RH Technical Industries

EMI Form Shield

“The green replacement for conductive paint and plating for plastic housings”
Editor’s notes
The authors of this article are; Chris Hills, Managing Director, RH Technical Industries, Reed Niederkorn, VP Engineering and Development with APM, Inc. The article gives an overview of shielding solutions but concentrates on the recent and ongoing developments of Form-Shield™ by APM and RH Technical Industries Limited. {RHTI} APM and RHTI are both members of the Laird Group PLC. APM is based in Missouri, USA where development and manufacturing is established. It also has manufacturing sites in Germany, UK and Taiwan as well as sales offices in Japan and Singapore. They are the manufacturers of a wide range of EMI protection products and have grown very rapidly over the last 5 years. APM has recently received an award for “Customer Service Innovation” from an independent market analysis firm. RHTI is an industrial graphics printer based in the UK and has gained very wide experience over the last 20 years of printing conductive materials with precision and in the last two years undertaking extensive work in the field of In Mould Decoration for the telecommunications market. RHTI is qualified to ISO 9001 and has recently been awarded the Environmental Management Standard ISO 14001. The joint efforts of these two companies has brought together the needs of the customer, a thorough understanding of the needs of EMI solutions, and expertise in print and forming to develop a new and exciting solution to the market.

Innovative Specialist Print Solutions For over 40 years

A new product, named Form-Shield™, has been developed to replace the painting and plating steps historically used to shield plastic enclosures. APM have submitted a patent application for various aspects of this product and process. Form-Shield™ consists of a thin thermo-formable plastic sheet, onto which highly conductive de-formable ink is printed. This conductive sheet is then formed into the desired shape, including complex geometry, penetrations, and multiple “can” shields. This finished component is then assembled into the final product by friction or spot adhesives, thereby eliminating the need for the costly and complex steps of painting or plating the plastic housing at the moulding or assembly step. Additionally, a conductive gap-filling gasket may be applied at the forming step to eliminate the need for further EMI shielding at the time of assembly. This exciting new product saves time and cost for the OEM, plus when the product reaches end-of-life the shield is easily removed to allow recycling of the plastic enclosure. It is also possible to mould the shield into the housing, which Figure 1 completely eliminates a separate shielding step at any Form-Shield™; The possibilities are phase of the manufacture. Figure 1 gives examples of only limited by your imagination the complex forming possibilities with Form-Shield™.

In order to achieve the small size, lightweight and complex geometry in handsets, notebook PC’s, PDA’s and other small electronic devices, many of these devices are made using plastic enclosures. While meeting the needs of physical containment, plastic enclosures are generally RH Technical Industries Ltd - 8 Regents Court, Walworth Industrial Estate, Andover, Hampshire. SP10 5NX Tel: 01264 721 450 • Fax: 01264 721 510 • email: info@rhti.co.uk • www.rhti.co.uk Page 1 of 6

adding to the space needed for this operation. Both the painting and plating processes require that the entire enclosure is disposed of while with Form-Shield™. Plating the enclosure is generally more complex than painting. including: ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾ Painting the enclosure with conductive paint Plating the enclosure with various metals by electrolysis plating or electroplating Use of metal inserts or board-mounted “cans” Use of metal foil or metallized fabric laminates In the case of shielding paint. moulded. including the following types: ¾ ¾ ¾ Conductive elastomers (extruded. spray booths. Simple to remove and discard at end-of-life In addition. In order for the surface of the plastic to accept the plating. Gap shield There is a well-established industry supplying shielding gaskets for gaps. Then the catalytic surface is contacted with an electrolysis plating bath and the conductor (generally copper or nickel) is deposited on the surface. including masking equipment. so removing this at the end of the product life cycle to allow recycling of the plastic is very difficult or impossible. it must first be subjected to at least one pre-treatment to make the surface catalytic to the electrolysis deposition. This requires the moulder or secondary converter having the necessary infrastructure for this process. The complexity of plating operations requires a skilled workforce and significant investment in capital and space. Using forced hot air or an extended period of ambient drying is a requirement. none of these are used to a significant extent today. The metallic paint is strongly adhered to the plastic. there has been continual R&D for many years on modifying the plastic by filling it with metal particles or fibres as well as use of conductive plastics including Polypyrole or Polyaniline. Plating is generally more expensive than painting. but the EMI shielding performance is typically superior to painting. Disposal of waste in the recycling process should be a key consideration. but a highly conductive surface and a very thin coating may be achieved. There are two issues regarding shielding plastic enclosures: the planar part of the enclosure and the gaps between sections of the enclosure. Planar shield There is a long history of technologies used to render plastic enclosures impermeable to electromagnetic interference (EMI). Figure 2 Form-Shield™. generally after masking and priming the plastic part. However. so significant efforts are needed in order to achieve electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). or dispensed directly on the housing) Metal clips and fingers Resilient foams covered with conductive metallized fabrics Page 2 of 6 . the resulting metal layer is very difficult or impossible to remove when the product reaches the end of its life. a metal-filled paint is applied to the plastic enclosure. only the shielding laminate itself needs to be removed and discarded. and as with conductive paints.…/cont transparent to electromagnetic waves. off-gas incineration system and pressure painting equipment as well as the necessary skills.

This conductive ink may be applied using standard high-speed screen printing methods in both web and sheet. but silver plated copper. The choice of film composition and thickness is determined by the size. The maximum percentage elongation that is feasible is limited by the conductive ink and not the thermoformable film. making the electrical connection between the two conductive planar shields. and the thickness of the film can be as low as 0. of Sample(dB) 80 70 60 50 40 30 0 2 4 6 8 10 R 2 = 0 . Figure 3 A roll-form screen press at RHTI. Polyester and Hybrids. This would allow the plastic enclosure shields to be made in very large volumes at strategic local manufacturing plants and shipped to the assembly point – in just the same way as other components are handled.6 8 1 4 Figure 4 In k W e ig h t o f S a m p le (g /ft^ 2 ) shielding effectiveness. In k W e ig h t(g /ft^ 2 ) 90 Shielding Eff. Form-Shield™ Recent developments in formulation of formable inks have made it possible to print conductive ink on a thermo-formable film. Andover. then form the film using conventional thermoforming equipment to produce a complex-shaped highly conductive shield.075mm. The ink thickness is determined by the shielding effectiveness required of the finished part. tin/copper and nickel/copper inks are under development. A photo of a printing press making Form-Shield™ is shown in Figure 3. although deeper draws are possible by application of additional printed layers in selective areas. UL rated fire retardant films can also be used. shape and extent of draw in the forming step – enough film thickness must exist after forming to be structurally adequate. and Figure 4 demonstrates the range of ink thickness and the resulting S E (d B ) v s .. The film used as the base for Form-Shield™ may be any formable film. The objective is to shield the plastic enclosure at the time of product assembly by inserting a single shielding component rather than creating the shielding as part of the moulding or secondary operations. including Polycarbonate. UK The ink is generally silver-based. APM have been working to develop a new product that removes the limitations of the existing products. and is generally 35-50%. Page 3 of 6 .…/cont ¾ Knitted wire over elastomers The basic requirement of a gap shield is that it must provide a highly conductive contact along the entire length of the gap.

It is easy to print on both sides of the material in close register to deal with specific or difficult shielding needs.08 0.05 0.01 0. this is given as an example only.5 &RVW1 6FDOH 1.06 0.…/cont Figure 5 Form-Shield™.04 0. As the total cost of the shielded enclosure will depend on the scale of operation. as they are all achieved during the high-speed webprinting phase of manufacture. Figure 6 )RUP 6KLHOG &DQ )RUP6KLHOG +RXVLQJ Figure 7 0HWDO &DQ 0 0. An innovative solution to difficult shielding needs The inherent flexibility of the screen printing process allows the designer a wide range of options that can be achieved by printing before forming. Cost comparison with other methods Figures 6 & 7 show a cost comparison between Form-Shield™ and other methods.09 0HWDOLVHG +RXVLQJ &RVW 6FDOH 0 0. shielding effectiveness and other factors. labour cost. Conductive Paint. Conductive Plating & Metal Shield Aspect Recyclability Shielding Effectiveness Logistics Process stages Additional Processing Cost Overall Buy in Cost Tooling Cost Insulation Fixing Design option testing Complex Shapes Overall Environmental Form-Shield™ Good Very Good Simple Simple Ready to fit Lower Overall Higher Low Low cost Low cost Simple Simple Low Conductive Paint Poor Very Good Involved Involved High prep work High Low Medium Difficult N/A Difficult Simple Medium Conductive Plating Poor Excellent Involved Involved High prep work High Low Medium Difficult N/A Difficult Simple High Metal Shield Insert Good Excellent Simple Simple Ready to fit High High Very High Extra Cost Simple Difficult Difficult Low Page 4 of 6 .02 0. All these options are available to the end user at marginal cost increase. Where there is a need for insulation of the conductive film this can be achieved by selective printing of a suitable dielectric and finally it is possible to print selective adhesive to provide fixing of the part during assembly. These options include the development of any conductive pattern from a total flood to hole or grid as shown in Figure 5.5 2 Table 1 summarises Form-Shield™ with other products used to provide shielding of cases. They are designed to minimize the level of additional work or components required during assembly and therefore to achieve the lowest additional cost.03 0.07 0.

What comes out of the shipping container at the assembly plant is a finished part that is directly inserted into the plastic housing. a flexible elastomer that is highly loaded with conductive particles is dispensed through a nozzle and deposited directly on the part to be shielded. Form-Shield™ can be produced in a continuous web with each can being held by breakout legs and the waste material utilized as the logistics carrier thus saving waste and time. versus multiple metal cans. By dispensing the FIP compound directly onto the formed conductive film. and can be done efficiently at very large scale. the gap between the enclosure typically must be shielded in order for the finished product to meet EMC requirements. Metal cans need to be supplied in bandoleers. In FIP. This process requires expertise. As well as simplicity of assembly the designer has the freedom that comes from knowing that the top surface of Form-Shield™ is an excellent dielectric therefore allowing even tighter packaging of PCB and components. form-in-place (FIP) shielding has been gaining in acceptance. Developments of new printable substrates will allow for the application of conductive gaskets and conductive adhesives prior to forming and will therefore reduce the end cost of the parts once these techniques and materials are ready for market. floor space. this process step is removed from the moulding site. Form-Shield™ cans will offer a further advantage to the user and the environment. and capital investment. Page 5 of 6 . which involves the manufacturer of the cans in the cost of loading these as well as their purchase. The ability to form multiple cavities in a single piece of Form-Shield™ means the entire board may be shielded with a single component. eliminating all extra steps and ensuring a consistent and high quality EMI shield. Table 2 shows a comparison between Form-Shield™ and metal cans to provide on board shielding.…/cont Impact End User Capital Investment Moulder skill demands Table 1 Low None High High Very High High Low Low On board shielding with Form-Shield™ The lightweight and versatile forming properties of Form-Shield™ provide a new range of options for the on board shielding of components. For small devices. Metal Cans Aspect Recyclability SE Multiple Cans in single part Weight Insulation Rework & repair access Tooling Cost Transport Logistics Fixing to PCB Table 2 Form-Shield™ Excellent Very Good Simple Low Simple Simple Low Simple Adhesive Metal Cans Good Excellent Difficult Medium Difficult Complex High Extra Cost Solder Additional embodiments of Form-Shield™ Combination of gap shielding with planar shielding Independent of the method of making the enclosure perimeter conductive. New developments in conductive elastomers applied at the time of printing will allow for earthing using a simple mechanical fixing and therefore simple re-work or access for maintenance. The populator then needs to dispose of this material as waste.

but a firm pull may remove the shield at end-of-life.co. )LJXUH  )RUP6KLHOGŒ )UHHGRP RI 'HVLJQ Authors: Reed Niederkorn VP Engineering and Development APM Inc. Europe and Asia. In this case. With manufacturing facilities in North America. Form-Shield™ has been designed in direct response to customer demand for cost effective. and environmentally friendly EMI shielding.uk Tel: + 44 (0)1264 721 450 To submit application questions: Email: formshield@apm-emi. Chris Hills Managing Director RH Technical Industries Email: rniederkon@apm-emi.com Tel: + 1 314 344 . APM is uniquely positioned to deliver EMI solutions in each major area of consumption and support customer requirements with fully trained local staff. A special coating used with Form-Shield™ for IMS provides a strong bond to hold the shield in place. there is not even a separate film to handle in assembly but the product is recyclable.9339 Email: chris. high performance.…/cont In-Mould-Shielding – “IMS” Another use of Form-Shield™ is to mould the shield directly into the plastic part.hills@rhti.com Page 6 of 6 . but this is not the case. This may seem to sacrifice one of the key attributes of Form-Shield™ – recyclability.

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