Downsizing Micro-Electronic Devices Turns Up the Heat

ACP boosts efficiency, reduces environmental impact with high-heat material.

The Challenge

Aragonesa de Componentes Pasivos SA (ACP), a Spanish manufacturer of electronic components, had reached the limit -- its micro-potentiometers seemingly couldn’t get any smaller.

The devices control volume and other adjustments in electronic equipment of all kinds, so ACP shares its customers’ constant pressure to create smaller, thinner and more versatile products. That’s the kind of challenge the company embraces. “We have reversed the first rule of industrial production,” it proclaims. “Instead of designing to manufacture, we manufacture for design.”

ACP’s micro devices are built using lead-free reflow soldering via surface mount device technology. Their size was limited by the ability of the polymer-mounting surface to withstand the rigors of this production method without blistering or otherwise distorting. 

To make them any smaller, the polymer would have to be replaced by a new material that offered high dimensional stability of at least 260°C HDT (heat deflection temperature). It also needed to deliver self-extinguishing behavior when exposed to flame, creep resistance at high operating temperatures, ease of coloring and ease of processing for thin-wall multi-cavity tools.

The Solution

In seeking a material that would meet their needs, ACP’s design team met with a commercial and technical team from PolyOne, and it soon became clear that PolyOne’s Edgetek™ AM could handle the heat, flame and creep resistance and color and processing target goals. The two teams set to work on pushing the limits of size and power.

The Edgetek AM Family includes high-temperature specialty nylons (polyamides) designed specifically for electronic applications and delivers performance that can rival that of exotic, high performance polymers such as polyimides.
Because the PolyOne material had a lower density than the previous polymer used by ACP,  less material was needed per part. Testing also determined it would work with ACP’s existing multi-cavity tools – saving significant capital cost for retooling. 

Edgetek AM material was able to withstand the high heat of ACP’s surface mount technology, and it met the established requirements for flame resistance and glow wire resistance. Finally, the material incorporated non-halogenated and non-phosphorous flame retardants – consistent with ACP’s mission to produce devices with lower environmental impact.

The Impact

As ACP moved its new line of micro-potentiometers into production, it was able to capture a number of production efficiencies and achievements, including:

  • Reduced material consumption: the non-halogenated, flame-retardant Edgetek™ AM required 10% less material per part.
  • Avoided retooling: The processing flexibility of the new material allowed ACP to continue thin-wall injection molding in its existing multi-cavity tools, eliminating the need for a costly retooling.
  • Supported sustainability goals: As a non-halogenated solution, Edgetek™ AM provided ACP with a material that helps meet consumer demand for sustainable end products. 

These improvements will help support the company’s goal of 20 to 30 percent annual growth for micro-potentiometer applications while maintaining high performance standards and reducing the environmental impact of its electronics components.