September 2005

Polyurethanes reach new heights in manufacturing applications

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

As reaction injection molding (RIM) applications continue to expand worldwide, so do the possible applications for the use of polyurethanes in the manufacturing process.

Billed as “limited only by the imagination” RIM techniques are already being used to manufacture molded parts for everything from auto dashboards and steering wheels, to ice chests and sporting goods. Recently, however, a new technique that borrows heavily from RIM industry has emerged. Known as the reaction assisted molding process (RAMP) and based on low pressure and low temperature dispensing of polyurethanes (unlike RIM which is based on high pressure and temperature), the new technique was recently developed and patented by CardXX of Englewood, Colorado.

CardXX is currently utilizing its proprietary RAMP technique to securely integrate a radio frequency identification chip and antennae, an integrated circuit, and other electronic components including batteries into a small form factor smart card, key fob, smart tag, memory cards and other portable electronic devices.

The RAMP 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. The electronic element is securely encapsulated and protected when curing is completed in less then an hour.

The development of the RAMP process depended on locating the proper equipment. For this, CardXX utilized existing reaction injection molding techniques, along with customizable dispensing equipment from Gusmer Decker to accurately dispense the minute quantities of urethane required in most RAMP applications.

Gusmer Decker, a leader in the reaction injection molding equipment market, develops metering machines and mixing heads for processing multi-component polyurethane and hybrid urethane chemicals. Gusmer Decker’s RimCell Select Series metering and dispensing units are particularly suited for RAMP applications because of their precise mixing heads that yield flow-rates as low as 0.33 lb. per minute—necessary to avoid disrupting the careful placement of electronic components within smart cards.

Gusmer Decker’s RIM molding system allows a wide variety of shot sizes and fast cycle times while assuring metering accuracy within strict tolerances. Such RIM technology helps polyurethane-product manufacturers avoid waste from overfilling parts. The ability to provide low-temperature delivery, also necessary for RAMP applications, enables high production volumes because of minimized cycle time.

“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.”

RAMP technology is flexible enough to be used with PVC, Polycarbonate, Teslin™ (i.e. synthetic paper), and a wide range of other materials for specific properties and applications.

CardXX is now offering its patented RAMP technology through licensing agreement. The reaction injection molding equipment required by RAMP will be provided by CardXX and Gusmer | Decker.


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