Fine-line and multi-layered circuitry on curved surfaces such as mobile phone cases helps manufacturers produce slim, lightweight consumer electronics.
For 5G communications, mobile devices need to integrate more antennas and components in a compact size while achieving high-efficiency performance and multiple functions. In light of this, ITRI has introduced its Laser Induced Metallization 3D Circuit (LIM-3D) and worked with world-leading notebook manufacturer Quanta Computer to construct three-dimensional, multi-layered circuits that are only 15 µm in width on various substrate materials. The collaborative result leads to the successful development of a narrow-frame laptop featuring massive MIMO antenna technology. The ultra-slim laptop has a high screen-to-body ratio (90%) and a transmission speed of over 1 Gbps, making it a competitive 5G-enabled product.
The pioneering LIM-3D technology developed by ITRI possesses three distinguishing features: (1) Fine lines: the 15 µm line width is a breakthrough from the past limit of 100 µm, which allows a larger number of more detailed circuits on the micro circuit board, meeting the compact requirement of 5G products. (2) Three-dimensional and multi-layered: 3D stackable circuitry can be applied on curved surfaces, solving the problem of insufficient circuit design space in the back cover case caused by conventional single-layer design. (3) Multi-material application: circuits can be applied on various surfaces including glass, ceramics and metal, offering more alternatives to plastic substrates and hence increasing industrial competitiveness.
Dr. Jwu-Sheng Hu, Vice President and General Director of ITRI’s Mechanical and Mechatronics Systems Research Laboratories, stated that ITRI’s LIM-3D technology utilizes innovative material formula and manufacturing processes to slim down the circuit lines, thereby enabling diverse substrate applications and minimizing the area occupied by antennas by more than 60%. Compared to existing laptop computers which can only accommodate two antennas, the new laptop co-developed by ITRI and Quanta is able to include 12 antennas in order to fulfill the demand for high-efficiency performance.
Vice President of R&D Center at Quanta Computer Jonny Hsu emphasized that the current challenge faced by the industry is to incorporate multi-antenna in laptops with full metal casing and a high screen-to-body ratio. Through integrating technologies in antenna, material, and processing, Quanta has collaborated with ITRI to develop the world’s first metal casing laptop with 5G multi-antenna communication system incorporated. The system can be incorporated in notebooks and tablets, meeting the needs of consumers for visual appeal of metal texture with narrow bezel display while providing high-performance wireless communications. “This technology creates greater product value and increases competitiveness, a true breakthrough and differentiation from the common practice of price competition in Taiwan OEM industry,” said Hsu.
According to a report by Yole Development, the global radio frequency front end market for telecom infrastructure is forecasted to reach US$2.52 billion in 2025, seeing a significant growth thanks to the penetration of active antenna systems. Innovative technologies such as LIM-3D hold the prospect of gaining 5G market share, helping related industries upgrade their capabilities to develop smarter devices and services.