is not a source of profit,
which has to be generated from the remaining 30%. However, OEMs in the UK continue
to outsource their manufacturing operations, the latest being Tandberg Television of
Hedge End, Hampshire, which is to outsource production to ACW Technology. Asian
CEMs, including Malaysia-based TruTech Electronics and Pioneer Technology from
Japan, are coming to the UK to set up European operations.
With the sale of most of its communication equipment production facilities to the Floridabased Jabil Circuit company for US$390 million (262 million), Marconi, the
telecommunications company, is one of the latest converts to outsourcing. The three year
agreement between Jabil and Marconi, estimated to be worth US$4 billion, involves the
transfer of up to 2,900 employees at five factories in the UK (Coventry and Liverpool), the
USA, Italy and Germany to Jabil which will manufacture a full range of
telecommunications products for Marconi. However, Marconi will retain some higher end
manufacturing operations, optical switching for example.
Jabil is also strongly established in Mexico where it has a 37,000 m2 production facility
which employs four thousand people building sub-assemblies and complete products for
Cisco, Dell and Hewlett Packard. Other contract manufacturers with production facilities in
Mexico include Flextronics which has a 75-acre site outside Guadalajara.
However, the trend to outsourcing could be affected by future European Union legislation
following the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights at the Nice summit in
December 2000. The charter strengthens the rights of company employees and their
representatives who will have to be consulted about major business changes which
include the transfer of workers and assets to a new organisation, a routine consequence
of outsourcing.
Solectron, Scotlands largest electronics manufacturing services company with over 1800
employees, illustrates the trend. At Dunfermline, Solectron offers a complete
manufacturing service from initial design, prototyping, assembly and testing to end
product servicing and support and so can be seen as a prime customer for components.
Elsewhere in Scotland, Solectron has a printed circuit design centre at Ayr, a SMART
(Surface Mount And Related Technologies) Modular Technologies centre at East Kilbride
and a new product introduction centre at Inverclyde. Recent Solectron sales successes
include the establishment of a four-year US$10 billion partnership with Nortel.
Recent moves by Silicon Valley-based Solectron include the planned acquisition of two
Sony manufacturing plants in Asia. The Miyagi plant in central Japan employs 1,300

Polymers for Electronic Components

people and manufactures car stereo and navigation equipment whilst the second plant at
Kaohsiungin Taiwan employs 750 people and makes lithium-ion batteries for mobile
phones and computers. The employees at both plants will be offered jobs at the same
salaries by the new owners. Earlier, in October 2000, Solectron bought its Singaporebased rival, Nat-Steel Electronics for US$2.4 billion.
Solectron is being affected by the business downturn in America and in March 2001
announced the loss of 8,200 jobs which represents 10% of its workforce. However, the
company simultaneously announced that it did not expect its sites in Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland to be affected.
Sony is already outsourcing much of its manufacturing requirement, especially to
companies in mainland China where between 60% and 70% of Sony radios are built
together with most of the companys speakers and headphones and 50% of the groups
stereo units sold worldwide.
Component manufacturers are also moving more of their manufacturing operations to
mainland China and other Asian locations. These include the US-owned multinational
connector manufacturer, Molex, which is in the unusual position of generating more of its
sales and profits outside the USA than within its domestic market. Its Shanghai operation
is qualified to ISO 9002 standards and the motor industrys QS 9000 certification
standards. Molex Shanghai Limited was founded in October, 1995 and is a recognised
supplier to an impressive list of OEMs including Compaq, Intel, Mitsubishi, Motorola and
Sharp. Around 60% of the companys products are shipped back to the USA and to the
companys South Asia headquarters in Singapore. The remainder is consumed locally in
Business for Molex in China has been growing at the rate of 30% per annum with this
figure set to rise to 50% as the company expands into the automotive sector. The
company has moved to larger premises in China with double the number of injection
moulding machines in order to satisfy the growing demand for its products.
In March 2000, Flextronics acquired Boschs GSM mobile phone manufacturing activities
at Pandrup in Denmark. Other recent deals include a five-year US$30 billion supply
agreement between Singapore-based Flextronics and Motorola which is reported to
represent only 15% of Motorolas electronic manufacturing requirements over the period.
Motorola has gone on to sign a three-year deal with Canada-based Celestica worth
around US$1 billion. The products to be built include cellular phones, messaging devices,
two-way radios and accessories. The deal involves Celesticas purchase of Motorolas
Dublin and Mount Pleasant, Iowa manufacturing facilities for approximately US$70 million.
Celestica has undertaken to continue manufacturing at these sites for at least two years.
The change will reduce Motorolas workforce by around 2,870 people. At the end of 2000,
Celestica acquired the Telford, UK-based mobile phone manufacturing activities of NEC
together with approximately 450 NEC employees.
Subsequently, in March 2001, Motorola announced 7,000 job losses from its mobile
handset manufacturing operations but declined to state which of its seven handset
manufacturing plants would be affected. In another announcement made at the same
time, Motorola stated that it was considering up to 700 job losses at its UK Swindon plant
where mobile phone base stations are produced.
The Swedish Ericsson company, which had been losing market share to Motorola and
Nokia, has decided to halt low-cost consumer handset production, which will result in the
loss of 11,000 jobs. The work will be outsourced to Singapore-based Flextronics, which


Polymers for Electronic Components

will take on some Ericsson manufacturing plants and 4,200 former Ericsson employees,
and other beneficiaries of the outsourcing include the Taiwanese Arima and GVC
companies. The consequence of the outsourcing decision is the termination of handset
production at Ericssons UK Carlton (Nottinghamshire) factory with the loss of 1,000 jobs
with 500 further potential job losses at the companys Scunthorpe plant.
Whilst Flextronics will initially take over Ericssons manufacturing operations in Sweden,
Mr Michael Marks, Chairman and Chief Executive of Flextronics, indicated that
manufacturing will eventually take place primarily, but not exclusively, in low-cost
locations. These include Puebla, Mexico, and a new industrial park in Poland.
Ericsson will retain staff in the areas of research and development, design, sales and
marketing and is also reported to be retaining the right to manufacture GPRS (General
Packet Radio Service) 3G handsets and other high technology products. Recent
acquisitions by Flextronics include two optical equipment manufacturers in the USA, Wave
Optics and Faco Fiber Optics. The latter company is also a manufacturer of passive
optical components.
Even Nokia, the market leader, is moving some of its manufacturing operations, currently
being undertaken outside the USA, to facilities in Korea and Mexico. The situation in
March 2001 was that Nokia was outsourcing approximately 60% of its networks
infrastructure business but only 10% of its handset production. However, it then made a
decision to outsource even more of its networks infrastructure business to the Alabama,
USA company, SCI Systems which is already working for Nokia.
The collaboration between Nokia and SCI began in 1998 when SCI acquired Nokias
facilities at Oulu in Finland and Motala in Sweden. SCI employs over 37,000 people in 51
factories in nineteen countries and will increase its labour force by 1,250 with the
acquisition of Nokias Finnish plant at Haukipudas and its Camberley plant in the UK. The
downturn in the US economy is beginning to affect SCI which recently announced a 10%
cut in its workforce because of a downturn in the personal computer sector.
Some leading contract manufacturers are listed in Table 5.4.
Table 5.4 Leading European contract manufacturers
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

Flextronics, SCI
APW, Flextronics
Elcoteq, Flextronics, SANM, SCI
APW, ACT, C-MAC, Flextronics, Sanmina, SCI, Solectron
APW, C-MAC, Elcoteq, Flextronics, Solectron
Benchmark, Flextronics, Jabil, JIT, Natsteel, SCI
ACT, APW, Benchmark, Celestica, C-MAC, Flextronics, IBC, MSL,
Sanmina, SCI, Solectron, SMTC
APW, Flextronics, Jabil
Benchmark, Flextronics, SANM, SCI, Solectron
APW, Benchmark, Celestica, C-MAC, EMS, Flextronics Jabil, Mion,
Plexus, Remploy, Sanmina, SCI, Solectron


Polymers for Electronic Components

Domestic contract electronics manufacturers are struggling to survive in market where the
major multinationals can shift production to those areas where labour costs are lowest.
This trend was illustrated by the demise of Quantum Electronics based in South Wales
which was employing approximately 180 people up to the end of 2000. In national market
terms, UK producers find it difficult to compete in Europe due to the strength of sterling
against the Euro.

5.8 Component Distribution

Only the largest users buy components directly from component manufacturers. The
normal supply route is via stockholding distributors who can invariably offer shorter
delivery times often overnight. The best known distributors offer a broad range of products
and aim to be a one-stop shop for their customers. Others concentrate on specialist
market sectors, as in the case of TTI whose activities are confined to passive components
and connectors.
The Dallas, Texas-based privately owned TTI company claims to be the worlds largest
specialist distributor of connectors and other passive components with annual sales of
around US$1 billion. In Europe, TTI now has a centralised warehouse in Munich and nine
sales offices in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK, with four further office
openings planned in 2001. The first new offices will be opened to serve the Scandinavian
market. TTI sales in Europe have grown from US$12 million two years ago to a forecast
US$80 million this year. TTI aims to be the leading European distributor for each of the
manufacturers whose products it distributes. It is already Vishays top distributor in the UK
and number 2 distributor in Germany. It is also Kemets number two distributor in
Germany and the UK. TTIs European operation currently serves more than 3,500
customers in 6 countries from a range of over 200,000 different passive components and
Other distributors operate on a national basis. The UK Association of Franchised
Distributors of Components (AFDEC) reported that the UK distributors share of
components market is around 20%. UK sales grew by 30% in 2000 whereas the total
available component market grew by 27% to reach 10 billion. This conveys the
erroneous impression that distributors are taking a higher share of the available business.
In actual fact major growth is occurring in sectors to which AFDEC distributors have
limited access including automotive components, communications products and smart
Whilst distributors have traditionally sold from catalogues, e-commerce is growing
significantly. Competition between distributors is fierce and Premier Farnell, for example,
keeps a close watch on its customers requirements in order to offer a service more
closely matched to their needs. For example, potential customers visiting the companys
website five times to seek information on the same part will receive a phone call, e-mail or
mail regarding the part in question on the front cover. The company supports its
operations with two databases, one relating products and the other relating to customers.


Polymers for Electronic Components

6 Key Trends and Developments

6.1 Moulding, Machining and Fabrication
Arguably the most important customer for the polymer producer is the injection moulder.
Superficially his most important role is to produce mouldings at the lowest price but,
although price is a prime consideration, other factors come into play. These include
location and proximity to assembly plants. Injection moulding involves high tooling costs
dependent on the complexity of the part being produced with many parts acknowledged to
be unsuitable for injection moulding.
One way to reduce the cost of polyurethane moulding is to adopt the technique of reaction
injection mouldings (RIM) which uses patterns to produce hard wearing epoxy resin mould
tools which are claimed to deliver a mould life of 1,000 to 2,500 and above shots per
annum. The technique is claimed to bridge the gap between high-cost/low-volume
prototyping and traditional high-cost/high-volume injection moulding. The technique allows
for design changes to be made at any stage, both quickly and cost effectively.
Subsequent machining can be carried out.
In some cases it may be less expensive to adopt a 100% machining solution to
manufacture components using acetal, PA 66 or other polymer which is readily
machineable. Part design and anticipated batch quantities are key factors in making
decisions regarding the production methods to be employed and the materials to be used.
Advocates of fabrication techniques maintain that they are cost effective for small batch
production, offer short lead times, more readily permit part design modifications, enable
tighter tolerances to be secured and eliminate the need for parts to have a draft angle.
Surveys of buyers have shown that the ability to change product design very quickly and
the ability to be a full partner in bringing new products rapidly to market are also of major
importance. The most successful moulders have been shown to be those who collaborate
closely with mould makers and machinery manufacturers.
Flexibility is essential to keep pace with the current climate of ever-shortening product life
cycles. For example, according to component buyers, the typical lifecycle of a personal or
notebook computer in the years from 1995 to 1998 was around fourteen months. This
shrunk to less than eight months in 1999, a figure set to fall to less than six months in the
medium-term future up to 2003.
As the experience of contract manufacturers shows, the most successful companies are
those with the most up-to-date machinery. Companies in Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand have scored highly in this respect. The major American
injection moulding companies have exported their manufacturing expertise to Asia, often
owning or investing in the beneficiaries of their expertise. Success or failure may depend
on the age of a companys installed machines and its management skills.

6.2 Polymer Developments

The search for greater operating efficiency may involve working at higher temperatures
thus putting the pressure on polymer suppliers to deliver products with superior
performance. DuPont offers high-temperature PA grades with a melting point of around
300 C, rather than PA 66 which melts at 275 C. These high-temperature grades are
claimed to offer better dimensional stability and greater thermal resistance than PA 66.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The arrival of electrically conductive polymers in the late 1970s and now thermally
conductive polymers, both of which derive these properties from additives, has opened up
new application opportunities especially where heat dispersion from an electronic
component is a significant design factor. Four new grades of Ticonas Fortron PPS have
been launched which have up to ten times the thermal conductivity of standard grades.
These are used in applications where heat dissipation and other thermal management
issues are important. The thermal conductivity of these electrically insulating grades
varies from 1.1 to 3.0 W/mK. Potential applications of thermally conductive compounds
include heat exchangers and coolers, heat sinks, heat pipes, housings, electronic
interfaces, power supplies and transformers.
The US RTP Company, which has European manufacturing facilities at Beaune in France,
claims leadership of the speciality compounding sector with thermally conductive
compounds of all the major thermoplastics. RTP also offers electrically conductive grades.
It also claims that its thermally conductive compounds (TCCs) are light in weight and
economical to process either by injection moulding or by extrusion into sheet or tape. The
service RTP offers to its customers is modification of over sixty engineering
thermoplastics and thus provides them with a customised product offering the perfect
combination of price and performance with five to ten day lead times for standard
TCCs are also said to have good chemical resistance and provide an excellent alternative
to metal heat exchangers which may have failed due to corrosion. The compounds
incorporate fillers which reduce the incidence of hot spots by absorbing and distributing
heat more evenly than unfilled resins.
Other manufacturers of TCC plastics include the US company, LNP Engineering Plastics
Inc., whose Konduit compounds are tailored to specific applications; the lower cost types
typically comprise 70% ceramic and 30% resin, by weight. High-performance compounds
use a carbon fibre filler to achieve a thermal conductivity of 10 W/m K. Resins used
include PA 6, PP and PPS.
In the most recent development of conducting polymers a way has been found to
manufacture semiconducting polymers and, therefore, plastic microchips.
Electrically conducting additives used in conducting polymers include multiwalled
nanotubes, with a graphite microstructure and high aspect ratio, which are used in
automotive and electronics applications. The US Cambridge Massachusetts-based
manufacturer, Hyperion Catalysis International, is developing applications in the fields of
supercapacitors, batteries and fuel cells catalyst and catalyst support, filters and
conductive inks.
Conducting polymers are used in the Neocapacitor which has been developed by the
Energy Devices Division of the NEC Corporation. The construction of this capacitor
involves the use of a sintered tantalum slug as anode and polypyrrole (PPy) as solid
electrolyte. The use of a tantalum anode enables the new design to maintain the small
size of a conventional tantalum chip capacitor. However, the highly conductive PPy
delivers a much lower ESR and higher permissible ripple current than that of a
conventional tantalum capacitor. Furthermore, the new design possesses a superior selfhealing capability than that of a conventional tantalum capacitor. This capability is a
consequence of the two-step decomposition of doped PPy whereby the doped anion,
initially, and then the polymer backbone are decomposed.


Polymers for Electronic Components

6.3 Supercapacitors
Research is proceeding into the use of conducting polymers in ultracapacitor, also known
as supercapacitor, applications. The capacitors will act like batteries to deliver high pulses
of power and store energy. Typical cell capacitance values are 2,700, 100 and 8 farads at
a cell voltage of 2.3 volts with modules rated at 100 farads, 56 volts. The claimed
advantages for the use of intrinsically conducting polymers in electrochemical capacitors
rather than carbon-based or mixed metal oxide electrodes may be summarised as follows.
They have extremely long operating lives of at least ten years, comprising at least
500,000 charge/discharge cycles and energy densities several orders of magnitude higher
than conventional electronic capacitors. They also have power densities significantly
higher than those of batteries.
Epcos claimed in its 2000 Annual Report that currently it was the only manufacturer
making double-layer ultracapacitors in volume.
Supercapacitors have minimal contact resistance because the conducting polymers can
be synthesised directly on to the current collector. The electrode material can be formed
as thick films, powders or sub-micron coatings, the last of which offer the possibility of
diffusion times of the order of microseconds.
Electrochemical capacitors operate on the basis of the known concept of doping and
undoping of polymer electrodes. This concept is used to promote the fast and efficient
shuttling of the ions between the polymer and the double layer created at the
electrode/electrolyte interface. The anions and cations involved in these double-layered
electrochemical types are contained within the electrolyte. Conducting polymers are
invariably used in the case of solid electrolytes. Some designs utilise liquid electrolytes
which are usually in aqueous or organic solution. The difference between electrochemical
and conventional electronic capacitors is that ions perform the charge transfer in the
former type and electrons in the latter type.
The employment of large surface areas, which can be increased by adopting multilayer
designs, and the high intrinsic conductivity of the material confer both high power and high
energy density. A further benefit is the ability to produce conducting polymers on a large
scale at relatively low cost.
Drawbacks experienced with the current generation of electrochemical capacitors, when
compared with conventional electronic capacitors, are their relatively high ESR and their
loss of capacitance when called upon to supply very short duration bursts of high current.
Ions move relatively slowly from anode to cathode and so a finite time is required for the
nominal device capacitance to be established; this is measured after a delay of one
second. On the other hand, electrons are relatively fast moving and so the charge transfer
is considered to be instantaneous.
BestCap totally solid, high conductivity, proton polymer electrolyte electrochemical
designs from AVX Ltd., have addressed these drawbacks and allow high current, short
duration pulses to be delivered with a minimal voltage drop. These non polar types are
available in very thin formats, down to less than 0.7 mm, and have low leakage currents
less than 0.05 A/mF. The capacitance range extends from 40 mF to 500 mF.
Other new polymers which have been developed during the last decade include Topas,
the cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) from Ticona. The polymers properties include rigidity,
very high moisture barrier effect, good stability to hydrolysis, excellent chemical resistance


Polymers for Electronic Components

to polar media, high transparency and low density. Typical electronic applications include
metallised film use in capacitors and, with glass fibre reinforcement, in injection moulding
material for components. Topas is considered by its manufacturer, Ticona, to be superior
to PP and PVC for these applications. Topas is produced at a 30 kt per annum capacity
plant at Oberhausen in Germany.
The ongoing miniaturisation of electronic components is crucially dependent on the ability
of machinery manufacturers to supply products and processes capable of meeting their
customers needs. This limitation is illustrated by a recent announcement from Samsung
Electronics and the Shipley Corporation stating that they have developed a mass
production technique for a photoresist polymer for argon fluoride (ArF) lithography. The
technique is needed to print circuitry on semiconductors, with a capacity of one gigabit or
higher, with a design rule no greater than 0.09 m; the previous circuit linewidth of 0.10
m was thought to be the lowest figure technologically possible.
Samsung plans to use the new technology to bring gigabit microprocessor chips to market
launch in 2002.

6.4 Lithium Polymer Systems

The strength of the mobile phone and portable computer markets has stimulated the
search for ever more efficient battery power systems. The latest technologies include
rechargeable PolyStor lithium polymer systems now available in both flat and curved
versions. The cathodes are basically lithium nickel cobalt oxide (LiNiCoO2); the polymer
construction technology is licensed from Motorola Energy Systems. Motorola Energy
Systems has also announced a co-operation agreement with National Semiconductor to
design and develop new methods of protecting and energy-managing lithium-ion and
lithium-ion polymer batteries with the declared objective of significantly reducing the parts
count and size of lithium energy systems. The agreement adds National Semiconductors
expertise in the field of low-voltage power management chips to Motorolas safety
experience and knowledge of lithium-ion and lithium-ion polymer technologies. The two
companies have, between them, at least fifteen patents relating to the subjects covered by
their agreement.
Other companies with an interest in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries include TotalFinaElf
whose Kynar PVDF is said to be used to bind the mineral powders of the electrodes in
over 80% of these products. PVDF is used because of its electrical performance and its
resistance to chemicals.
PolyStors Prismatic cell range extends to 360 Wh/l and 130 Wh/kg at a rating of 1350 mA
h. PolyStor is working on a range of curved cells with capacities extending from 160 to
1200 mA h. Custom designs can also be supplied. Varta is also working on lithium-ion
polymer battery technology and plans to launch its range of lithium ion polymer batteries
in 2001. Other work in this field is being carried out by DuPont which has established a
pilot line at Towanda, Pennslvania in order to validate the technology and manufacturing
processes relating to the production of lithium, polymer-based, rechargeable batteries.
The pace of change in lithium battery design, according to one manufacturer Moli Energy,
is so rapid that their chemical composition is said to change every six months. The net
result is that performance testing is unpredictable. Furthermore, an instrument to test
lithium-ion batteries will not provide reliable readings when tested with lithium-ion polymer


Polymers for Electronic Components

Lithium-ion polymer batteries are also seen as a potential power source for electric cars.
DaimlerChrysler is developing the Electric Powered Interurban Commuter (EPIC), which is
based on the Chrysler Voyager internal combustion-engined vehicle. Earlier experimental
versions of the vehicle were fitted with nickel metal hydride batteries. However, it has now
been found that, by moving to lithium-ion polymer technology, power and energy density
can be significantly improved thereby enabling the vehicles range to be increased with
the added benefit of cost reduction. This project is one of the first to combine expertise
from the former Chrysler facilities at Auburn Hills, Michigan, and those of Daimler in
Germany at Stuttgart.
Not only are polymers being used for power storage but they are also being used for
memory storage. Sony has introduced a Memory Stick which is the size of a stick of
chewing gum. Memory Sticks can save photographs, data, music and other digitised
information and have already been targeted at digital cameras. Other applications include
electronic books, telephones, televisions and Walkmans. Data storage capabilities range
from 4 MB to 64 MB, the equivalent of forty floppy disks, with the planned introduction of a
256 MB device this year. The technology has also been adopted by Aiwa, Casio, Fujitsu,
Sanyo and Sharp who will incorporate Memory Stick bays into their products.

6.5 Flat Panel Displays

In this information age, flat panel displays are increasingly being employed as the medium
to convey information to the user. The equipment manufacturer has a wide choice of
options available with downward pressure on prices as sales volumes increase and
manufacturing improvements are implemented.
LCDs have traditionally dominated the flat panel display market along with AMLCDs,
which were originally designed for the personal computer market.
European companies are continuing to turn to Asia to source components. Densitron
Technologies, for example, is establishing an alliance, DV3, with a local LCD
manufacturer in Dong Guan, China to manufacture standard and custom LCD panels and
modules which will sell at less than 1 each.
The polymer dispersed liquid crystal display technology from Philips is claimed to be a
reflective, high-contrast, low-power display, permitting the manufacture of flexible
displays. The advantages of this polymer-based active matrix include lower production
costs because fewer production steps are involved and the clean room conditions are not
as demanding as the more usual production process involving amorphous silicon-based
TFTs which account for the major cost component of the complete display
Another of the technologies employed involves the use LEDs where the conventional
manufacturing technique is to use an epoxy-dip process which takes between 4 and 12
hours. Global Light Industries in Germany has developed an injection moulding process,
with cycle times of between 1 and 2 seconds, using thermoplastic polymers. The new
process offers the benefits of speed, accuracy and flexibility.
Global Light Industries claims to be the only company in the world using the process,
which involves the accurate positioning of the diode lead frame in a mould which is then
closed and the molten plastic then injected. The resulting tolerances are claimed to be
around 150 m rather than the 250 m attainable with current techniques. Global also
claims that the thermoplastic can withstand conventional soldering processes. It is also
said that the injection moulded LEDs have flat bases and better weathering characteristics
than epoxy-based devices.

Polymers for Electronic Components

Light emitting polymers (LEPs) are another new technology destined to revolutionise the
displays sector. Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) has spent five years developing
the technology and is now investing US$25 million in a new plant at Godmanchester, UK,
fifteen miles from the companys Cambridge headquarters. The new plant is due for
completion by the first quarter of 2002 with production scheduled to start approximately
two months later. Initial ink-jet technologies are forecast to evolve into roll-to-roll flexible
substrate manufacturing processes. Currently CDT is able to demonstrate a two-inch
square glass colour screen which has 270,000 dots of colour. The next stage of the
development is to print on a thin plastic sheet rather than glass.
The original ink-jet idea is said to have come from Seiko Epson in 1998 and enables dots
of LEP to be printed at a rate of twelve metres of screen per minute, far faster by a
claimed order of ten, than printing on glass. The refresh rate of earlier technologies was
slow to the extent that it was almost possible to detect individual frames. With LEDs the
refresh rate is fast enough to provide a flicker free image. Furthermore, the 170 degree
angle of view is far wider than some competing technologies.
Potential initial markets for the new products include camcorders, digital cameras and
mobile phones. The new facility will be used to test and demonstrate the technology and
to carry out limited production runs. CDT has licensed the technology to third parties
including DuPont, which purchased former licensee Uniax. Several licensees will launch
commercial products this year.
Other future developments of CDTs LEP technology include electric lamps, which would
consume much less power than fluorescent lamps. These could appear around the year
2005. The company also offers the possibility of reversing the action to derive electricity
from a light source shining on to the LEDs and a sister company has been set up to
develop this type of solar cell technology.
DuPont is developing polymeric LEDs which are multicoloured viewing screens on plastic
substrates. These are more flexible, lightweight and durable than glass and can be either
curved or flat. Applications include cell phones, mall computers, laptops and hand-held
computers. Dow is also working in the field of polymeric LEDs for electronic devices and
laptop computers.
Research carried out by the University of Utah has revealed that LEDs made from
electrically conducting polymers and oligomers under the influence of microwaves are
superior to conventional designs. Formerly it was believed that no more than 25% of the
energy consumed by an LED could be emitted as light with the balance being generated
as heat. The new materials enable between 41% and 63% of the supplied energy to be
emitted as light; this represents a considerable improvement. The materials were tested in
super-cold temperatures in magnetic fields in the USA and in India, and research is
continuing into ways of doping the polymers to eliminate the need for microwaves. The
university physics team chairman, Valy Vardeny, is reported to have said that the team
has not broken any laws of physics, merely fooled them.
CDTs Covion Organic Semiconductor licensee in Germany has recently completed a
US$5 million extension to its polymer production facility and is now able to manufacture
more than 40,000 litres of conjugated polymer annually. Its customers include Philips
whose Dutch Heerlen plant uses LEPs in its PolyLED mobile-phone displays. The
organic-LED display market, which also includes personal digital assistants, digital
cameras and camcorders, is reported to have doubled in 2000 to US$24 million with
further growth to US$3.3 billion by 2005.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Philips produced the first display where each pixel was driven by a polymer transistor and
continues to work on polymeric LEDs where the polymer layer is a semiconducting soluble
derivative of polyphenylene vinylene sandwiched between two electrodes. The lower
electrode is the anode which is formed by depositing a thin ITO layer on to a glass
substrate. The upper electrode, the cathode, is a vacuum-deposited metal electrode. The
colour of the light output may be changed by modifying the polymers chemical structure.
The long-term aim is said to be to use flexible substrates rather than glass as at present.
Efficiency gains secured over the past ten years have involved improvements in the
stability of various plastics by the use of better sealing techniques to exclude air and
moisture more efficiently. Tests have shown that some polymer LEDs have continuous
working lives in excess of 50,000 hours.
Philips is reported to have developed a 64x64 active matrix display in which each pixel is
driven by a TFT based on a polymer semiconductor. The display operates at switching
frequencies of up to 100 Hz with each of the 4096 pixels driven by its own TFT.
Transistors are formed on a solid substrate though the polymeric content is confined to
the semiconductor part of the transistors. The same team of researchers at Philips have
previously demonstrated all-polymer transistors built on flexible substrates.
Other companies in this field include the American E Ink Corporation which, in
collaboration with the Canadian Lucent Technologies Inc., claimed to have developed the
worlds first flexible electronic display using Lucents flexible plastic transistors to produce
so-called electronic ink. The claimed advantages of this technology include flexibility,
readability, low power consumption and low manufacturing cost. The end product is
claimed to have a similar appearance to ink on paper with good reflectivity and contrast. It
is said to be a comfortable medium for people to read and handle, even in bright light and
sunlight where the use of other electronic technologies may pose problems.
E Inks electronic ink is so constructed that the image it displays changes when it is
exposed to an electric field. It comprises thousands of so-called microcapsules, each of
which is a tiny 100 m diameter sphere which is filled with two types of electrically
charged pigment; the white pigment carries a positive charge and the blue pigment a
negative charge. The pigments can be manipulated as soon as the spheres are subjected
to an electric field between the electrodes of the device. Consequently, charging the upper
electrode or viewing side of the device positively would result in that side turning blue
whereas a negative charge on the upper electrode would colour it white. By this means it
is possible to produce letters and words bearing in mind that one square inch of surface
area comprises approximately 100,000 microcapsules. Unlike competing technologies,
electronic ink will retain images for weeks at a time without the application of power.
The beauty of the electronic ink process is that the ink may be printed using existing
screen printing processes thereby keeping costs under control and far below those of
other flat panel display processes. The first E Ink Immedia display was put on display at a
US J.C. Penney department store in 1999 and other users include Safeway in the States.
These displays are ideal for easily changed point of sale messages and are widely
available but only in white lettering on blue background versions. Each Immedia display
has a power consumption of approximately 0.1 W.
The state of the development of the E Ink technology, as at March 2001, is that the
system allows a change of colour up to ten times per second thus enabling animation
exercises to be carried out. Other competitors in this sector include the Irish NanoChrome
subsidiary of Nanomat Ltd., which claims that its technology is superior to that of E Ink.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Looking to the future, the Vice-President of Display Operations at the Santa Barbara,
USA-based Uniax Corporation was reported in 2000 to have stated that the arrival of full
colour, low power, all plastic displays would be of interest to manufacturers of wireless
internet handsets where designers have sought viable alternatives to current designs,
especially in view of the predicted future dramatic expansion of demand in the sector.
Other systems include microdisplays where the maximum diagonal distance across the
display is 25 mm. These high-definition displays, which are viewed indirectly, can be
made inexpensively by semiconductor manufacturers and are incorporated in personal
viewers for camera viewfinders, games, headsets, mobile communications and mobile
computers. They are also ideal for incorporation in head-mounted or near-eye displays.
The net result of these developments, especially with the prospect of technological
progress and falling prices, is that displays are now an integral part of products rather than
an add-on feature. Customer choice will flow from the wide range of major display
manufacturers, niche players and business start-up companies that are taking a serious
interest in these new technologies.

6.6 Other New Technologies

The recently reported ability of electronic engineers at the University of Surrey to develop
light emitting silicon, at room temperature, by bombarding it with boron atoms could affect
the future prospects of polymer devices. The new LED is reported to be entirely
compatible with conventional semiconductor manufacturing processes but emission levels
are low.
The component sector will benefit from new technologies which are being developed.
These include the use of high-power diode lasers to weld thermoplastics to each other or
to such metals as aluminium and steel, using an interlayer material called LaserBond.
Rapid prototyping, a growing products and services market worth around US$500 million
worldwide, involves the computer generation of solid components using the technology of
stereolithography which is capable of an accuracy of plus or minus 0.1 mm. The Somos
9120 grade is a new addition to the DSM Somos family of stereolithographic resins. It is
designed to be used in laser stereolithography rapid prototyping machines. DSMs Somos
91 resins have been designed to mimic the properties of PP. They are sufficiently durable
for functional prototyping and parts made from the Somos 9100 Series can be substituted
for injection-moulded parts in short production runs. Colouring is carried out by applying
aniline dyes to the set resin.
Electro Optical Systems GmbH of Munich, which has associate companies in France and
Italy, claims to be Europes leading manufacturer of rapid prototyping systems. The
companys laser sintering process builds up solid components from 3D CAD data on a
layer basis. The EOSINT P system uses Duraform and other PA, including glass-filled
versions, to make mechanically resilient prototypes economically within hours. Duraform
has around 80% of the strength of injection-moulded parts which, though slightly porous,
can be filled with a variety of additives to meet the desired specification. Component
accuracy is plus or minus 0.15 mm. PS is used as a medium in EOSINT P system when
the objective is to make moulds for the production of investment castings.
The technique uses a master model as a pattern for silicone rubber tooling which is
normally able to produce between twenty and twenty-five PU copies of the original part.
These copies may be used to mimic a wide range of materials, including ABS, glass-filled
PA and rubber, with an accuracy within 0.075 mm of the master pattern.

Polymers for Electronic Components

Other exponents of rapid prototyping technology include Vantico, the former Performance
Polymers division of Ciba, which acquired its new status in June 2000 following a buy-out
by Morgan Grenfell Private Equity. Vantico comprises three divisions: polymer specialities
and electronic polymers based in Basle, Switzerland, and the adhesives and tooling
division based in the UK at Duxford near Cambridge. The products of this division include
the well-known Araldite adhesive as well as Vanticos Parts in Minutes (PIM) process,
which produces PU prototypes which simulate both the appearance and characteristics of
moulded thermoplastics.
The PIM process employs a polymer and a hardener. The two materials are dispensed
together into a silicone mould where the mixture sets within one or two minutes. Additives
may be used to prolong the fluid stage. This technique is used to produce a weekly output
of hundreds of production parts. For the quantities involved, this process is preferred to
injection moulding which would be a more cumbersome process. Vantico offers a range of
around sixteen materials from rubbers and HDPE to PP and ABS.
Vanticos rapid prototyping polyurethanes, under the Ureol brand, can be cast into
silicone, polyurethane or epoxy moulds with a yield of up to forty parts per mould per day.
It is thus possible to produce quality prototypes and parts which simulate the appearance
and replicate performance properties of injection-moulded thermoplastics. These are
available for testing in as little as fifteen minutes.
A further option from the French Axson company is an extrudable epoxy paste which is
applied as a 1:1 mixture with a hardener and sets within 24 hours with minimum
shrinkage. The compound can subsequently be milled to the required shape.
One such material is Cast-IT 2000 Epoxy which has been used to build 20,000 injection
moulds in Japan. This two-component package contains a pre-blended high ratio of
aluminium thus eliminating the need to add additional dry metallic fillers and so ensuring
full dispersion of the aluminium. The mixed epoxy offers good fluidity and is easy to pour
over the master model. After curing, the dimensionally stable moulds offer an ideal
combination of high strength, high glass transition temperature with good thermal
characteristics capable of withstanding exposure to typical injection moulding pressures
and temperatures. The epoxy exhibits good chemical resistance and a good surface
finish. The process is typically used to make prototypes or short production runs of
injection-moulded ABS, PC and PP parts.
Another approach to the rapid production of relatively small quantities of moulded parts is
by the use of Swift Technologies Swiftool material which is described as a Smart
Polymeric Composite (SPC). SPC is a fibre-reinforced polymer, with a one hour curing
time, which has the ability to withstand sustained temperatures up to 250 C and
compressive loads of up to nine tonnes per square inch.
The manufacturing process involves initially setting the master pattern into a rapid cure
modelling compound where the split line of the future mould is defined. The Swiftool
material is then packed against the protruding half of the master pattern and then cured
using Swiftool processing equipment. This applies vacuum and pressure to the packed
pattern in order to eliminate air voids and ensure uniform mould density.
The inherent microflexion or dynamic memory capability of the SPC composite facilitates
the removal of the master pattern from the mould and subsequently the mould from the
moulded components.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Materials which can be moulded by the Swiftool process include ABS, PE, POM, PP and
PA 66 with a glass fibre content of up to 50%. Tests have generated a yield of 50,000 PP
shots from a Swiftool mould.
The pervasiveness of polymers throughout electronics is illustrated by reports of the
commercialisation of Cambridge University research which has discovered he technology
to manufacture low-cost plastic microchips. A company, Plastic Logic, funded by venture
capital and Dow Chemical, has been created to commercialise the technology with the
objective of launching demonstration prototypes in the summer of 2001. The process is
said to utilise exotic plastic materials with the manufacturing technique similar to that of
ink-jet printing. These materials come from such families as the polythiophenes and
oligothiophenes which can be doped to change their fundamental insulating properties
and thereafter become semiconductors. There is considerable research and development
activity in this field by such companies as DuPont, Hitachi, Hoechst, IBM, Lucent
Technologies, Mitsubishi, Philips and Xerox but none is yet believed to have announced
commercial products.
The Philips research relates to TFTs produced by means of a three-level
photolithographic process. Philips is also reported to be developing polymer-based
devices for use in disposable flexible and intelligent supermarket barcode labels which
could be read remotely at the checkout without the need to remove purchases from the
shopping trolley. The labels under development would be capable of being read even if
severely bent, a common occurrence in the case of the packaging of soft products.
Plastic microchips would have slower switching speeds, operating at the rate of thousands
of operations per second rather than the millions of operations per second attainable with
silicon devices. They would therefore only be suitable for certain applications. However,
their low cost, possibly even a few pence each, would open up new markets especially in
active matrix displays, domestic appliances and industrial control and management
systems where switching speed requirements are relatively modest.
The lower cost is due to the fact that the cost of a microprocessor on a plastic substrate
production line would only be a fraction of the cost of a silicon device manufacturing
facility. The low cost could create new markets, disposable smart labels for example.
These were ruled out in the past by the cost of silicon devices. The plastic substrate is
typically made from a PI foil with a layer of conducting polyaniline which contains a
photoiniator. The reduction of the conducting polyaniline layer to non-conducting
leucomeraldine is achieved by exposing it to deep ultraviolet light whilst suitably masked
to create the desired network of shaped electrodes and interconnects.
Devices can be produced by the application, using a spin coating process, of a 50 nm
semiconducting layer of polythienylenevinylene which is converted to an electrode at an
elevated temperature in the presence of a catalyst. The polyvinylphenol spin coated layer
is used as gate dielectric, which is deposited between the gate and the source to drain the
channel of the device. It also acts as insulation for the second layer of interconnect which
is created in the top polyaniline layer by using a second mask.
The reality of todays highly competitive marketplace is ever faster product launches with
concept to production times in some areas down to less than three months.
High-volume production of ultra-thin mobile phone cases, fine pitch connectors and smart
cards calls for injection moulding machines operating at high speed and high pressures.
However, one of the manufacturers of such machines states that 95% of the challenge in
this area is down to mould design.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The use of sequential gate moulding, which has for some time been used in the
automotive sector, is being used in electronic component applications to reduce the
thickness of portable devices to as little as 0.88 mm. Typical wall thickness is up to 2 mm.
Colour is being used to differentiate the appearance of products. GE Plastics has
launched a ColorXpress website with thousands of colour combinations. Customers are
able to order small batches of between ten and fifty pounds of a resin to produce and
evaluate samples. A premium custom colour matching service is available at a cost of
US$2,500 per match. There are some colour limitations in respect of specific polymers,
GE Plastics high temperature Ultem being a case in point.

6.7 Recycling
Polymer recycling is not a feature of the components industry; reprocessed materials may
lose their UL rating. However, the European Confederation of Telecommunications
Manufacturers (ECTEL) is operating a voluntary take back scheme in collaboration with
four network operators. The scheme accepts mobile phones for recycling at shops
displaying the schemes logo. The returned items are separated into handsets, batteries,
chargers and other accessories for recycling. The European Union and Norway intend to
introduce a compulsory take back scheme.
The recycling objective is for materials to be capable of being reprocessed five times and
still retain their UL rating. Added pigments should be suitably V-0 qualified. IEC standards
are growing in importance vis--vis UL standards. However, the products of European
companies must have UL approval to be sold in the US market. In practice, this means
that even components sold to the European subsidiaries of US parents for assembly into
products sold by hose companies in Europe must also be UL approved. Some
applications may call for compliance with German VDE, Canadian CSA or other
standards. Buyers should be aware that some lower quality polymer materials and
mouldings may be spuriously offered in Europe as having UL approval. This practice can
occur due to the lack of policing of the UL standard in Europe.
The use of polymer additives should also be taken into account when taking
environmental considerations into account. Flame retardancy often involves the inclusion
of brominated flame retardants and a 1997 study for the APME revealed that only 2.5%
(103,000 tonnes) of plastics electrical and electronics waste contained halogenated flame
retardants. This waste tends to comprise printed circuit boards and small electronic
components such as coil formers and capacitor housings.
On 13 June 2000, the European Commission published its latest issue of the proposal for
the Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) which seeks to
establish high recycling targets for certain categories. Such figures are not feasible if
several polymers are combined in the same product because of the costs involved in
dismantling. Consequently, it is unrealistic to expect significant recycling savings in the
small components sector. The WEEE draft proposals, which involve separate collection
and selective treatment of all components containing halogenated flame retardants, is
considered to be neither practical or economical because of increasing integration and
miniaturisation in the electrical and electronic sector.
The requirement to remove hazardous substances was originally part of the WEEE but
was subsequently detached and established as a separate directive. It includes the
requirement to phase out lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, halogenated
flame retardants and other hazardous substances by 1 January 2008. Lead-free solders
are currently being introduced and should be universally employed before 2008. The

Polymers for Electronic Components

German ZVEI (Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie) Electrical and
Electronics Industry is reported to believe that around 50% of components currently in use
may be unable to withstand the revised soldering line conditions. Hybrid circuits are said
generally to be less vulnerable than most. However, concern was expressed that the ban
could have a knock-on effect on the industrys customers.
There is also a requirement to phase out brominated flame retardants, notably
polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenylthers (PBDEs). Plastics
containing these compounds will be present in the wastestream for some years thus
inhibiting the recycling of plastic products currently in use.
The EU is endeavouring to ensure that electronic and electrical equipment is designed
and manufactured in such a way that when operated under its design conditions, it has a
minimal effect on the environment during its lifecycle. Furthermore, equipment should be
efficient both in terms of its power consumption and in its use of natural resources with
minimum pollution during use and during maintenance. The EU is also promoting
recyclability and the use of recycled materials.
Combustion trials carried out by the APME at a German research centre at Karlsruhe by
Dr Vehlow, one of the worlds leading specialists on combustion, have demonstrated that
safe combustion in state-of-the-art municipal incinerators, alongside other municipal
waste, is the optimum way to treat plastic waste containing flame retardants. Later APME
research has revealed that in the disposal of printed circuit boards, which have a high
content of recoverable precious metals, in a metal smelter the plastics content acts as a
reducing agent and fuel.
Over the course of the last fifteen years, the APME has been committed to the
development and introduction of oligomeric or chemically bonded halogenated flame
retardants as well as halogen-free solutions. However, in order to meet the stringent
specifications needed to ensure safety in some applications, the use of brominated flame
retardants may be indispensable.
The French LNP Eurostar subsidiary (based in Fosse) of US LNP Engineering Plastics
offers its Starflam non-halogenated flame retardant PA 6 and PA 66 resins which are
claimed to have good processing features and which do not corrode tools. These
polymers have very low specific gravity and thus produce more components per weight of
material. They are also claimed to be environmentally friendly because they do not
release chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere. Applications include
components used in connectors, laptop computers, pagers and switches.
One interesting potential solution to the safety problems surrounding flame retardant
plastics results from research carried out at the University of Pennsylvania where
scientists suggest the addition of between 1% and 5% natural clay to the compound. It
has been revealed that this addition to some plastic composites will change their physical
qualities making them less permeable to liquids and gases, tougher and more flame
retardant since, when plastics containing clay are burnt, the clay forms a char layer on the
outside, insulating the material beneath. The clay, which is added during the final
processing stages, is finely dispersed throughout the compound by thermodynamic
forces. As only very small amounts of clay are involved, the processing equipment does
not experience any additional wear.


Polymers for Electronic Components

6.8 Chemical Safety

The European Commission is also examining the safety of chemicals and recently
published a white paper on the subject. The Commission is seeking to speed up decisive
action on the 100,000 or so chemicals which have never been fully tested to determine
their impact on people and the environment. A shorter list of twenty-seven chemicals was
covered by the 1998 Ospar agreement, signed by a group of sixteen governments, which
pledged to phase them out within a generation. The list contains some flame retardants
and some PVC additives (see Table 6.1).
Table 6.1 Chemicals contained in the Ospar agreement
Brominated flame retardants
Certain phthalates dibutylphthalate and
Hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) isomers
Hexamethyldisiloxane (HMDS)
Lead and organic lead compounds
Mercury and organic mercury compounds
Nonylphenol/ehoxylates (NP/NPEs) and
Musk xylene
related substances
Organic tin compounds
Pentachlorophenol (PCP)
Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Polychlorinated dibenzdioxins (PCDDs)
Polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs)
Short-chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCP)
1,2,4- Trichlorobenzene
1,3,5- Trichlorobenzene
Earlier action than the governments anticipated has occurred because of the decision by
do-it-yourself retailers, B&Q and Homebase and other companies, to phase out toxic
chemicals from their own label products by 2005. This customer pressure could affect the
selection of polymers for DIY products.
One of the markets features which suppliers ignore at their peril is the arrival of fastgrowing new companies. For example, chip maker Texas Instruments has stated that it
has been selling 30% of its mobile phone sector output to new telecommunications


Polymers for Electronic Components


Polymers for Electronic Components

7 Future Outlook
7.1 Optical Applications
The growing use of fibre-optic cables has stimulated the demand for ancillary components
to facilitate connections and other requirements.
Optical fibre is moving into the car, the home, small offices and into consumer products.
Polymer optical fibres (POFs) are cheaper than glass and are easier to manufacture and
use although their maximum effective operating length is of the order of a few hundred
metres. POFs offer the prospect of being able to employ simple low-cost, moulded plugs
to make rapid connections. One contributory factor to the simplicity is the fact that POF
has a diameter of up to 1 mm, which is around eight times the diameter of a standard
single mode silica fibre. POF is more tolerant of connection misalignment than silica.
The automotive use of optical fibre networks has been pioneered by DaimlerChryslers
Mercedes subsidiary in its S-Class cars where it is offered as an optional extra. POF
automotive application benefits include resistance to vibration. DaimlerChrysler is a
member of the Media Oriented System Transport (MOST) consortium, whose members
also include the Becker Group and BMW, which has developed an optical bus standard
for automotive use.
Polymers used date back to the DuPont introduction of PMMA in the 1960s. Since then
the introduction of perfluorinated graded-index (PFGI) has enlarged the transmission
window with lower losses and dispersion. In 2000, Asahi, a leading plastic fibre supplier,
launched its new Lucina POF which incorporates its Cytop transparent perfluorinated
polymer. According to Asahi, Cytop has the same properties as conventional
fluoropolymers with the bonus of much higher optical transparency.
An indication of the importance of the new technology is provided by the November 2000
opening of the Polymer Optical Fibres Application Centre (POFAC) at Nuremberg in
Germany, which has received funding of approximately DM 4.75 million from the Bavarian
government. The centre is reported to be involved in the support of construction projects
to demonstrate and pilot POF systems. POFAC will also measure the characteristics of all
types of POF, components and systems.
Confirmation of growth in the optical sector is provided by Alcatel Optronics, a leading
supplier of optoelectronic components which reported a sales increase of 144.1% from
development is underlined by expenditure of  PLOOLRQ  RI VDOHV
One interesting joint development, by the Information and Communications University and
ZenPhotonics in Korea, involves the use of polymer planar lightwave circuits in variable
optical attenuators. The light entering the device from a singlemode waveguide then feeds
into a multimode waveguide via a taper. The application of a voltage to an electrode in the
multimode region lowers the refractive index of the polymer using the thermo-optic effect
to excite higher order modes which are subsequently filtered out as they pass through
another taper into an output single mode waveguide. Polymers have been chosen in
preference to silica because of their low power requirements and ease of manufacture.
The low power requirement is illustrated by the ability of 80 mW input power to give 30 dB
attenuation at 1,550 nm.


Polymers for Electronic Components

7.2 Bio-Based Polymers

Another interesting DuPont development, with potential application in the electronics
industry, is the groups first bio-based polymer known as Sorona. Scheduled for
demonstration in 2001, it is forecast to be operating with lower unit costs than polymers
from petrochemical sources within three years. DuPont has entered into a five-year
collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop this biotechnology
outside the realms of traditional agriculture.
DuPont considers Sorona to be one of the most significant new polymers to be developed
by the company in recent years, and a new continuous polymerisation plant has been
started up at Kinston, North Carolina. This plant is using 1,3-propanediol (PDO) derived
from petroleum feedstocks and made for DuPont by Degussa. This plant is able to switch
to corn-based PDO as soon as the process economics and market demand justify making
the change.
The electronic application envisaged is for resins to be used in the production of
Bio-based polymers enjoy the advantage of being readily recyclable with such diverse
ingredients as recycled newspapers and coffee grounds, a waste product from instant
coffee factories which produce several million tonnes annually worldwide.

7.3 Self-Repairing Polymers

Developments at the University of Illinois in the USA include self-repairing polymers. This
feature is obtained by the dispersal within the polymer of tiny capsules of monomers.
These are activated if cracks develop in the material since rupturing of the capsules will
release monomers which will link up with each other in the presence of catalysts and thus
heal the cracks. Researchers have reported that the material retains around 75% of its
original toughness when healed in this way.

7.4 Search For New Products

The electronics industry is constantly seeking new products which will attain must have
status. Having recognised that sales of mobile phones cannot maintain their current
growth rates, the search is on for new products which will generate greater sales of
components. One of the problems manufacturers face is that, in their infancy, these new
products are invariably expensive. Volume sales bring down prices but even the most
powerful marketing campaign may not generate sufficient sales to build up sales to the
levels at which dramatic price cuts are possible.
One possible product in this category is the new multi-purpose IC-R3 receiver from Icom
which combines the functions of television set, video display and radio in one small handheld package powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery which provides twenty-seven
hours of viewing time per charge on a two inch liquid crystal display.
Mobile phones have been an exception to the normal marketing procedure because the
manufacturers decided to subsidise the cost of the handsets from the anticipated
subsequent call revenue from the users, as anyone who has had to replace a lost or
stolen phone at its true cost will confirm.
The future is seen as a coming together of the internet and mobile communications with
the internet use moving from fixed to mobile communications. According to the president

Polymers for Electronic Components

of Bitkom, the German association for IT, telecommunications and new media, the size of
the mobile commerce market across Europe in 2000 exceeded DM 2.5 billion
(approximately US$1.2 billion). The association expects an annual growth rate of 200% in
most European countries up to 2003, thus Europe may be seen to be growing faster than
the USA in this respect.
One of the areas of convergence is the combination of personal digital assistant (PDA)
and mobile phone where Nokia is a pioneer, having introduced its Communicator model,
the first of its kind, in 1996. Sales have grown slowly because of the relatively high unit
cost of around 250. However, Nokia is about to launch an improved 9210 model with a
full colour screen and redesigned keyboard in an attempt to increase sales which are
miniscule in comparison with its cellular handset sales. The 9210 model is claimed to be
the first to use the complete IBM/Symbian package which includes components from
IBMs Tivoli device management, Lotus Notes and DB2 database management software.
Symbian, which is jointly owned by Ericsson, Matsushita, Motorola, Nokia and Psion, has
developed an operating system and software which is being used by the majority of
smartphone designers including Ericsson, Nokia, Psion and Sony.
Toshiba is one of the promoters of small-molecule LED technology which offers better
visibility and lower power consumption than LCDs. Currently only monochrome screens
are on offer, but Toshiba has announced the 2002 launch of a six-inch, full colour screen
with laptop full colour screens to follow in 2004 and television set screens to follow shortly
The market is believed to be more receptive to mobile internet devices with an e-mail
capability, WAP and data communications. Manufacturers are launching interesting new
products. For example, the Ericsson R380 is reported to combine a mobile phone with
PDA-like functionality, WAP, e-mail and messaging services. Kyocera is said to have
launched its own version of a smartphone with even Microsoft entering the fray with its
Stinger model, which will support voice and data communications including GPRS and
versions of its own Outlook and Internet Explorer technology. The designers dilemma is
to construct a suitably compact and comprehensive package of services at a price which
the market is willing to pay.
Microsoft has also supported the British handset manufacturer, Sendo, which is planning
to launch its Z100 Smartphone in the autumn of 2001. The Z100 will have a colour TFT
screen and will provide e-mail and full internet wireless access using the GPRS standard.
The 99 gram phone will also play MP3 music files. Sendos manufacturing strategy is to
build a basic electronics module in China, then ship it to the Netherlands for customisation
and fitting into its outer case.
Even manufacturers have difficulty in deciding the direction of joint ventures as was
shown by the dissolution of the Odin joint venture between Motorola and Psion Computers
to develop an advanced mobile handset. Whilst the two companies both wished to offer a
mobile phone with data handling capabilities, they are reported as not being able to agree
on the specification or physical dimensions of the product.
Another avenue of development is to start with a laptop computer and build into it a mobile
telecommunications facility. The first obstacle to be overcome is the inability of laptops
totally encased in metal boxes to receive or transmit radio signals. An external antenna is
probably unacceptable so the laptops magnesium lid has to be replaced with a plastic lid
to permit wireless communication. Alternatively, the magnesium lid may be retained to
protect the screen and a durable polycarbonate/ABS blend used as casing material for the
lower half of the laptop. The additional functions increase the load on the laptops

Polymers for Electronic Components

batteries so the pressure is on to find a power source to provide sufficient energy for a
whole days operation of ten hours or so.
The television set manufacturing industry is seeking to accelerate set replacement by the
adoption of a wider screen format which provides owners of traditional sets with dark
bands above and below the picture if the set presents the format at the expense of picture
height. The alternative is to retain the full height of the picture and sacrifice the left and
right hand extremities. These sets usually offer digital sound which is claimed to offer
higher sound quality whilst simultaneously reducing the broadcasters bandwidth
transmission requirement. Digital radios are also being sold but their high prices have kept
them out of the mass market.
Therefore, whilst digital radio and television services are growth markets for electronic
components, much of the growth has been confined to the set-top box sector of the
market. These boxes convert the incoming digital signals to a format acceptable to the
television receiver. Fully digital television and radio receivers, other than personal
computers equipped with a tuner, are still very expensive and will only come down in price
as sales volumes increase. Worldwide sales of set-top boxes in 2001 are expected to be
around 35 million units. The UK situation is unusual because the major digital
broadcaster, BSkyB, has almost completed the transfer of its customer base from
analogue to digital services. Consequently the UK market could be the only one to report
a downturn in sales figures with year 2000 sales of 3.8 million boxes forecast to fall to 3.2
million in 2001. A survey by the UK government telecommunications watchdog, Oftel,
revealed that digital television had reached 19% (4.5 million) of UK homes by May 2000.

7.5 Bluetooth Technology

One of the latest technologies to hit the market is the Bluetooth short range wireless
technology networking standard. The system has been developed by Ericsson and allows
personal computers, laptops, hand-held computers, mobile phones, printers and other
electronically controlled products to communicate with each other by means of radio links
of up to ten metres. Three classes of radio performance are available:

Class 1 with a maximum output power of 100 mW and a working distance of 100

Class 2 with an output of 2.5 mW and a working distance of 10 metres, and

Class 3 with an output of 1.0 mW and a working distance of 1 metre.

No interconnecting cables are needed.

A working demonstration of Bluetooth technology in Hall 13 at the March 2001 CeBIT
exhibition at Hanover in Germany experienced some teething problems which were later
sorted out and blamed on defective software.
The Bluetooth technology also allows domestic appliances, home heating and other
systems to be included thus permitting the coordinated control of everything electrical
within the home from a PDA which also combines the functions of calendar and address
The PDA is a hand-held computer designed to offer the user rapid access to personal
information. The world brand leader is the US manufacturer Palm followed by Handspring,
which has sold almost two million units in the USA but recent sales have suffered due to
the downturn in the US economy. The latest Handspring model the Visor Edge, has user

Polymers for Electronic Components

appeal in the form of an ultra-thin metal case. It also has another benefit, a lithium-ion
polymer battery, which enables it to operate for a claimed forty hours before needing to be
Lithium-ion polymer, Varta PoLiFlex 3 volt batteries are available from Varta Batteries in
25 mAh (29 mm x 22 mm x 0.4 mm) and 7 mA h (29 mm x 9 mm x 0.4 mm) versions
which are highly flexible and easy to laminate with low self discharge and long shelf life.
The operating temperature range extends from 10 C to + 70 C. Safety and reliability
are assured because the batteries contain no liquids and do not leak. Typical applications
include smart cards. Varta reported total sales in 1999 of  ELOOLRQ RI ZKLFK 
million related to portable batteries with over 70% exported.
The first commercial Bluetooth product to reach the market is Ericssons mobile phone
headset though current production is insufficient to meet demand. However, more
Bluetooth products will be launched in 2001 with mass production well under way by the
end of the year and into 2002. Alcatel estimates that mobile phones will account for 49%
of the Bluetooth market by 2003, followed by desktop computers with 16% and smaller
percentages from automotive, computer peripheral and set-top box applications. The 5%
figure for headsets has been contested by some as an underestimate.
Now more than two thousand companies have signed up to the Bluetooth standard
special interest group, with many, including Johnson Controls and Visteon, being key
members of the Bluetooth Automotive Expert Group working on automotive applications of
the technology. On average, a car contains approximately fifty embedded chips which
could be linked by Bluetooth technology in the future.
Dow is targeting its Questra crystalline polymers at the systems 3D-moulded antennae
interconnect products. These are being made by a Rochester, New York-based moulder
with plateable grades of Questra using a two-shot process. At the frequencies allocated to
Bluetooth devices Questra shows low dielectric losses.
Already a prototype Internet House has been built in the suburbs of London where a
portable computer is used to control all the electrical features of the house, including
heating and security systems, garden sprinklers, a refrigerator stock control system which
automatically orders replenishment supplies from the supermarket when stocks are
running low, five cordless phone sets, four personal computers, two flat screen television
sets and a multi-room audio/visual system. This system involves seventy-two data
communications ports and has been installed by Cisco systems of the USA as an
example of web technology controllable in situ or, potentially, from anywhere in the world!
The use of Bluetooth technology is merely a technological step further.

7.6 QTC Material

QTC (quantum tunnelling composition) material falls into the category of promising new
products in search of a market and it has attracted much interest from potential users.
QTC is a solid composite, described as a matrix of conductive particles in a nonconductive elastomeric medium, which can change its electrical resistance under pressure
from 1012 WR OHVV WKDQ   7KH LQWHUDFWLRQ RI WKH particles and the polymer is
understood to the extent that the performance of the composite can be designed to meet
the requirements of the customer. Furthermore, it is possible to design in a resistance with
a negative voltage dependence.
Durham University is reported to have confirm that the functioning of the composite is due
to quantum tunnelling between the particles rather than the apparent explanation of

Polymers for Electronic Components

physical contact between the conducting particles. The material is able to operate at logic
levels and does not visibly deflect in operation.
Prospective applications include touch-sensitive components although in most cases
potential users to not wish to disclose their interest.
The QTC material is the brain child of Peratech, a small three years old Darlington, UKbased company, which has attracted venture capital funding and awards for its

7.7 Superconducting Plastics

New materials with great potential include superconducting plastics which have been
discovered at the Bell Labs in America after research extending over twenty years. The
material, with a superconducting temperature below 270 C, is made by depositing a
solution of polythiophene in a thin film. The organic polymer will only act as a
superconductor when all its molecular chains are lined up like uncooked spaghetti to
quote the researchers involved. Future applications have been cited as quantum
computing and extremely fast, low power integrated circuits.

7.8 Low Molecular Weight Liquid Crystals

Liquid crystals are widely used in a variety of computer displays from the smallest screens
found on pocket calculators to those fitted to large monitors because of their ability to be
easily manipulated under the influence of magnetic fields. Separate research work at
Kyushu University in Japan and the University of Leipzig in Germany is said to be targeted
towards the conversion of the electrical energy of low molecular weight liquid crystals, and
composite systems in which they are combined with liquid crystal polymers, into
mechanical energy. This research is directed towards the development of new
nanomachine designs incorporating the microactuating characteristics of the so-called
electromechanical effect phenomenon.
Research from the University of Leipzig has focussed on the properties of liquid crystals
which are widely used in a variety of computer displays from the smallest screens to be
found on calculators to those fitted to large monitors. They are selected because of their
ability to be easily manipulated under the influence of magnetic fields. The scientists at
Leipzig have sought to harness these properties for use in extremely small
nanomachines, namely nanoscale motors transducers, sensors or actuators, in which
electrical energy of the liquid crystals may be transformed into mechanical energy.
The achievement of the Leipzig scientists has been to produce low molecular weight liquid
crystals with the ability to exert or sustain mechanical stress to create a ferro-electric
polymeric network of liquid crystals which combines the mechanical properties of rubber
with the electrical properties of liquid crystal.


Polymers for Electronic Components

8 Company Profiles
PO Box 867
Myrtle Beach
South Carolina 29578
AVX is a subsidiary company of the Japanese Kyocera Corporation. Between January
1990 and August 1995 AVX was wholly owned by the Kyocera Corporation. On 15 August
1995, Kyocera sold 39,300,000 AVX common shares (22.9%) with a further 4,400,000
common shares sold in a public offering. In February 2000, a further 10,500,000 AVX
common shares were sold by Kyocera whose stake is now approximately 70%.
With approximately 18,000 employees worldwide, AVX, with 26 manufacturing facilities in
12 countries, is a leading company in the passive components and interconnection
products industry. Total net sales reported in 2000 were $1.63 billion, up from $1.25 billion
the previous year, with gross profit up to $340.5 million in 2000 from $167.4 million in
1999. European markets accounted for 26% of AVX sales with 32% of sales going to
Asian markets.
The company claims that, on any given day, the majority of the worlds telephone users
could be using an AVX component adding that it is possible for a mobile phone to contain
more than 400 component parts! The telecommunications applications sector is the major
user and accounts for 36% of sales followed by contract equipment manufacture (19%),
information technology hardware (18%) and instrumentation (13%). Other user sectors
include consumer (4%), military/government (4%), automotive (3%) and medical (3%).
During the fiscal year 2000, AVX acquired TPC, the former Passive Component Division
of the French conglomerate Thomson-CSF, which brought with it French manufacturing
facilities as well as production plants in Brazil, Malaysia and Taiwan. The companys
largest plant is the tantalum capacitor manufacturing plant at Lanskroun in the Czech
Republic. Other labour-intensive plants are located in El Salvador, Mexico and Northern
D-67056 Ludwigshafen
BASF enjoys the status of being Germanys and the worlds number one chemical
company. In March 2001, BASF, which has around 105,000 employees worldwide,
in 1999. Operating income rose by more than 15% to  ELOOLRQ %$6) KDV SURGXFWLRQ
facilities in thirty-eight countries and maintains contact with customers in a hundred and
seventy nations. The group comprises the BASF AG parent company at Ludwigshafen as
well as the network of 133 subsidiaries and sixteen joint ventures in which BASF has an
equity stake in excess of 50%.
BASF is structured into segments of which the Plastics & Fibres Segment comprises
styrenic polymers, engineering plastics, polyurethanes and fibre products. Plastics &
Fibres is the largest BASF segment and accounts for approximately 29% of group sales.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The group, which has a polymer chemicals manufacturing plant at Seal Sands near
Middlesborough, has stated that its operations in the UK are being handicapped by Britain
being outside the euro zone. A possible confirmation of this statement is provided by a fall
in employee numbers at the Seal Sands plant from 650 in 1999 to 450 in 2001. Future
investment is more likely to be made at the Antwerp (Belgium) site, which has around
3,400 employees and sales of approximately  ELOOLRQ RU DW %$6) (VSDola at
Tarragona (Spain). The Tarragona plant, which has more than 950 employees and sales
by 2005 to expand production of PP, to carry out propane dehydrogenation and for other
The product range includes Terluran ABS, Terlux transparent methyl methacrylate
acrylonitrile butadiene styrene copolymer (MABS), PU, SAN, Ultradur PBT, Ultraform
POM, PVC, Ultramid PA, Ultrason PSU an Ultrason E PES.
POM production capacity has been increased at Theodore, Alabama USA.
Acquisitions have included DSMs ABS business which was integrated in the spring of
1999. Notable joint ventures include the Elenac 50%/50% PE joint venture with Shell and
the Solvin, 25% BASF/75% Solvay PVC joint venture founded in January 1999. The
Targor PP joint venture was established with Hoechst in 1997 and operated until
December 1999 when it became a fully-owned BASF subsidiary. Targor had six
production sites in Germany, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands and marketed
as Novolen PP and Hostacom PP compounds.
BASF and Shell have since agreed to combine the Elenac, Montell and Targor
subsidiaries to create Basell which they consider will be one of the worlds largest
polyolefin companies in which each will hold a 50% interest. This project would remove
polyolefin activities from the BASF Plastics & Fibres Segment and thereby reduce its
sales and profit figures.
Amongst BASF subsidiaries, the Elastogran Group, with operational responsibility for the
European, African and Middle Eastern markets, plays an important role as a major
polyurethane supplier with four locations in Germany and six in the rest of Europe.
Evidence of extensive BASF research and development comes from the groups
patent applications in 1999 alone.
Bayer AG
D-51368 Leverkusen
Polymer sales, which represent Bayers largest business sector with approximately 38%
of group sales, achieved very strong growth with sales of  ELOOLRQ LQ  D 
increase over the 1999 figure of  ELOOLRQ ZKLFK ZDV  KLJKHU WKDQ WKH 
figure. A sharp rise in raw material prices cost Bayer an extra  ELOOLRQ OHDYLQJ WKH
company with a 10% return on sales. In 1999, the operating result before exceptional
the uncertainties facing the US economy. A supporting factor is the implementation of cost
containment programmes in all areas of the polymers segment, claimed to be able to
generate savings of more than  PLOOLRQ D \HDU DV IURP 


Polymers for Electronic Components

In the polymer sales sector, Bayer claims to be second to GE Plastics and ahead of Dow
Chemicals. On a product by product basis, PU sales grew by 4.7% to  ELOOLRQ VDOHV
of other plastics by 10.6% to  ELOOLRQ DQG UXEEHUV E\  WR  ELOOLRQ
At the end of 2000, Bayer announced its intention to double its PC production, where
brands include Makrolon and the high-temperature Apec version targeted towards
automotive applications, to become the number one producer in this sector where its profit
margins exceed 20%, the highest figure in the polymer portfolio, and where annual sales
growth is of the order of 9%. The expansion is taking place at Bayers Asian facilities with
output at the Map Tu Phut plant in Thailand to rise from 50,000 tonnes to 350,000 tonnes
annually. The design capacity of the new plant under construction in Shanghai, China is to
rise to 100,000 tonnes annually when it comes on stream in 2004. Simultaneously, Bayer
is raising production at its European and US facilities to an aggregate total capacity of
850,000 tonnes. The success of Makrolon in the production of compact discs was
recorded in May 2000 when the 20 billionth disc was produced from this material. The
production of DVDs began in 1997 and now the daily production rate of these products
has reached 175,000 DVDs plus around 650,000 CDs.
Other Bayer polymers include Bayblend ABS/PC blend, Durethan PA, Lustran SAN,
Novodur ABS and Pocan PBT. In March 2000, Bayer bought the polyols business of the
Lyondell Chemical Company of Houston, Texas, to become the worlds largest
manufacturer of polyurethane raw materials. Baymidur, Baygal and Blendur are the
brands of polyurethane and PIR casting resins used in electrical and electronic
Bayer is moving to the outsourcing of its distribution activities with the award to the
Spanish branch of ABX Logistics, a subsidiary of Belgian Railways (SNCB), by Bayer
Hispania of a contract to distribute four thousand pallets of Bayer chemical products
Bayer has announced its intention to sell its 50% stake in Erdlchemie to BP on 1 April
2001 and also to reduce its stake in the Dystar group. However, it has established a
manufacturing joint venture with DuPont which will come on stream early in 2003. Other
joint ventures include one with Rhm GmbH for the production of transparent
polycarbonate and polyester sheet.
Bayer is also linked to the electronics industry via its H.C. Starck subsidiary, which is a
leading supplier of tantalum powder to the electrolytic capacitor industry. It also supplies
Baytron P transparent conductive polymer, which can be used to manufacture organic
PO Box 8777
605 LT Eindhoven
The Netherlands
The BCcomponents operation, which was originally part of the Philips Passive
Components Group, includes BCcomponents Beyschlag GmbH which is based in Heide,
near Kiel, in North Germany. Beyschlag was founded in 1931 and employs approximately
550 people with sales of around DM 100 million. At the World Expo 2000 in Hanover the
company received the most Environmentally Conscious Company award from the
Society for Economic Research and Development in its home state of Schleswig-Holstein
in recognition of its environmental programme in the region. BCcomponents previously
won the award in 1992.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The group also includes Centralab in Hong Kong. At the beginning of the year 2000, the
group took steps to acquire full control of its joint venture in China. In total, BCcomponents
has approximately 4,300 employees and sales of around  ELOOLRQ 7KH JURXSV ZRUNLQJ
shareholders. Group policy has been to transfer the emphasis from being a product driven
business towards being a customer/market driven organisation with a specific focus on
growth in selected industries and territories. This has involved restructuring and the
movement of activities between locations.
BCcomponents is reported to be one of the worlds largest manufacturers of passive
components and the largest European passive components supplier in the electronics
industry, and its product range includes electrolytic, ceramic, film and variable capacitors
together with linear, non-linear and variable resistors.
telecommunications sectors. The company has a strong position in the interference
suppression film capacitor sector where it claims to be at the forefront of polypropylene
film capacitor technology.
Borealis Holding A/S
Lyngby Hovegade 96
DK-2800 Lyngby
Borealis claims to be one of the worlds largest manufacturers of polyolefins, notably PE
and PP, with an annual production capacity of over three million tonnes. Borealis was
founded in 1954 and is 50% owned by the Statoil Norwegian oil and gas group. The
remaining 50% is owned by the Austrian oil and gas company OMV (25%) and by the
International Petroleum Investment Company of Abu Dhabi (25%). OMV is the largest
listed company in Austria and is 35% state owned with IPIC having a 19.6% holding.
Borealis group sales turnover in 2000 was  ELOOLRQ XS IURP  ELOOLRQ LQ  D
rise of 25.7%. However, operating profits fell by 57.4% to  PLOOLRQ LQ  IURP 
million in 1999. The workforce fell from 5,400 employees to 5,188 employees. The
company is reported to be Europes largest PE producer and second only to Basell in PP
production with a manufacturing plant at Schwechat in Austria which was completed in
Joint ventures include Speciality Polymers Antwerp N.V., a 50%/50% joint venture with
DuPont which employs 220 employees and which makes ethylene copolymers and PE
with a capacity of 125,000 tonnes/annum.
BP Amoco plc
Britannic House
1 Finsbury Circus
London EC2M 7BA
United Kingdom
BP Amoco has been growing rapidly in recent years. The company was established on
the 31 December 1998 by the merger of the British Petroleum Company with the Amoco
Corporation. On 1 April 1999, BP Amoco went on to establish a combination with the
Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) of Los Angeles. Subsequently, BP Amoco went on to
acquire Burmah Castrol plc in July 2000. However, the groups business turnover in
chemicals fell from US$11,445 million in 1997 to US$9,691 million in 1998 and down


Polymers for Electronic Components

further to US$9,392 million in 1999. Prior to its decision to divest its US$250 million-a-year
polymer business, BP Amoco was making a range which included PPS, PSU, PES, PPA,
LCPs, PAI and aromatic polyketones.
One contributory factor to the downturn was the US$121 million sale of the Plaskon
electronics materials business, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, with operations in Singapore
and the USA, to Cookson Electronics in July 1999. Plaskon manufactures polymer-based
moulding compounds which are primarily used for the encapsulation of electronic devices
including semiconductors. Cookson Electronics, an American subsidiary of the British
Cookson group employs approximately six thousand people and sales of around US$1.2
billion. Cookson Electronics, which accounts for approximately 20% of group sales, has
not been immune to the economic downturn in America and is reported to have
experienced a fall in sales of between 35% and 40%.
In 1997, BP Amoco sold its advanced materials and plastic resin business in the UK.
Acquisitions included the Germany-based Styrenix Kunststoffe plastics business in 1998.
In terms of revenue, BP Amoco claims to be the worlds third largest petrochemicals
company with an annual output of over 25 million tonnes of petrochemicals, intermediates,
plastics and specialities. The companys seven core products where it claims worldleading positions are acetic acid, acrylonitrile, aromatics, purified terephthalic acid (PTA),
linear alpha olefins, purified isophthalic acid (PIA) and PP. However, the companys
engineering polymers of greatest interest to this report are ABS, Xydar LCP and Amodel
PPA resins.
Other products from BP Amoco include the EnerGraph DBX series of ultra-high
crystallinity graphites which can be used in the anodes of lithium polymer thin film battery
Bulgin plc
Bypass Road
Essex IG11 0AZ
United Kingdom
Bulgin is an independent designer of electromechanical components and power supplies
for use in a wide variety of application sectors with reported annual sales in 2000 of 14.4
million and pre-tax profits of 665,000. The workforce comprised 387 people of whom 278
were engaged in production.
The range of electromechanical components comprises mains connectors, waterproof
connectors, switches, battery holders, fuseholders, indicators and filters and extends to
almost three thousand products with an annual output of almost twenty million pieces.
The markets served include communications, construction, control equipment,
instrumentation, lighting, marine, medical, office equipment, security and utilities.
Customers include catalogue distributors, overseas distributors, OEMs and contract
electronics manufacturers to whom the OEMs are outsourcing their assembly operations.
Bulgin products include the Buccaneer 900 series range of connectors, which incurred
development costs of approximately 250,000. The company considers itself to be a
medium-volume manufacturer.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Karl-Arnold-Platz 1a
D-40474 Dusseldorf
The new Degussa results from the 2001 merger, initiated in February 2000, of DegussaHls AG and SKW Trostberg AG into what is claimed to be the worlds largest speciality
chemicals company.
Prior to the merger, at the end of 1999, Degussa-Hls had sold to BASF its 50% stake in
the engineering plastics joint ventures, Ultraform GmbH and Ultraform Company.
The companys speciality polymers division is based in Frankfurt and employs 5,300
people and plans, over the next three years, to increase sales from approximately DM 2.6
billion to over DM 3 billion.
Degussa has developed its own patented Elamet process to coat engineering polymers
with a 99.8% pure coating of aluminium to provide high levels of EMI/RFI screening. The
process, which involves the evaporation and deposition of the aluminium in a vacuum
chamber, is environmentally friendly because it uses no solvents, nor does it have any
harmful by-products. UL approvals exist for over sixty-five substrates. The coatings are
ductile and have a smooth metallic appearance. Recycling is straightforward because the
aluminium may be dissolved away by sodium hydroxide.
In 2000, Degussa bought Laporte, the UK supplier of chemicals to the plastics industry.
The German electricity generating company Eon, formed in 1999 by the merger of Veba
and Viag, is the ultimate owner of Degussa. However, one of the conditions of Eons
acquisition of UK Powergen energy company is that Eon must sell its Degussa chemical
operations which accounted for 22% of its sales in 2000.
Dow Europe SA
Bachtobelstrasse 3
CH-8810 Horgen
Based in Midland, Michigan, USA, and founded in 1897, Dow Europes Dow Chemical
Company parent reported an outstanding financial performance in 1999. Sales rose by
2.6% to US$18.92 billion with earnings before interest and tax up 4.6% to US$.476 billion.
In February 2001, Dow completed the acquisition of its Union Carbide competitor for a
reported US$10.2 billion.
The company comprises fifteen international businesses serving customers in 164
countries and employs around 39,000 people worldwide. It has 123 production locations in
32 countries and supplies over 3500 products. Dow Chemical has recently launched an ecommerce facility for the sale of its epoxy resins and related products that is scheduled to
add access to products and information from other manufacturers. The site provides 24hour access to regularly updated market prices denominated in both dollars and euros
and includes product specifications and material safety data sheets.
Dow Plastics is the worlds largest plastics supplier and claims to be the worlds leading
producer of PE and PS. It produces a wide range of branded engineering plastics
including Calibre PC, Inspire PP, Isoplast TPU, Magnum ABS, Prevail TPU blends, Pulse
PC/ABS resins, Questra PS, Tyril SAN and Vydyne PA. European manufacturing


Polymers for Electronic Components

operations include PC at Stade in Germany, PP at Schkopau in Germany with Magnum
ABS, Pulse technical polymers and Tyril SAN polymers being produced at Terneuzen in
the Netherlands. The Vydyne operation is a joint venture with Solutia Inc.
Acquisitions include the general-purpose rubber business of Shell Chemical Limited with
plants in Berre, France and Pernis in the Netherlands. It also purchased a Basell
(BASF/Shell) plant in Cologne.
DSM Polymers International
Postbus 43
6130 AA Sittard
The Netherlands
The DSM group, which employs approximately 22,000 people at more than 20 sites
worldwide, reported 1999 sales of  ELOOLRQ '60 KDV JURXSHG LWV DFWLYLWLHV LQWR WKUHH
strategic clusters, namely, Life Science Products, Performance Materials and Polymers &
Industrial Chemicals. On 1 January 2001, the business groups of DSM Polyethylenes,
DSM Polypropylenes and DSM Hydrocarbons were merged into the single business group
DSM Petrochemicals.
DSM Engineering Plastics, which has a PBT joint venture with Ticona, has joined the
Omnexus e-marketplace trading venture. Other events in 2000 included the opening of a
new PA 6 production plant in the Netherlands at Emmen. DSM halogen-free, hybrid
reinforced PA 6, branded Akulon, was selected as the housing material for an innovative
new digital time switch. Other DSM brands include Stanyl PA 46, Arnitel copolyester
elastomers, Xantar PC and Arnite thermoplastic polyesters.
DuPont de Nemours International SA
Chemin du Pavilion 2
CH-1218 Le Grand-Saconnex
DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, reported worldwide net sales of
US$26.918 billion in 1999, up from US$24.767 billion in 1998. Net income in 1999 was
$7.69 billion. The group operates in 65 countries worldwide and its main European
markets, with their 1999 net sales figures, are Germany (US$1.743 billion), France
(US$979 million), United Kingdom (US$960 million) and Italy (US$884 million). However,
even DuPont is not immune to the economic downturn in the USA where it announced
4,000 job cuts in April 2001 with one third of them to be carried out in 2001. DuPont is
also cutting 1,300 contract jobs with half the cuts being implemented in the groups
polyester and PA businesses.
The group, which has a portfolio of 2,000 trademarks and brands, manufactures a wide
range of plastics materials for the electronics components industry and these are not
confined to a single company strategic business unit or operating segment.
Performance Coatings and Polymers, which reported total 1999 segment sales of
US$6.111 billion, comprises automotive finishes, engineering polymers and elastomers.
Pigments and Chemicals, with 1999 sales of US$3.660 billion, comprises white pigment
and mineral products, speciality chemicals and fluorochemicals. Polyester Enterprise, with
1999 sales of US$2.649 billion, includes Dacron polyester high-performance films, resins
and intermediates. Speciality Polymers, with 1999 sales of US$4.255 billion, includes
photopolymers and electronic materials, packaging and industrial polymers, Corian solid


Polymers for Electronic Components

surfaces and fluoropolymers including Teflon PTFE which has applications in the
semiconductor industry and can be used for washers where its chemical resistance and
ability to tolerate elevated temperatures qualities are needed.
Automotive and electrical/electronics industries are the largest markets for engineering
polymers which broadly comprise Zytel PA, Delrin acetals, Rynite PET and Crastin PBT,
Hytrel TPEs, Zenite LCPs, Vespel PI parts and shapes, Tribon composites and Tynex
filament. Vespel grades include Vespel TP for maximum geometric flexibility, Vespel CP
for superior heat resistance and strength and Vespel CR for maximum chemical
Typical electrical/electronic applications for Zenite include power supply components for
laptop computer displays, where it is used for coil formers and insulators.
Applications for Zytel include its substitution for metal in automotive components. It can
withstand the high temperatures of the engine compartment and can also tolerate
constant vibration and is also capable of being moulded into complex shapes. The new
Zytel FR50HF flame retardant grade offers UL94 V-0 rating at 0.35 mm thickness and 5V
at 1.5 mm thickness. The company claims that this new, high flow, flame retardant resin
delivers excellent productivity when moulding connectors, especially difficult to fill DIMM
(dual in-line memory module) or RIMM (Rambus in-line memory module) memory sockets
and other thin wall parts.
Other products include Aramid reinforced laminates for use as PCB material.
In 2000, DuPont announced a new patented polymer technology to improve performance
and mouldability of its toughened PA 66 resins. Two new series of Zytel HTN highperformance polymers are claimed to deliver an improved combination of stiffness,
strength and toughness under wet dry and hot conditions than earlier HTN grades, as well
as better hydrolysis resistance.
Zytel ST801A Advantage, the latest development of this family, offers designers better
flow and mould capacity together with improved strength and durability at a price around
5% to 10% higher than existing products. The new material enables flow lengths to be
extended between 34% and 51% further than classic Zytel even at lower temperatures.
DuPont claims that operators are thus able to fill moulds at lower pressures using smaller
machines. This results in a saving in crystallisation and cooling time. Designers are thus
able to produce longer and tougher parts, with thinner cross-section, using the existing
tooling which was made for use with standard PA. Cost savings come from shorter cycle
times, lower locking force machines, reduced energy consumption, less machine wear
and fewer tooling changes. Furthermore, the parts produced from ST801A weigh less
than their PC equivalents and are more resistant to household solvents than PC or ABS.
They are also more resistant to repeated impact than previous grades. Applications
include cable ties and connector parts.
New manufacturing facilities for Crastin and Hytrel have been established at Charleston,
South Carolina, and the previous outmoded production plant at Chambers works, New
Jersey, has been closed.
In the field of mid- and high-performance elastomers the 50:50 joint venture, DuPont Dow
Elastomers, claims to be the leading global supplier. Recent launches include the Nordel
IP EPDM product line based on Dows INSITE process and catalyst technology. The joint
venture has also established a capital project at Dows Baton Rouge, Louisiana, facility to


Polymers for Electronic Components

expand the manufacturing capacity for Engage polyolefin elastomers, its fastest growing
DuPonts DuPont Teijin Films joint venture specialises in films and related products for
electrical and electronic applications as well as for advanced magnetic media
photographic systems and industrial packaging. Brands include Melinex and Mylar
polyester films, Teijin Tetoron PET, and Teonex and Kalodex PEN film, and Cronar
polyester photographic base film. The joint venture has an annual production capacity of
300,000 tonnes and forecast sales in excess of US$1 billion.
DuPont i Technologies, formerly Photopolymer and Electronic Materials, has been
established to be the groups major player in the global information market. It markets
Kapton polyimide film, Riston dry film photo resists, Birox thick films, Pyralux flexible
laminates and Fodel photoimagineable thick film pastes to the flexible printed and
microcircuit segments of the electronics industry.
The Kapton production capability at Bayport, Texas, has recently been expanded and a
further US$90 million investment in a new Kapton film production line is being made at
Circleville, Ohio. The new line, which is expected to be completed in 2002, is understood
to be dedicated to the production of material for flexible circuit applications for wireless,
digital and computer markets. The Riston resists provide digital imaging capabilities using
a laser writer to image circuit boards thus eliminating the traditional phototool process.
New speciality thick film materials have been developed for Cyngus Inc., for use in the
GlucoWatch non-invasive bio-sensor glucose monitor for use by diabetics.
DuPont i Technologies acquired Krystal Holographics International Inc., in order to
produce a new class of optical components which will significantly enhance he
performance of electronic displays and security devices. As a result, DuPont has become
a world leader in holographic optical components and holograms for electronic, security
and authentication applications.
DuPont has also acquired a 51% controlling interest in the Taiwan-based Wirex
Corporation which makes polyimide film and flexible laminates. This acquisition has
enabled DuPont to increase its participation in the adhesive-less, flexible laminate
materials market. These are used to produce high density circuitry for use in future
generations of electronic devices including cellular phones notebook personal computers,
PDAs and camcorders.
Other recent DuPont alliances include one signed with the Bekaert Group of Kortrijk,
Belgium to develop and produce thin metal laminate for flexible circuit applications. A joint
venture with Borealis, one of Europes largest producers of polyolefins, is expected to
generate growth from the employment of new technology involving polyester resins and
polyolefin catalysts.
DuPont is reported to have formed a fuel cell business unit in response to developments
in the PEM market where its products include Nafion perfluorinated membranes which
have been used in space travel applications for over thirty-five years. DuPont envisages a
US$10 billion market for fuel cells by the year 2010. In 2000, the company opened a multimillion dollar fuel cell technology centre close to its Wilmington, Delaware, headquarters.
Existing partnerships with other interested parties include that with Innogy in respects of
its Regenesys technology.


Polymers for Electronic Components

DuPont intends to apply its integrated expertise in polymer coatings and electrochemicals
technology and will initially supply advanced materials and engineering polymers.
Subsequently, over the next few years, it plans to supply PEM fuel cell stack components
including membrane electrode assemblies and onductive plates. DuPont is also actively
engaged in the development of direct methanol fuel cell technology.
Eastman Chemical Company
The company was founded in 1920 by George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak
company. It now has 15,000 employees in thirty countries and reported sales of US$5.3
billion in 2000. The company produces more than 400 chemicals, fibres and plastics. In
the field of electrical engineering and electronics, it offers two proprietary
polycyclohexylene dimethylene terephthalate (PCT) engineering resins: Thermx CG033
and Thermx CGT33. These are designed to be used in automotive connectors located in
the hostile environment beneath the bonnet. These polymers are claimed to fulfil the
markets need for a polymer with higher thermal stability.
Eastman also offers a range of high temperature resistant, easy-to-process highperformance resins which are claimed to have excellent mechanical properties and
chemical resistance. These include Thermx LCP, PCT and PET which are used in
electrical/electronic connectors and printed circuit board components. Both flame
retardant and non flame-retardant grades are available. The companys Thermx polyester
products are claimed to meet the markets needs in respect of thin-walled moulding
capability, high contact density, surface mounting properties and price.
EMS-Chemie (UK) Limited
Drummond Road
Astonfields Industrial Estate
Stafford ST16 3HJ
United Kingdom
EMS-Chemie is the polymer manufacturing division of the Swiss EMS-Chemie AG group
based at Domat/Ems whose sales turnover represents approximately 60% of the total
group turnover. Other income comes from licensing the groups process technology to
third parties. The group specialises in the production of Grilon PA 6, PA 66 and Grilamid
PA 12, (low friction and wear) and also Grivory PPA. Outside Switzerland, the group has
manufacturing operations in Sunter (USA), GrossUmstadt (Germany), Taipei (Taiwan)
and Tokyo (Japan). Group gross sales turnover in 1998 was CHF 1.064 billion.
Epcos AG
PO Box 801709
81617 Munich
Epcos, which is the worlds second largest manufacturer of passive components,
produces more than one hundred million electronic components every day including 6
million capacitors. The company was formerly a 50:50 joint venture between Siemens and
Matsushita. It became a public company in October 1999 via an initial public offering with
each company retaining a shareholding of 12.5% plus one share.


Polymers for Electronic Components

The company employed 13,237 people in 2000 and reported a 85% growth, from 
75% of sales and business outside Europe representing over 34% of sales. The Epcos
sales situation is given in Table 8.1.
Table 8.1 Epcos sales by product, 1999-2000 ( PLOOLRQ
Ceramic components
Surface acoustic wave (SAW)

% growth

Source: Epcos Annual Report, 2000

The global nature of the Epcos business is clearly illustrated by the list of the companys
manufacturing sites (Table 8.2), often chosen to take advantage of low wage economies.

Gravatai Brazil

Table 8.2 Epcos manufacturing sites

SAW components
Munich, Germany
Balan Island,
Iselin, NJ, USA
Berlin, Germany
Palo Alto, CA, USA

Malaga, Spain



Nashik, India


Tokyo, Japan


Xiaogan, China

Wuxi, Japan

Evora, Portugal

Munich, Germany
Kalyani, India
Sumperk, Czech
Zhuhai, China

Zhuhai, China
Source: Epcos Annual Report, 2000

Amongst the companys successes was its tripled sales of tantalum capacitors, to
approximately 1.5 billion annually, which propelled it from seventh position to fifth position
worldwide with market leadership in Europe. Epcos also claims European market
leadership in aluminium electrolytic capacitors, EMC components, ferrites, film capacitors
and microwave ceramics. Global leadership is claimed in the fields of power capacitors,
surface acoustic wave filters, surge arrestors, thermistors and varistors. Products less
than three years old now account for more than 70% of Epcos sales.
Evox Rifa AB
PO Box 945
S-391 29 Kalmar
The parent company, Evox Rifa Group Oyj, was established on 1 November 2000 when it
was floated by Finvest Oyj on the Helsinki Stock Exchange as a result of the division of
Finvest into four separate companies, the other three companies being Finvest Oyj, eQ


Polymers for Electronic Components

Online Oyj and Vestcap Oyj. After Finvest Oyj divided into four companies each Finvest
shareholder received one Evox Rifa share for each Finvest share held. Evox Rifa is now
growing as a result of acquisitions and partnership agreements.
Evox Rifa Group Oyj owns all of the share capital of Evox Rifa Oy. The other group
companies are Evox Rifa AB (Sweden), Evox Rifa Pte., Ltd., (Singapore), Seoryong
Singapore Pte., Ltd., (Singapore), P.T. Evox S.R. (Indonesia), Evox Rifa GmbH
(Germany), Evox Rifa (UK) Ltd., (United Kingdom), Evox Rifa Inc., (USA) and the affiliated
company Schaffner EMC Pte., Ltd., (Singapore).
On 8 March 2001, the company reported that, in 2000, net sales increased almost 28% to

compared with an operating loss of  PLOOLRQ LQ  7KH \HDU  SURILW EHIRUH
Owing to the favourable market situation, the order backlog of Evox Rifa Group Oyj grew
Evox Rifa designs, manufactures and markets capacitors and produces approximately
800 million capacitors a year. It is the largest manufacturer of capacitors in Scandinavia
and the sixth largest in Europe, with targeted market areas in North America, Europe and
Asia. It has carefully chosen its customer segment to form the foundation for its growth.
The strongest increase in year 2000 net sales, compared to the previous year was 43% in
Asia, with a significant increase also taking place in Europe and North America due to the
introduction of new products and distribution channels. The net sales from paper
capacitors increased the most, by almost 68 %, of all the product groups. There was also
significant growth in the other main product groups compared to the previous years, i.e., in
film and electrolytic capacitors as well as in inductive components.
The Evox Rifa Group Oyj had 1,504 employees at the end of the fiscal year 2000 of whom
1,256 were production workers and 248 were office staff. There was an average of 1,406
employees during the fiscal year, of whom 1,164 were production workers and 242 office
staff. The employee numbers were increased to satisfy the need for increased capacity
caused by high demand and order backlog.
In its outlook for the year 2001, the company commented that the instability of the markets
has continued since the beginning of 2001 with no signs of it ending. The cuts to
excessive inventories started in the USA with revisions to given forecasts as well as
rescheduling of orders. The company anticipates that its growth will exceed the growth of
the market. Its expectations are based on current market forecasts and the good reception
of new products.
Evox Rifa manufactures film, paper and electrolytic capacitors with film types accounting
for 50% of output, paper capacitors accounting for 23% of output and aluminium
electrolytic types the remaining 27%. Evox Rifa forecasts annual market growth in the film
capacitor sector, stability and lack of growth in the paper capacitor sector and rapid, but
not quantified, growth in the aluminium electrolytic sector.


Polymers for Electronic Components

General Electric Plastics BV
European Headquarters
1 Plasticslaan
PO Box 117
NL-4600 AC Bergen op Zoom
The Netherlands
GE Plastics has fifteen thousand employees worldwide and contributed sales of US$6.9
billion to the total General Electric sales revenue figure for 1999 of US$112 billion, a
contribution which rose to US$29.9 billion in 2000. The company has over forty plants and
joint venture facilities and has sales operations in more than twenty countries. The GE
Plastics operation includes the GE Polymerland distribution subsidiary which includes the
Polymerland on-line facility which offers 24 hours a day, seven days a week customer
access and which is being used as a model by other GE divisions. General Electrics
aggregate on-line sales operations have grown from virtually nothing in 1998 to US$1
billion in 1999 with a further rise to US$7 billion in 2000. In 2001, the company expects
15% of its total revenue to come from on-line sales.
The companys range of engineering polymers includes Lexan PC, Cycolac ABS, Cycoloy
PC/ABS blend, Getek PCB laminates, high-temperature Ultem PEI, Valox PBT and
PBT/PET blends and Xenoy polymer blends. GE Plastics and BASF are expanding PBT
production at their joint venture at Schwarzheide in Germany.
The demand for Lexan has been increasing for telecommunications applications and such
products as CD-ROMs, CDs and DVDs. This resulted in additional investment at the resin
plants at Cartagena, Spain, and Burkville, Alabama, USA, to add 200,000 tonnes of
additional capacity. New compounding plant investments were opened in China and
Thailand in 2000 to support the high demand of the Asian market. A new agreement was
announced in 2000 with GE Plastics joint venture partner, Toshiba, and with Shin-Etsu to
create the additional manufacturing capacity needed to respond to the rapidly increasing
demand in the Asian region.
Huntsman Corporation
500 Huntsman Way
Salt Lake City
Utah 84108
The Huntsman Corporation, which is the largest privately owned chemicals group in North
America, has more than 14,000 employees and sales revenues of approximately US$7
billion with facilities in 43 countries.
Huntsman has grown by acquisition and acquired the polyurethanes, titanium dioxide and
various petrochemicals businesses of ICI in 1999. Huntsmans businesses comprise four
principal product groups: base chemicals, intermediate chemicals, performance products,
and polymers and resins. The Huntsman performance polymers business produces PP,
PE and flexible and amorphous polyolefins to meet demanding specifications involving
strength, quality, consistency and exceptional performance.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Rogers NV
Afrikalaan 188
B-9000 Gent
Rogers US parent was founded in 1832 and has a tradition of polymer chemistry. Since
1973, it has been manufacturing flexible PCB laminates for its in-house operations and
has since become a supplier to flexible circuit fabricators worldwide.
The Microwave and Circuit Materials Division of Rogers offers a range of PCB material
onto which copper may be electrodeposited or rolled. Boards can also be supplied clad
with aluminium brass, copper and other thick metal backings. The polymers used to
produce the board material include ceramic thermoset polymer composites with or without
glass fibre reinforcement, ceramic PTFE composites and other PTFE grades with or
without glass fibre reinforcement.
Rogers US parent recently announced the acquisition of the Advanced Dielectric
business of Taconic based in Petersburgh, New York. This business manufactures and
markets high frequency PCB material laminates at Petersburgh and also at Mullingar in
Ireland. The acquisition is to be merged with its new parent to form Rogers Microwave
Materials Division. No significant changes in the product offerings or manufacturing
locations of either company are planned Other Rogers products include Poron cellular PU
foams which are widely used in mobile phones, for example, where they provide
protective cushioning and prevent voice distortion, fill gaps and seal out dust. They can be
attached to PET substrates for use as gasket material. They can also form the basis of
EMI/RFI seals.
Sabic Global Limited
Kensington Centre
66 Hammersmith Road
London W14 8YT
United Kingdom
Sabic is based in Saudi Arabia where it produces PE, PET, PP, PS and PVC under the
Ladene brand. Total 2000 production design capability at Sabics plants, including
expansion during the year, is shown in Table 8.3. Overall polymer sales volume in 1999
was 2.56 million tonnes.
Table 8.3 Sabics polymer production capacity,
2000 (000 tonnes)
Source: Sabic Annual Report, 1999


Polymers for Electronic Components

Shell Chemicals
Shell Centre
London SE 7NA
United Kingdom
The financial performance of Shells chemical segment is improving as shown in Table
Table 8.4 Chemicals sales/net proceeds (US$ millions)
Other Eastern Hemisphere
Other Western
Total Sales
Total Earnings
Source: Shell Chemicals Annual Report, 2000

This business sector comprises the production and sale of base chemicals, petrochemical
building blocks and polyolefins globally. In order to strengthen the business it has been
reduced from over 21 business areas to 11 business areas. Some businesses have been
sold and others closed.
One of the major developments has been the agreement with BASF to create the 50:50
joint venture Basell, a global polyolefins business which immediately became one of the
worlds leading producers combining the businesses of Elenac, Montell and Targor.
In addition, Shell has been negotiating the sale of the Resins and Versatics business to
Apollo Management and the sale of Kraton Plymers to Silverwood Holdings. Shells
strategy is to focus on petrochemical building blocks and high volume polymers whilst
maintaining an emphasis on enhancing the portfolio, meeting customer needs, reducing
costs and engaging and developing people. In March 2001, Shell completed the sale of its
Kraton polymers business to Ripplewood Holdings. The sale of the groups PET
businesses to the Mossi and Ghisolfi Group was completed in June 2000. Earlier, in
February 2000, the Carilon polymer was withdrawn from the market after Shell failed to
find a buyer for the business.
The general-purpose rubber business was sold to Dow Chemicals in June 1999, and the
PS business to Nova Chemicals Corporation in October 1999. Shells PVC and VCM
assets in the Netherlands and France were sold in December 1999.
The Raigi SAS subsidiary, a French manufacturer of epoxy and urethane resins systems,
was reported in January 2001 to be subject to a management buy-out.
Solutia Europe
270-272 avenue de Tervuren
B-1150 Brussels
Solutia was spun off from the St. Louis, Missouri-based, Monsanto company on 1
September 1997. The companys origins date back 100 years and it now has 11,000
employees and more than 30 manufacturing sites across the world. Sales revenue in

Polymers for Electronic Components

1999 was approximately US$2.83 billion with a net income of approximately US$206
million. Solutias operations can be categorised as Performance Films, Speciality
Products, Pharmaceutical Services and Integrated Nylon.
Solutias electronics activities are centred on its CPFilms, Canoga Park, California,
subsidiary which was formerly Courtaulds Performance Films. CPFilms is a specialist
supplier of sputter-coated films which are used in the manufacture of membrane switches,
electroluminescent lamps transparent heaters and medical sensors.
Solvay Chemicals Limited
Grovelands Business Centre
Boundary Way
Hemel Hempstead HP2 7TE
United Kingdom
Solvay Chemicals is a subsidiary of the Belgian Solvay Group whose plastics strategic
business unit reported 1999 sales turnover of  ELOOLRQ DQ  LQFUHDVH RYHU WKH
previous year. Sales to the electrical and electronics sectors accounted for 2% of
turnover. In the plastics sector, the company has established the Solvin joint venture
(Solvay 75%/BASF 25%), which links the PVC activities of the two companies throughout
Europe except in Spain. Solvin and Elf Atochem have jointly acquired the vinyl chloride
monomer and PVC activities of Shell Chimie SA in France.
The group sees itself as a supplier of a range of advanced materials and polymer
specialities in fields where it has a competitive cost structure and processing expertise.
This results from its involvement in the most dynamic end-use markets of automotive,
medical applications, pipes, engineering and construction. Its performance in some of
these areas is shown in Table 8.5.
Table 8.5 Performance of Solvay strategic business unit
Market Position
Strategic Business Unit
Main Products
PVC compounds
Specialty polymers
Source: Solvay Annual Report, 2000

Ticona GmbH
D-65926 Frankfurt am Main
Ticona was formed in 1961 as a joint venture of Hoechst AG and the Celanese
Corporation of America. Hoechst acquired Celanese in 1987 and, following subsequent
restructuring, established Celanese AG in 1999 as a separate company within which
Ticona operates independently. It is now the technical polymers business of Celanese AG
with a worldwide workforce of around 2,400 and production, compounding and research
facilities in Germany (Frankfurt-Hchst, Kelsterbach and Oberhausen), the UK (Milton
Keynes and Telford), USA and Brazil. Group sales, excluding discontinued operations, in
1999 totalled  PLOOLRQ 7LFRQDV &HODQHVH SDUHQW HPSOR\V DURXQG 13,900 people at 32
production plants in eight countries and reported 1999 sales of  ELOOLRQ (XURSHDQ
sales account for 33% of Celaneses turnover.

Polymers for Electronic Components

Ticona states that polyacetals represent the largest group of products within its product
portfolio. These are distributed worldwide under the Celcon and Hostaform brands.
Ticonas polyester product line includes Celanex (PBT), Impet (PET), Riteflex (TPE-E)
and Vandar blends. Ticona also claims world leading status in ultra-high molecular weight
polyethylene GUR, and Vectra LCP. Other products include Topas, the COC material
produced with metallocene catalysts, which is considered by Ticona to be an important
product for innovative solutions. Celstran, Compel and Fiberod long fibre reinforced
thermoplastics are some of the companys advanced materials along with its Fortron PPS.
The first commercial Topas plant was constructed in Germany at Oberhausen where
production began in mid-2000. The polyacetal production capacity of Kelstebach plant in
Germany was increased to 77,000 tonnes per annum in 1999. Other substantially
increased production capabilities were installed for Celstran, Compel and Fiberod at the
Kelsterbach and Winona (Minnesota, USA) plants.
Group structural changes include the sale, at the end of 1999, of Celaneses 50% share in
the Targor PP joint venture to BASF AG. At the same time, Celanese also sold, to 3M, its
46% holding in the Dyneon fluoropolymer manufacturer. Later, in September 2000,
Celanese and DSM of the Netherlands signed a memorandum of understanding for a PBT
joint venture in Europe which will come on stream in 2003.
At the beginning of November 2000, Ticona announced European price increases of a
number of its technical polymers including standard Hostaform POM grades (+NLOR 
Hostaform glass-reinforced grades (+NLOR  +RVWDIRUP VSHFLDOLW\ JUDGHV
(+NLOR  &HODQH[ 3%7 DQG ,PSHW 3(7 NLOR  9DQdar thermoplastic polyester
blends (+NLOR  5LWHIOH[ 73(-E (+NLOR DQG )RUWURQ 336 NLOR 
Ticona is expanding its product range by introducing additional grades of its proprietary
polymers Celanex, Fortron, Hostaform and Vectra LCP. For example, the recently
launched Hostaform XEC is said to offer a 25% improvement in volume resistivity, tensile
modulus and notched impact strength when compared with its Hostaform ELS grade
TotalFinaElf SA
2 Place de la Coupole
92400 Courbevoie
The company has benefited from rising oil prices to the extent that 2000 group sales rose
implemented comprising the three sectors of Upstream, Downstream and Chemicals.
These have been subdivided into 27 business units worldwide and the key figures for
chemicals are shown in Table 8.6.
TotalFinaElf is a major world supplier of polymers and claims to be the worlds second
largest producer of PP, the third-largest producer of HDPE in Europe and the third largest
supplier of PS in the USA.
During 2000, the company dissolved its PP joint venture with BP (Appryl) and withdrew
from BPs Grangemouth facility in Scotland whilst consolidating its positions in Gonfreville
and Lavra. In PE, the group had removed a bottleneck at Gonfreville and built up
production at Bayport in the USA. Bottlenecks had also been removed in PS production.


Polymers for Electronic Components

In PVC the group had integrated Shells French assets at Berre and had built a new unit at
Table 8.6 Performance of TotalFinaElf
pro forma

Sales by sector
Petrochemicals & Plastics
Intermediates & Performance Polymers
Operating income*
Operating income by sector*
Petrochemicals & Plastics
Intermediates & Performance Polymers
* excluding non-recurring items
** +16% excluding inks, sold year-end 1999
*** +17% excluding inks

% Change
+ 20



+ 45
+ 15
+ 4**
+ 34



+ 244
+ 9***
- 16

Source: TiconaFinaElf press release, 14 March 2001

TT Group plc
Clive House
22-28 Queens Road
Surrey KT23 9XB
United Kingdom
The TT group is unusual in so far as it is both a major contract electronics manufacturer
(AB Electronic Assemblies Limited and Welwyn Systems Limited) and a major
manufacturer of passive electronic components including connectors (AB Connectors),
PCB manufacture (Prestwick Circuits), resistors (AB Mikro-electronik, Austria,
International Resistive Company Inc., USA, Welwyn Components Limited, UK), and
sensors (AB Automotive Inc., USA, and AB Elektronik GmbH, Germany).
On 8 January 2000, the group agreed to buy BI Technologies, from Emerson Electric Inc.,
for a 39.7 million cash consideration. BI Technologies manufactures inductors, resistors,
sensors and trimmers with factories at Fullerton in California, Mexicali in Mexico,
Glenrothes in Scotland and Kuantan in Malaysia. The acquisition will expand the groups
sales penetration in the Far East and also provides the group with two well-established
low labour cost operations in Malaysia and Mexico.
Group sales turnover was 612.4 million in 1999 and the BI Technologies acquisition is
reported to have a 1999 turnover of 57.1 million with operating profits of 3.6 million.
However, the group plans to dispose of its packaging and other non-core activities.
Declining TT profits of 38.0 million, down from 65.0 million, are partially attributed to the
strength of sterling against the euro.


Polymers for Electronic Components

Tyco International
The Zurich Center
Second Floor
HM 08
Tyco International is believed to be the world's largest manufacturer and service company
in the fields of electrical and electronic components, as well as undersea
telecommunications systems. It claims to be the worlds largest supplier of passive
electronic components and also claims to be the world's largest manufacturer, installer
and provider of fire protection and electronic security services. It also claims leading
positions in the fields of disposable medical products, plastics, and adhesives, and the
manufacture of flow control valves. Tyco operates in more than 80 countries and is
reported to have 215,000 employees.
Total Tyco sales revenue in 2000 rose by 29% to $28.9 billion with earnings up 46% to
$3.7 billion. Tycos 2000 electronics sector sales totalled $9.9 billion with operating
income of $2.4 billion.
In the electronic components sector it has acquired the well-known connector companies
of AMP (by merger in 1999), Raychem Corporation (by acquisition in 1999) and the
electronic OEM business of Thomas & Betts (by acquisition in 2000). Other acquisitions
include Siemens Electromechanical Products GmbH & Co., (1999) and the UK Critchley
Group plc (2000). In December 2000, Tyco went on to purchase Lucent Technologies
Power Systems (LPS), which provides energy and power products for telecommunications
service providers and for the computer industry.
Tyco Electronics claims to be a leader in the supply of automotive electronic components
and states hat it would be hard to find a car anywhere which does not contain a growing
list of AMP and M/A-COM products including GPS antennas, relays, switches, brake and
light sensors, engine control connectors, fuse and relay boxes.
Tyco claims that, in 2000, 60% of the approximately 410 million cell phones sold
worldwide contained one or more Tyco products. These included gallium arsenide chips
and input/output connectors. Furthermore, Tyco almost doubled the sales of its fibre-optic
communications products in 2000 to $420 million from $215 million in 1999. Tyco is also
major producer of multilayer PCBs, backplanes, smart radar sensors and heat shrink
products. In 2000, sales of the Tyco Printed Circuit Group nearly doubled to $835 million
and a new printed circuit board manufacturing plant was opened in Shanghai, China.
Tyco is enthusiastic about e-commerce and claims that AMPs website customers can
order 110,000 different electronic products online.
Victrex plc
Hillhouse International
Thornton Cleveleys
Lancashire FY5 4QD
United Kingdom
Victrex began life in 1993 as a management buy-out of the PEEK polymer business from
ICI and has since gone to become one of the worlds leading high-performance polymer


Polymers for Electronic Components

suppliers with the possibly unique distinction, for a British company, of currently exporting
95% of its output.
Victrex is best known for PEEK, which is employed in environmentally hostile applications
and which accounts for more than 90% of its current manufacturing output. PEEK is a
semi-crystalline polymer, insoluble in all common solvents and can be used at
temperatures of up to 300 C. The production of PEEK in 2000 was around 1,300 tonnes.
An earlier decision to outsource the production of PEEK pellets to a company in the
Netherlands has been reversed to bring the complete production process in-house. This
was achieved by installing a new melt filtration and pelletising facility, with automated
process control, at the Thornton Cleveleys site.
The company reported a 27% sales increase to 58.7 million in the year to 30 September
2000, with profits up by 25% to 15.9 million. Double-digit percentage increases were
reported in Asia-Pacific markets, Europe and the USA. Sales growth in Asia was
particularly strong with turnover up 66% to 7 million.
A deal has been made with Laporte, now a Degussa subsidiary, which supplies raw
materials used in the production of PEEK. The deal, struck in January 2000, involved the
establishment of a 50/50 joint venture with Laporte to undertake a key material processing
step in the production of PEEK whereby difluorodiphenyl methane (DFDPM) is oxidised to
form benzonone difluoride (BDF), the raw material for PEEK. Victrex has already
purchased Laportes DFDPMs manufacturing business in Rotherham which is the first
step of the two-step manufacturing process, the conversion of DFDPM to BDF being the
second step.
One of the most interesting new applications, from an electrical viewpoint, is for fuel cell
membrane material where an agreement with the leading Canadian manufacturer, Ballard
Power Systems, has been signed. The four-year agreement involves the joint
development of a manufacturing process for ionomers, the polymers which conduct the
protons in fuel cell membranes. The objective is to produce an effective material which
has low manufacturing costs. Having developed a suitable material, the two partners will
establish, probably in the UK, a pilot production plant capable of producing around fifty
tonnes of ionomers per annum. Victrex expects to invest approximately 500,000 a year
in the project over the four-year period.
Ballard Power Systems is generally acknowledged to be the world leader in the
development of PEM fuel cells with automotive partnerships with DaimlerChrysler and
Ford and other partnerships with key potential fuel cell users including a joint
manufacturing venture with Alstom for power conditioning in electricity grid distribution
systems. These companies cover a wide range of product sectors. Ballard, which has
never made a profit in any of the past twenty years of its existence, has secured over 130
patents to protect its technology. Up till now, its products have been considered to be too
heavy and too large to be practicable though it is believed that a technological
breakthrough is imminent. Ballards new CAN$400 million plant is due to come on stream
in September 2001. This new plant is seen as the key to cutting costs by employing mass
production techniques. Ballard reported sales of CAN$25 million in 1998, rising to
CAN$33 million in 1999 and still higher to CAN$41 million in 2000.
Ballard has linked up with Alstom, the Japanese Ebara Corporation and GPU Inc., as in
Ballard Generation Systems (BGS). BGS is participating in a pioneering Japanese project
for the Japanese residential market. BGS and its partners have built four prototype 1 kW
PEM units which, when connected to the domestic natural gas supply, will generate
electricity for use in the home and will also heat domestic water with waste heat from the

Polymers for Electronic Components

fuel cell. Preliminary tests with the prototype generator have recorded a dc gross electrical
efficiency of 42% and a heat recovery efficiency of 43%. Ebara Ballard, which has built the
four prototypes at its Fujisawa plant in Japan, is pressing on with the development in
pursuit of improvements in performance and reliability whilst simultaneously seeking to
reduce costs.
At the end of 1999, the company launched its polyetherketone polymer which extends the
performance of PEEK by the provision of superior temperature resistance and mechanical
strength. It has a heat distortion temperature of 165 C and an estimated continuous use
temperature of 260 C (UL 746B).
Vishay Intertechnology Incorporated
63 Lincoln Highway
Pennsylvania 19355
Founded in 1962, Vishay reported year 2000 sales of $2.5 billion and claims to be the
largest US and European manufacturer of passive electronic components (resistors,
capacitors and inductors), discrete semiconductors, infrared communication devices plus
power and analogue switching integrated circuits.
The company employs more than 20,000 people in 66 plants in fourteen countries
including the USA, Austria, China, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Germany,
Hungary, Israel, Phillipines, Portugal, Taiwan and the UK.
Market sectors include automobiles, computers, domestic appliances, medical equipment,
military and aerospace equipment, satellites, telephones and television sets. Major
customers include AT&T, Alcatel, Bosch, Delco, Ford, IBM, Intel, Lockheed, Motorola,
Samsung, Siemens, Sony Sun Microsystem and Texas Instruments.


Polymers for Electronic Components


ISBN: 1-85957-281-2

Rapra Technology Limited

Rapra Technology Limited is the leading international organisation
with over 80 years of experience providing technology, information
and consultancy on all aspects of plastics and rubber.
The company has extensive processing, analytical and testing
laboratory facilities and expertise, and produces a range of
engineering and data management software products, and
computerised knowledge-based systems.
Rapra also publishes books, technical journals, reports,
technological and business surveys, conference proceedings and
trade directories. These publishing activities are supported by an
Information Centre which maintains and develops the worlds most
comprehensive database of commercial and technical information
on plastics and rubber.

Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY4 4NR, United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)1939 250383 Fax: +44 (0)1939 251118