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issue: October 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

APPLIANCE ENGINEER - Electronics Report Engineering
Reaction-Assisted Molding Process


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Developed as an offshoot of the existing reaction injection molding (RIM) molding technology, the new reaction-assisted molding process (RAMP) is used to encapsulate electronics into smart cards without requiring the traditional layering manufacturing process.

The Gusmer / Decker equipment’s minute flow rates avoid disrupting the careful placement of electronic components within smart cards during the RAMP encapsulating process. The molding system allows a variety of shot sizes and fast cycle times along with strict-tolerance metering, to prevent overfilling of parts. The ability to provide RAMP’s low-temperature delivery enables minimized cycle times. The RAMP technology is designed to be flexible enough for use with PVC, polycarbonate, synthetic papers, and other materials, allowing it to achieve specific properties.

RIM applications continue to expand, as do potential applications for the use of polyurethanes in the manufacturing process. RIM techniques are used to manufacture molded parts for applications as wide-ranging as auto dashboards, ice chests and sporting goods. Borrowing heavily from the RIM industry is the RAMP process. CardXX, of Englewood, Colorado, U.S., recently developed the process using low-pressure, low-temperature dispensing of polyurethanes, unlike RIM, which uses high-pressure, high-temperature polyurethane dispensing.

CardXX currently uses the proprietary RAMP technique to securely integrate a radio frequency identification chip and antennae, an integrated circuit, batteries, and other electronic components into small-form-factor portable electronic devices, such as smart cards, key fobs, smart tags, and memory cards. The technique precisely positions computer chips and electronic components within a mold between two sheets of PVC or polycarbonate film, after which a polyurethane mixture is injected at low temperature and low pressure to completely immerse the electronic element. When curing completes, in less than an hour, the electronic element is securely encapsulated and protected.

The RAMP process depends on precise dispensing equipment. CardXX utilized existing RIM techniques, along with customizable dispensing equipment from Gusmer | Decker, to accurately dispense the very small quantities of urethane needed in most RAMP applications.

“We are primarily using the Gusmer | Decker RIM equipment for this particular application because of its unique ability to deliver very small, gram-level quantities of reaction injection molding material reliably and accurately,” says Paul Reed, Ph.D., director of business development for CardXX.

Gusmer | Decker develops metering machines and mixing heads for processing multi-component polyurethane and hybrid urethane chemicals, and says its RimCell Select Series metering and dispensing units are particularly suited for RAMP applications because of their precise mixing heads, which are capable of yielding flow-rates as low as 0.33 pounds per minute.

“Smart cards have very precise dimensional requirements,” says Reed. “Delivering the correct quantity of thermoset polymer to the mold is absolutely critical for meeting rigorous form factor requirements and for achieving proper protective encapsulation of the very delicate electronics. Our RIM equipment keeps us within tolerances and keeps our scrappage from going through the roof.”

 

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