Touch is equally important in the consumer electronics market, where PlastiComp is in preliminary discussions with companies seeking to replace metal components on computers and televisions. “The primary reason is lightweighting, but the second reason is tactile sensation,” says Mathur. “These composites feel good to the touch, especially if they have an over layer of a soft-touch plastic. And when you move into consumer luxury goods, the buzz is on the aerospace carbon fiber look.”

When shopping for household appliances, consumers add a third criteria to the list – sound. “Noise is a very important aspect,” says Poff. “You want to reduce the decibel level of that appliance, and the acoustic value of reducing the overall noise is there with thermoset composites.”

Mar-Bal investigated the acoustic performance of composites for one of its customers, the blender manufacturer Vitamix. Mar-Bal performed acoustic chamber testing, comparing thermosets to acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) thermoplastics. The company presented its findings in a white paper that identified the sources of blender noise and discussed how bulk molding compound could help lower contributing frequencies and blender noise levels. “We won business by showcasing the difference between materials,” says Poff. “For any countertop blender, a six or seven decibel difference is significant.”

Meeting Many Needs

The mobile phone bracket developed by PlastiComp features carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastics loaded with varying levels of carbon nanotube additives to boost mechanical and electrical properties.

The mobile phone bracket developed by PlastiComp features carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastics loaded with varying levels of carbon nanotube additives to boost mechanical and electrical properties.


PlastiComp wrapped up a development project with a consumer electronics company that highlights the complex requirements of some applications. PlastiComp created technologies and tools so the company could replace die-cast magnesium in mobile phone brackets with LFT composites. “This was more than just metal substitution for added stiffness and strength,” says Mathur. “There was an emphasis not only on mechanical properties, but the bracket also had to have certain electrical characteristics.”

The bracket’s extensive list of requirements included the following:

  • Stiffness equivalent to magnesium
  • Weight lighter than magnesium
  • Extremely thin profiles – less than one millimeter thick
  • A complex shape
  • Electrical properties, including electromagnetic (EMI) shielding and antenna reception

“That’s a challenging role for any composite to fulfill,” admits Mathur. He says that long-fiber reinforced thermoplastics form a skeletal network that increases the structure of the part, giving it the requisite stiffness. PlastiComp utilized carbon fiber because it’s electrically conductive, which in turn meets the need for EMI shielding. The company hit targets for surface resistivity through the use of specific additives and nanofillers it declined to disclose.