The electronics industry and the growing digitalization trend continue to provide an endless stream of innovations. What’s more, advanced electronic devices are offered in more models with increasingly more refined and attractive designs. Fast-paced change is especially conspicuous in the mobile phone sector, with something new in the form of a new model entering the market every few months. Many of these products are built, among other things, from thin optical panels (TOP) used for coverings. These panels provide an excellent combination of shine and transparency with mechanical strength and scratch resistance.
Over a decade of activity in the optical field
At Plazit-Polygal we are very familiar with the world of thin optical panels for the screen and electronics field. We have been active in this field for over a decade, supplying thin, transparent, and durable PC-based panels for large touch screens. When it comes to mobile phone back panels the accepted solution used to be ceramic panels. However, compared to the plastic alternatives these have disadvantages in terms of their performance, durability, and weight.
A technological leap – the multilayer panel
We made a technological leap in the optical panel field in 2016. With new equipment which we acquired and specifically characterized we were able to offer the market an improved product based on a double-layer panel. The core of the panel is made of a good and familiar PC material, in which we combined a thin and transparent PMMA layer in its external part. Now the panel was finally scratch resistant, not to mention its excellent surface shine and transparency.
Our innovative manufacturing method was specially planned to maintain the panel’s transparency even though it is made of two incompatible raw materials. How do we achieve this? Contrary to standard co-extrusion methods in which the melted hot polymers do not flow together, in our method they are combined when they are fed from the extruder spout. Thus, the final panel is comprised of two layers that look like a single unit, without optical interferences between them. These panels are available in 0.5-1.5 mm thickness and up to 125 cm in width.
Inspecting every manufactured panel
These dual-layer panels are mainly used as back panels for mobile phones and can be found in almost every telephone on the market, among them Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Xiaomi, and Oppo. The panels meet stringent cleanliness standards for which Plazit-Polygal invested in a new and advanced production hall, operating entirety under the relevant clean-room classifications. At the end of the process, the panels pass under the scrutinizing eyes of a computerized vision system that inspects the required compliance of every panel and rejects any panel that does meet the defined requirements.
What happens to the panels after they leave Plazit-Polygal?
After leaving Plazit-Polygal and reaching their destination the panels undergo additional processing processes: coating (scratch resistance, fingerprint resistance, non-glare, UV resistance – according to customer requirements), printing, thermoforming, and plating (etching a delicate design on the panel surface). The dual-layer panel is also suitable for laser marking, compared to a PC panel which is unsuitable for this type of marking.
And what about environmental protection?
We cannot end this story without addressing recycling and environmental protection. Panels containing different groups of plastic materials are usually unsuitable for recycling processes. However, when it comes to TOP panels things are slightly different. The panel is mostly comprised of PC, in addition to a 45-60 micron thin, durable, and scratch-resistant PMMA-layer surface – and this very small amount of PMMA is negligible during PC recycling. This enables us to use the material to manufacture new PC panels which do not require unique transparency yet retain the material’s excellent mechanical properties.
Thin optical panels for the entire electronics industry
Our TOP panels are part of the full suite of products that we offer the electronics industry. We also serve a range of industries with our PC panels that are used for touch screens, in addition to our PMMA-made LGP panels (light guide panels) found in large electronic product touch screens.