Laser Direct Structuring (LDS). LDS is a process where a laser is used to expose conductive structures within an injection-moulded plastic part. The exposed trace(s) can then be metallised using a plating process to allow for connection within an electromechanical assembly.
LDS in more detail – The process
1) Injection Moulding
LDS suitable resin are loaded with additives and moulded to the desired shapes with traditional moulding tools. The part can be complex 3D shape with no real limitations.
2) Laser Activation and Structuring
A special laser is used to trace the circuit design onto the plastic part. The laser creates a physical-chemical reaction, altering the parts surface and produces metallic nuclei – this is the activation process. In addition to the activation, the laser forms a microrough surface on which copper firmly anchors itself during metallisation.
The parts conductive traces are built up during electroless copper baths. Finally, an electroless application of nickel and a thin gold layer is carried out to provide the best conductive finish.
If component parts are to be attached directly onto the device, they can be placed with a standard SMT process.
5) Optional Finishing
If the part is cosmetic, various finishes can be applied to part to insulate and hide any of the conductive traces.